From inexperienced novice instructor to head teacher, students have been a life-changing part of my adventure in Japan. Here are some key reflections and takeaways:

  • Prepare to encounter and encourage brilliance.
  • Silliness overcomes language barriers.
  • When students understand your heart to see them succeed, they will learn more.
  • Teaching is an exercise in patience.
  • Being your students’ best friend, all the time, doesn't work well. There is a balance between kindness and structure.
  • Some of the best lessons are improvised. Most of the best ones are planned for.
  • You must speak to a class with the expectation that students will listen to you.
  • High expectations bring the best out of a class.
  • Classroom culture shift starts with encouragement, some discipline, and reasonable consequences.
  • Some students will always forget their water bottle, and that's okay.
  • Find that extra 10% of your personality and interest you can add onto the curriculum, it makes all the difference.
  • Take time to speak to students individually, and in groups. Address any problems early on.
  • Flexibility will always need to be mixed into your best formed lesson plans.
  • The time you need for your lesson is always a bit too short, start early.
  • Train students to manage their time well in class. Model this as well.
  • Share out as much responsibility as you can to as many kids as you can.
  • Investing in students and young people is a lifestyle, it goes beyond the classroom. Teaching and people skills are always relevant.
  • Merely managing students behavior will end in frustration.
  • Figure out what the general classroom attention span is. Switch things up immediately if you ever suspect your kids have checked-out.
  • No need to reinvent the wheel. Find the best activities, lesson plans, and ideas from other teachers to use and adapt.
  • Dress up sometimes. Bring in props.
  • Use gestures consistently as a memory aid for key lesson points. Get your kinesthetic learners to mimic your gestures.
  • Kids age 6-9 will enjoy nearly any activity that involves a ball. Catch, etc.
  • Rock, paper, scissors is an effective way to solve a vast number of minor disagreements.
  • Identify the young leaders in your classroom and train them to lead their friends.
  • Don't worry about making messes, especially in art class. Kids really benefit from and enjoy a messy project. It also teaches them responsibility when they help you clean it up.
  • If you’re not having fun, likely the kids aren’t either.
  • Don’t stop praying, and never give up on the students that are harder to teach.
  • There is always something you can add to help students learn, or make the classroom a better place.
  • Jesus loves these little guys and girls so much.