New Year, New Connections

With the 3rd years gone and a new wave of 1st grade students, it’s time to connect and re-connect with students. For I’ve learned that bonding with my students in these first few weeks and months is actually one of the best things I can do to ensure their success in English and my success in teaching it to them. Students that feel connected to me learn so much more than those who aren’t. So I got to try hard to bridge those divides, even if it means I speak more Japanese with them than I’d like. Let me tell you some of the strategies I use to connect with students.

-Learn names. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times busting out a student’s name has helped give me credibility with a student so they listen to the advice I have to share.

-Insist on big greetings and big reactions with students in the hallway, even when it isn’t reciprocated. Over time, everyone knows that when they see me it is time to wave and say “Hello!” to me in a big, cheerful voice.

-Speaking Japanese with students *gasp* during lunch time. I know it has its pitfalls, but if I can tell students more about me, how I learned Japanese, how I love travel, etc. I know that students feel more comfortable because they know a bit more about where I’m actually coming from. Understanding like this builds the foundation for trust, which is essential in teaching.

I’m always searching for other ways to connect with students. How do you connect with students?


  1. I think connecting with students like this is the most important thing we can do as ALTs. Without a doubt, the kids you can get closer to get more exposure to English and make more efforts in the classroom. It’s a lot of pressure, but as ALTs, you’re job is to make English “cool” at your school.

    Learning names and remember students is definitely key, I think. The kids are going to remember every conversation with you, so try not to make the mistake of asking the same question twice, or calling a kid by the wrong name. Avoid names until you are 100 percent confident!

  2. Another quick bit of advice – don’t be overwhelmed by how many kids you have to convince! I’ve found that once you get a group of kids that like you, all it takes is the other students seeing how much fun you’re having. After that, the floodgates are open, and they’re begging with you to eat in their room for kyushoku.

    In short, just relax and don’t take things to seriously. Have fun with the kids, and try and interact with them as much as you can. The first parts are going to be one of the hardest, but if you can push through, they will definitely come around.

    • Cool, thanks for the comments.I like what you said about how we have a responsibility to make English “cool” for students. Approaching the job of ALT from this perspective alone can lead to inspired thinking about how to lesson plan, interact with kids, and make an impact in Japan. I want to take this idea further.

      About your other comments, I have to admit I mistakenly thought that my job was to perfect my explanations and prepare the best lesson plans that had ever seen the light of day. True, it’s still important to me to execute lessons that are smooth as glass, but now I know that familiarity and trust are at the core of the job. A so-so lesson to a class hanging on my every word is going to utterly cream a lesson made by god himself if I’m teaching to kids that tune me out.

      Any more secrets or tricks you use to bond with students? High fives are like love potion sometimes…

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