Building Bridges: Connecting with Japanese Students In and Out of the Classroom

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As teachers, we all want to have a great rapport with our students. Being able to talk with them and having them participate in class will make the lessons go smoother. So, you may be asking: how do we forge those relationships with our students? In this post, we provide some tips to help strengthen that connection we all want — both inside and outside of the classroom. 

All you have to do is smile

The saying “a smile can go along way’’ holds a lot of merit. The best way to make people feel more comfortable in most situations is by smiling sincerely at them and being happy and open. This is also the case when teaching children. Having a welcoming, warm aura around you can help your students relax and open themselves more easily to you. This, in turn, will help with interactions and participation within the class. Of course, like too much of anything, it may not have the desired effect if done for too long. Go ahead and smile, but that doesn’t mean you need to grin from ear to ear all day. Showing that you are friendly and approachable with a few quick beams during the lesson is a great way to win a class over. Another example of when to smile would be when a student asks you a question, praise them and give them a nice grin or even a thumbs up.

After and before lessons

Whenever you finish your lesson, you don’t need to grab your things, clean-up and leave the class immediately. Take your time. Talk to the students close to you. Some students want to converse with their ALTs but don’t have the chance because as soon as class is over, the teachers leave. Other students are too shy to start the conversation but really want to speak with you. Just a quick, simple question is all that’s needed to start building that relationship in the beginning. You can even ask some students to help you clean up — this will give them an excuse to come and talk to you. Students will be happy to help you if it means a chance for a bit of conversation.

During lunch

Most ALT companies want their ALTs to have lunch with the kids. Doing so will also give them an opportunity to meet and to talk with other ALTs. Take this time to get to know your students outside of the classroom. Maybe your students are a bit shy, though. One way you can break the ice is by asking simple questions. “Do you like miso soup?” They can even answer the age-old question, “Bread or rice?” Or ask them what anime is popular these days. You get the idea. Students will try to talk to you when you are in their lunch groups or try to make one of the other students in their group talk to you. But sometimes, you may need to take the initiative and spark something yourself. Don’t let the students’ efforts go to waste — and have fun!

Some students want to converse with their ALTs but don’t have the chance because as soon as class is over, the teachers leave.

 Joining other classes

Another good way to talk with students is to visit them during other lessons. Of course,  always make sure you ask the teachers first if you can visit their class. The students will be happy to see you in their class not as a teacher, but as a visitor. Some students may even ask you questions they normally wouldn’t with some of the pressure off. Just remember, you will be the elephant in the room so try not to distract the class too much, especially when the teacher is talking.

Club activities

Probably the best time to visit students is during their club activities. Their blood is flowing and they’re having fun, so when they see their foreign teacher, they will be ecstatic. You don’t even have to join them during training, but just by you being there and trying to talk with them, they will be very happy.

Doing all of this will help create that respect and friendship that builds bonds between teachers and their students. The students will see you in another light and not just as a teacher. Even your challenging students will start respecting and listening to you more because you showed some interest in them. You’ll be surprised how much students change outside of the regular classroom. 

Happy teaching!

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