Every time you take a flight you receive some excellent advice on life that most of us not only ignore, we fail to even acknowledge at the time. I am referring to the safety demonstration. The wisdom in the words “secure your own oxygen mask before helping others” is applicable to all aspects of our lives. Yet as we roll into term 3 how many of us have spent the first half of the year helping our students, our staff and the school community often at the expense of our own time, relationships and personal needs.
One area I feel we are particularly poor at is prioritizing our own learning needs. I was fortunate to visit Japan these holidays and I was reminded of how the culture of learning permeates everything in Japanese society. It is not only students studying for exams, but adults taking proficiency tests and courses in everything from foreign language classes to needlework and tai chi. Stationery stores had special diaries to help people use their time more wisely and focus on daily goals. Even I became enthused by their slogan 「大切な一日を無駄にしない」.
So, I did what every Japanese teacher does and stocked up on resources – but this time for me. I purchased study guides for the Japanese Language Proficiency exam at levels suitable for the teachers I work with and me. I realised that the best way to model a growth mindset to my students, is to demonstrate how I continue to prioritize learning in my own life. Year after year, we let our own language proficiency decline as we teach to junior classes. We become used to only using the kanji that is listed on the syllabus. It was so exciting to be immersed in “non-syllabus” kanji again in Japan. It was like eating out with adults after weeks of sharing simple meals designed to suit your toddlers.
I know we are time poor but if you committed to 5 minutes a day 6 days a week you will be spending the same amount of time on Japanese that many of our primary students receive! It doesn’t have to be quality time either – 5 minutes on the commute, in the carpark before you drive home, at breakfast before anyone gets up or in the bath at night. My son loaded a fitness app on my phone recently that has a fabulous robot voice that offers no room to procrastinate. She loudly announces prior to each new set “Do the exercise.” There is no enthusiasm in her voice, she is not trying to convince me this will be fun, she simply wants me to get on with it.
Invest in you this term and start “securing your own oxygen mask before helping others”.
If you need some motivation to get started the JLTAV are running a language maintenance immersion weekend in October https://forms.gle/9mQHZStFNSsCbf1EA and the Japan Foundation run monthly speaking nights and courses specifically for teachers.