Response to Tajino and Tajino (2000): Native and Non-Native – What Can They Offer?

This post is from a course that I took. I had to make blog posts for the course and I decided to move the posts over here when the course finished.

Tajino, A., & Tajino, Y. (2000). Native and non-native: What can they offer? ELT Journal, 54(1), 3-11.

I like the authors’ focus on changing the concept of team-teaching to team-learning. This is in line with my belief that schools are learning communities, and that the teachers should be as dedicated to learning as they are to teaching. The groupings that the authors suggest would certainly provide various opportunities for the students to interact with the teachers in effective ways.

I was an ALT for two years at a rural school in Japan. I was young at the time, but had finished most of my teaching degree and had had several practice teaching experiences, so I did not feel like a complete stranger to pedagogy. However, I was often used as a tape recorder or a game creator. I would have liked to have had a more active role to play in the classroom.

I felt that the JTEs were not really sure how to use me in the classroom. Furthermore, some of them were somewhat uncomfortable with having me in the classroom, and their discomfort was transferred to the students. I could tell that they were nervous about their English skills, which the students picked up on, and made the students feel even less empowered to use English.

I was finally able to take more of a leading role when the teachers at my school changed over and I was paired with a very young teacher. She had just graduated from university and was younger and less experienced than I was. She treated me like a friend and colleague from the start, which helped to foster a good working relationship. Students were also able to learn from her that it was not impossible to speak to me, and that it could even be fun.

This issue of team-teaching is quite difficult because it depends entirely on the personalities involved. There are good and dedicated JTEs and good and dedicated ALTs, but there are also teachers on both sides who could use some improvement. It could be argued that the system could be improved by hiring qualified teachers, but since the government of Japan cannot afford to pay competitive teachers’ salaries, I think that likelihood is somewhat low. It would probably be good for the JET program to focus on hiring education students, but I don’t think there are enough education graduates every year who would consider moving to Japan to fulfill the demand.

Questions from the Study Guide

Think of ways you could capitalise on the resources of a native speaker in your LOTE classes. The person may be another LOTE teacher, a member of the community, an exchange teacher/assistant, or a student.
If I had a native speaker of Japanese in my class, I would try out the various groupings that are suggested by the author. I would also consider pairing the teacher with individual students so the native teacher could develop a relationship with the students. It bothered me as an ALT not to be able to connect with the students as much as I would have liked, and that certainly affected my ability to inspire the students to learn English. If my students could connect with the native Japanese teacher, they could develop a relationship with him/her that would provide a strong motivation for learning more Japanese.