Shelton on Teaching English

This article was written by Joshua Shelton. It originally appeared in "Ibaraki Report" No.31 published in November 2000.

Profound Profundities (2)

A column devoted to the useless and trivial


Since I assume that a vast percentage of the Ibaraki Report's readership is engaged in that ancient and noble profession known as "English teaching," I think the topic deserves at least one column (or four or five if I'm lazy and can't think of any original material). This topic is an intensely sober one, so humor will in no way appear in the following sentences (not that it ever does, judging by reactions to the last article I wrote).

For starters let's examine the history of English teaching. Most historians agree that English has been taught since at least since the Ancient Greeks. In fact Plato and Aristotle's schools were eikaiwa schools. Plato's school became what we now know as ECC, original motto: "Is it English because it is loved by the gods, or do the gods love it because it is English?" Aristotle's school evolved over time into our modern day Nova, original motto: "There are four causes for all things, but a preposition is anywhere a mouse can go!"

The philosophical aspects of these schools slowly waned in popularity, but the English component remained a big hit; the reason for this being that when you're silly drunk (as the Ancient Greeks tended to be) your powers of philosophical reasoning become muddled and weak while your will to babble on and on and on and on about stupid, mind-numbing topics in English becomes sharper (as evidenced by all the drunk salary-men I keep running into on trains).

In Japan, English has been a compulsory subject in schools at least since the Jomon Period. We know this because archaeologists have recently uncovered pottery fragments with snippets of textbook conversation inscribed on them:

Yoshi: "Excuse me, can you tell me when is the next train to London?"
Simon: "In about 3,000 years, old chap"

Now for a few hints and tips on how to make your English lessons more interesting and exciting. I'll draw from my own experience, since, admittedly, I'm a genius and everyone should be just like me. The first thing to keep in mind is that you must keep your English lessons "relevant," and by that I mean, "don't speak in French." The second tip: get weasels into your conversations as much as possible. Weasels are funny. Bring a large cardboard box full of starving weasels to class and release them onto unsuspecting laps and desks (make sure to lock all windows and doors before doing this). After total chaos has erupted in your classroom, begin your lesson. Example:

Teacher: "Noriko, repeat after me, 'This is a weasel.'"
Noriko: [screaming and running and clawing at the weasels in her hair]
Teacher: "Very good."

Another idea for how to use class time productively is to simply give each student several million yen so that they can spend a semester or two in your home country. Expensive, but effective.

Hmmm, I think that's about all I can stand to write and about all you can stand to read, so I'll leave off here. A parting word of advice (or a cheap shot, depending on how you look at it), I'm the best English teacher dey eva wuz, so you might as well give up now. Thank you.

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