I would like to share with you one personal concept worthy of consideration, and that is the act of your having a cup of tea at the beginning of class.
Like all of you, I have a busy schedule, in my case, teaching at four universities, at my school, writing this column, conducting teacher-training seminars on the weekends and volunteering at Kyushu Cancer Center.
The only time I ever relax is the first fifteen minutes of my elementary school classes. Why? Because these children have more energy than I do. I harness their precious vitality by channeling it into manageable logistics/ writing/speaking challenges.
Here’s how: When the students enter the classroom, of course, I am there at the door to welcome them. While the CD background music fills the room in a welcoming and soothing way, I ask them to hand in their homework and copy the blackboard, which contains the language point for their lesson. I then sit down and relax with a cup of tea as I correct their homework and observe them busily accomplishing all their tasks which are: handing in their homework, copying the blackboard, looking up a word in dictionary, writing their name on the student blackboard, filling in the log to let me know how long they listened to their CD at home and then doing their free study workbooks. As they do all those things, I sit and sip my tea and marvel at their productivity, their ability, their cooperativeness and their desire to please. At quarter past the hour, I start the lesson. Two things have been accomplished. First, the students have acclimated themselves from the Japanese-language world into the English one in a gentle, subtle way without any anxiety or stress. They are now ready to take the next step by speaking and interacting in simple English. And second, I have had a breather from my hectic and busy day. I have had my cup of tea and I am ready to teach.
I even take it a step further in my junior high and high school classes, by serving the students a cup of tea for themselves to sip as they do the same manageable challenges on a higher level.
The key point is that I do not overtly engage students in English conversation as soon as they enter the classroom. Instead, I let them subliminally adapt to the change in environment by setting up short, manageable writing tasks, which require moving about the room and simple spoken English, such as: Here you are, I’m finished, I forgot my pencil, May I borrow an eraser, Please check, etc.
Please be kind to yourself this year and see if you can orchestrate your initial class activities to allow yourself the luxury of a cup of tea.