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Kids World

Topics of interest to teachers of English as a second or foreign language to young learners.

January 15, 2004

Success is Like a Vitamin

Kids With the advent of this new year, I would like to encourage all of you, myself included, to become better teachers than we were last year. This is a noble profession to which we belong, and I think we should all set a good example to our students by always striving for professional self-improvement. This entails attending EFL events and seminars, reviewing new materials, exchanging ideas with our colleagues, keeping abreast of current trends and issues involving English education in Japan and, most importantly, self-evaluation concerning our teaching.

Thus, to start the New Year off right, I would like to share with you a concept I learned about last year from a book entitled "A Mind at a Time" by Dr. Mel Levine. The author, a Harvard University graduate, is an expert on childhood learning and learning disabilities.

In his book, he says, "Success is like a vitamin. If a child doesn't receive it when he is young, then he may have a deficiency the rest of his life." This profound statement really impressed me and made me think about the way I am teaching.

Most of us grew up expecting our own teachers to find something wrong with our work. And I am sure we all recycle this mentality when we teach. Correct the students and then correct them some more. It is an easy trap for teachers to fall into.

But I think we would get more mileage out of our students if we could find good things in them. Levine says, "Parents and teachers have to be on a constant, diligent quest for buried treasure within children." I agree. As we all know, from observing our students in the classroom, the shy child may display excellent penmanship; the noisy child may be able to think in English; and the slow learner may have the best social skills. All children's brains are circuited differently.

Dr. Levine states, "We can help all kids fit in by making the system more accepting of them, by finding ways for all children to have their place in the sun." He adds that, "Theories of multiple intelligences, such as those of psychologist Howard Gardner, should help convince us that there is no need for them all to be smart in the same way. School practices and policies must become responsive to this growing realization."

I would like to encourage each and every one of you this year to try to find good things in your students, as individuals and as a group, and acknowledge those good things in front of them and others. Yes, we can still "correct" the students when they make errors, but I firmly believe we should focus more on the positive attributes we find in them out of respect for their uniqueness. If they experience success in our classrooms, then they can receive an ample dosage of "vitamins" which will hopefully foster in them self-confidence and self-worth, which will be a springboard to other forms of success in their future.

Happy 2004!

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