Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Classroom Management for Teachers of Japanese and Other Foreign Languages

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Classroom Management for Teachers of Japanese and Other Foreign Languages

Article excerpt


This article describes the classroom management component of the Professional Development of Japanese Teachers of Texas (PDJT), a certification program for teachers of Japanese. In addition, it offers suggestions in classroom management for teachers of Japanese and other foreign languages as well as guidance for teacher trainers to help new teachers develop classroom management skills. Although a classroom management class is required for teacher certification, a generic course would not have met the needs of these teachers. The course needed to build on the maturity, classroom experience, and cultural orientation of the participants. Class time utilized many small-group activities based on the participants' classroom experiences and emphasized the realities of American classrooms. This approach can serve as a model for training programs serving varied groups of teacher-certification candidates.

Introduction: A Personal Perspective

When I was a college senior taking my foreign language methods class just prior to student teaching, there was no material directed toward classroom management. When another student asked the instructor for some classroom management guidelines, he replied that foreign language teachers did not need to be concerned with classroom management as only "good" kids took foreign languages. When pressed, he stated matter-of-factly that classroom management was all in the presentation of audiolingual drills; a brisk pace accompanied by a drill-sergeant manner would stop all classroom management problems before they got started.

As my first teaching job was in an urban junior high in the midst of court-ordered busing, I soon realized that classroom management was indeed central to my job as a foreign language teacher. In many cases, I could hardly get my classes seated, let alone present briskly paced drills. At this early point in my teaching career, I received two additional pieces of classroom management advice which proved infinitely more useful than my methods instructor's perfunctory words. These were: "Be firm, fair, and consistent," and "You don't need any 13-year old friends." The first piece of advice came from a colleague, a veteran urban teacher. He believed that of the three conditions, consistency was the most important. Students, he felt, would prefer an unfair policy that was enforced consistently over a more fair one applied sporadically with the possibility of seeming preferential.

The advice about friendships with students came from an eighth-grade girl who was not even one of my students. At the age of 21, this piece of advice was the more important one to me. Although I had not intended to establish peer relationships with students, the student's advice reminded me that I was, and had to be, the adult in any interactions with students. By being the adult, I would not always be popular with students, but I understood that the teacher's task was more complex than that of maintaining popularity. Later in my teaching career, I came across Frances Fuller's research on teachers' stages of concern and learned that many if not all beginning teachers are concerned with being liked by their students. Being overly concerned with student acceptance often leads to classroom management problems (Fuller & Bown, 1975).

When I moved to a very different teaching environment-a laboratory school for the gifted-I learned quickly that students labeled as "talented" and "motivated" could be as much of a classroom management challenge as the students I had previously encountered. At this time, I picked up another important piece of management advice from a veteran teacher educator who was my instructor in a graduate course in classroom observation: "Teachers create their own hells." Through a series of films of actual lessons in a variety of subject matters, I came to see how teachers' lack of consistency, fairness, and firmness, in addition to their lack of alertness and adequate lesson planning contributed in large measure to their classroom management problems. …

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