Bonding with my ESL Kids

During the last couple of weeks, I’ve broken the golden rule of teaching English to children by speaking Japanese! Heaven help me! I’ve started each lesson with a few minutes of chit-chat with the kids and I’m really enjoying it!

I just ask them what they’ve been doing lately and they are really forthcoming in telling me their news. I learned that one of them has just had a baby sister, another got a unicycle from her grandmother as an early birthday present, and another just had an American teacher stay at his house for the weekend as part of an international language exchange.

I find this little bit of banter relaxes the kids and helps me connect with them more. I also find it very refreshing as children generally have positive things to say all the time. We talk about birthdays and presents, friends, school, TV, video games, all sorts really.

Today, Sumo-boy pulled me close and whispered in my ear that the frogs were having babies. He said there was frog spawn all around his house and he couldn’t wait to see them ‘hatch’. I asked him if liked frogs and he pulled away with the most digusted look on his face and hollered the Japanese equivalent of “Ergh! Yuck! Blubber! Spit! Whoaaah! They freak me out!”

Recently, my first grade elementary kids have been losing their teeth. Before class, M-chan was running around the waiting room showing everyone her wobbly tooth. The next thing I know, her mum grabs it and yanks it out! I yelped ‘Ouch!’ and asked her if it hurt and she smiled with a mouthful of blood and told me it didn’t. Later in class, I asked them if they have the Tooth Fairy in Japan. After my poor explanation I think they imagined Santa Claus with wings stealing children’s teeth while they sleep. But anyway, it seems in Japan, if one of your top teeth falls out, you are supposed to throw it on the roof. If it’s one of your bottom teeth, you… just chuck it on the ground. Well, I think that’s what they meant!

So while it’s considered wrong to speak anything but English in an ESL class, I do feel that this little experiment has helped me bond with the kids, and they seem to enjoy the classes more, too!

If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!