I was trained in Japan by experienced Japanese daycare workers in English preschools, so my methods are an attempt to bridge cultural, social, and language issues for Japanese children and staff working in English-only environments. Our classroom mirrors the structure of the Japanese classroom. I think it’s important that Japanese children are able to easily transition from and to Japanese schools so although we are speaking English, they need to understand the basic expectations of a Japanese school
Manners, turn-taking, respect for others, respect for property, ownership and pride in the classroom, caring for others, helping each other etc… Not that these things don’t exist in western classrooms but the emphasis is different. Japanese culture is more group oriented so helping kids to express and recognize concern for others is important even though we use English. They need to have a structure in their social interactions so they can establish membership in the group.
That said, we do try to serve each child’s needs and nurture their individual personalities. Some kids don’t like dancing or art. We set it up so they can enjoy the group activity without being overwhelmed. We respect their choices and physical space which means we do not force toilet training or demand eating 100% of their lunch.
My “rules” are questions because there are no rules with kids. Success in the classroom is the result of preparation and performance so rigorous self-reflection is key. Teachers must be active critical thinkers who can make sound decisions on their feet. I would have my teachers ask themselves:
1. Did you sleep/eat/drink enough?
2. Did you prepare all your materials including the classroom environment?
3. Have you welcomed each child warmly?
4. Is there anything that might affect the child today and have you made contingency plans?
5. Are you communicating individual children’s needs with co-workers daily?
6. Do your coworkers know how to help and lead activities today?
7. Are you keeping the schedule and proactively preparing the next activity/ day/ event in a safe and fun manner?
8. Are the children initiating original English?
9. Have you allowed children to discover concepts on their own or are you trying to “finish” things?
10. Are you reflecting on and taking responsibility for being your absolute best in class so that children, coworkers, and parents are happy to see you?
Facilitating fun requires constant non-verbal elicitation strategies – which means constant engagement between teacher and student. Teachers must play detective, looking out for non-verbal communication from the kids like micro-gestures and possible cause and effect sequences.
Scientific behaviour management plans are necessary to support positive child development especially since toddlers are mostly non-verbal when they join at 15 months of age. Preschool is also a time of tantrums so if teachers don’t have rapport we can’t make a good plan for drawing students back into activities.
Yes. We have children who are doing it but it depends on the child’s personality, the level of family support and the general context of language use.
Children acquire language by actively using it and watching how we use it. Teachers and parents should ask questions like: Is English fun for the children? Is English stressful for the children? Do we use English more when we are angry? Do we praise children consistently when English is used?
I measure it, again, with questions:
1. Are the children happy using English?
2. Are the staff supported and confident in class?
3. Are activities age appropriate and safe?
The student experience: it’s a gorgeous space and I believe the physical environment to be a teacher itself. The space has been created to feed the senses of the student with tactile materials like soft mats and wood, the outdoor rooftop space, lots of natural light and vibrant yet soothing colours. The parent experience is also unique because it offers a community and encourages work-life balance and free dialogue with teachers.
The teacher experience is also very positive in terms of compact school size, teacher-student ratio, a shorter workday and our curriculum foundation.
A new norm: Daddies putting in at least one year per child as the main caretaker on paternity preferably toddler year, so mommies can be free to crush it in their careers.