Education About Asia: Online Archives

Gleanings from the Distant Past: Ideas that Work for Me

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Japanese-language teacher, Palo Alto High School, Palo Alto, CA


Recipient of the 2002 United States-Japan Foundation Elgin Heinz Outstanding Teacher Award— Language Category.

In this collection of ideas formulated since I first began teaching many years ago, I have attempted to share important things for a successful teaching career in world languages. My experiences in second-language acquisition as a teacher have been restricted to the “Less Commonly Taught” Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, but the suggestions should be equally applicable to all languages. I have also taught English as a Second Language (ESL).

My first teaching assignment was Evanston Township High School summer school in Evanston, Illinois. As a new graduate student in Asian Languages at Stanford University, I was skeptical when my professor told me that “once I stepped into the classroom I would know what to do.” So I was recommended to a summer position teaching one period of Japanese and one of Mandarin Chinese. Probably my youthful energy and enthusiasm got me through the hot, humid Evanston summer. The students, from all over the Chicago area, were so eager to learn that I decided I wanted to be a pre-collegiate teacher of world languages (then referred to as “foreign”). This was before national standards, state frameworks, and anything resembling a communication/competency-based textbook in Japanese or Chinese. Since that time, I’ve been able to gather ideas and strategies along the way to now share things I have found valuable to consider as a beginning or veteran teacher.