Jul 3, 2019
Many ALTs, eikaiwa teachers and other language teaching professionals in Japan have little control over their student base. If you're working for a company, even a small company, your say over which students you feel best suited with will likely not outweigh the will of the manager or students. Most of the time, this is at most a little tedious as you may get stuck with students or two who don't respond well to your teaching style or may have other issues that you personally don't enjoy, but early in my teaching career in Japan, I didn't mind it so much. It could have been that I was in the countryside and the worst I dealt with was a rambunctious 3-year-old and an old man with serious body odor, but everything seemed survivable for a paycheck that would finance continuing my adventure in Japan.
Fast forward a decade and I am still teaching but most of the week those are hand-picked students that I met, got along with, and chose to work with, not the will of some manager with their eye on a bottom line. This is me as an independent English teacher, filling around an hour of each day that my daughter spends in school with helping people I actually like.
Why is it important to like your students? Professionally speaking, it isn't. In a completely professional setting, you don't need to like them, just to teach them in whatever way you can, trying your best to remain unemotional, professional, and encouraging at all times.
But I am no longer living in a truly professional world. My work now is governed by a number of external forces including my daughter and major events in my husband's family. If my kid is sick, I usually have to either cancel classes for a few days or get my in-laws to look after her so I can do my job. If we have any other kind of emergency, such as the death in the family we had this June, I have to be able to make adjustments to my schedule.
Because I have chosen not to maintain teacher-student relationships with people who lack understanding or compassion, I have a much easier time explaining situations like those above without my business entirely drying up or an irate customer giving me an anxiety attack.
The ideal student is receptive, eager, and ready to learn everything. For me, the more important factors include an understanding of my living situation, patience to overcome any language or cultural barriers we come across, open communication, and honesty. I'll teach them for as long as they want to learn, even if we cover the same grammar points for years, but I need them to understand that sometimes I have to cancel and reschedule due to the demands of life.
A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.