Earlier this week we were talking about learning via osmosis. My take on the whole “learning a language via osmosis” was that for adults it’s not as effective. However for children (the younger the better) I think osmosis works extremely well. Sadly, I’m not a kid anymore, so I think my learn by osmosis days may just be a fantasy now.
However, there is one thing I can pick up from the children I teach on a regular basis…their attitudes. It is very very rare indeed that I walk into a classroom and see I child with their face all contorted, lips poking out…sulking because they don’t want to study English today. It’s quite the opposite usually. The kids are out of their seats, peeking into the hallway to calling out my name as I walk down the hall (1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders). They always seem so excited when it’s time for English class. It’s either that, or it’s because they have another opportunity to try to give Ash Sensei another finger enema for the day.
There’s a certain purity that younger children have when they’re learning and it’s quite refreshing to see. By and large, young kids still haven’t formed an opinion about a lot of subjects they’re studying. Many of the younger kids haven’t come to the conclusion that math is too hard, that history is boring, that science is too much work, or that English is too hard to understand. They aren’t thinking about sentence structure, participles, phrasal verbs, present perfect, and the like. Right now, their moms and dads drive them to school, and they follow their daily school routine. However, depending on the child, and their rapport with the teacher, some students will do more than just follow…they’ll give 150% (an estimate by the way) effort in each and every class.
For a large group of my elementary school students, I am their first exposure to English. Because their minds are so impressionable, so delicate, at this point…I have a big responsibility as a teacher. I have to make classes exciting enough to make the kids want to learn English. At the same time, classes have to be as informative as they are fun (even if the information is in disguise).
I’ve definitely had days when my 元気-ness (genkiness) level wasn’t what it could be, so rising to the challenge can be tough some days. There are times when I’ve trudged to class, slid open the classroom door, only to walk into a classroom full of smiling faces…students prepped to learn. In these cases have no choice but to shift into energetic mode because that’s the energy the kids are giving me. Even if it’s an activity that I’m not necessarily thrilled about, or something that I think is silly, as long as my instructions are clear, the kids run with it. I can do an activity with the kids, and if they like it, they’ll shout “ONE MO-A TIME!” (or one more time) over and over again.
My question is, “Why the hell can’t I muster this kind of energy when I’m studying Japanese?” I’ve been here for just over three-and-a-half years and I’ve come to a sobering realization: my peak Japanese learning period happened during the six-month to the year-and-a-half (maybe two-year) mark.
Why? Well I’d liken it to being kind of like a child when I first arrived. Everything was so new. I didn’t know any Japanese, but my excitement levels were through the roof! I wasn’t jaded by work, hadn’t formed any opinions about the way things work in Japan. I was creating and maintaining a good system of habits, I was eating right, exercising, and feeling pretty darn energetic everyday.
Lately, I’ve been sluggish, a little bit jaded by my “go to work-get exhausted-go home-sleep-and-do it all over again tomorrow” routine. I haven’t been studying some of the very same materials that I was so enamored with just two short years ago. I have been on a convenience store diet since I started my new job. I haven’t been exercising (which probably explains the lack of energy) I feel like a fifty-year-old man in a thirty-year-old’s body, just working.
Summer time is nearly here and I say it’s a great time to reset…it’s time the teacher learned a little lesson from his kids. Don’t over-think this…if you want to improve your Japanese, Donald…just do it and have fun doing it.
It’s time to get excited again and rekindle that “crazy about Japan” spark brought me here,
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