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Kids World

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

October 15, 2014

Fostering Independence

Fostering IndependenceWhen I first started teaching English in Japan, I was overwhelmed at how dependent the students were on me. In the beginning, it made me feel good to be so needed, but as time passed, I noticed that the more I let my students depend on me, the guiltier I felt. I realized that by letting them depend on me, I was in essence “handicapping” them because I was hampering their progress toward English independence.

So one day I sat down and developed a plan to foster their independence.

I created a progression of activities, sort of like an English obstacle course for each class, which challenged them with a string of activities that they would either have to do alone, with a partner or with a group in order to succeed in class. The only way they would be allowed to lean on me would be for direction, guidance, signals or clues but never for answers or explanations. They had to take the plunge and discover on their own.

Once I got the system into place, I was really pleased at how my students could progress from one manageable challenge to another without me. I was delighted to see them take risks with expanding spurts of independence. My chest filled with pride when I saw their confidence grow and their independence blossom. Yet as time went on, I recognized a flaw. My students felt confident enough to speak English to their classmates and me but were not comfortable speaking with others, such as guests to our school. This demonstrated to me that they were still too dependent on me as their main English source.

And that is when I took the giant step and asked others to teach “my” students. So I interviewed, hired and trained part-time teachers one by one, which eventually led to full-time teachers, which eventually led to my school, Little America’s, expansion.

I was so pleased as I was walking down the hall and passing a classroom; I could hear my students’ voices as they chatted with each other and their new teacher in English. Some looked my way and waved as I passed by. I learned, like a mother, if you truly love something, let it go and it will come back to you.

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