The Four F’s

by Helene J. Uchida

I am happy to share with you the secret to my success in teaching English in the American, Greek and Japanese classroom. I am so confident with this formula that I would venture to say it should work in any classroom, no matter that the subject is. It took me a few years to work it out by trial and error, but it is pretty polished now.

There are four basics to orchestrating and balancing a group of students to create a positive learning atmosphere in a classroom. I call them the Four Fs because they all begin with the letter “F.”

The four Fs are: friendly, firm, fair and focused. If the teacher is only friendly, the students will take advantage of him/her. If the teacher is only firm, the students will resent the strictness. If the teacher is only fair, the class will lack variety and punch. And if the teacher is only focused, the students will lose interest.

But if the teacher can balance friendliness, firmness, fairness and being focused, then the atmosphere in the classroom will support positive experiences. In addition, the students will gravitate to the teacher, to each other and to the subject matter.

Now, what you have to do as the teacher is find how you can make these points clear to your students. If you speak to them in their native language, then you can do an orientation at the beginning of the school year to go over what the rules are, what exceptions are acceptable, what your expectation are, etc. But if you do not speak to the students in their native language, then you need to develop ways of letting the students know about your expectations by showing these four Fs in the way you teach.

For example, you can be friendly when you greet the students and say goodbye. You can be firm by not permitting them to speak Japanese in class or insisting on good manners in your presence. (After all, they are guests in your domain when they come to your class.) You can exemplify fairness by lending students a pencil, a dictionary or scotch tape, but let them know they need to responsible for their own materials and to come prepared next time. And you can be focused by teaching at an even tempo, getting everyone involved and by giving students the right amount of time to succeed in each activity you create. Insist on the attention you need from them to teach and give them the same attention to enable them show you what they can do!

A balanced combination of all four are the foundation of creating good experiences in the classroom for the students and will open the door to the secret fifth F, fulfillment.