Mutual Respect in the Classroom

September 30, 2019

Guest Contributor “Mutual Respect in the Classroom“: Helene Jarmol Uchida, a former New York junior high and high school English teacher, is an EFL expert in Japan. She is the owner of Little America, Inc.

Even though I was a veteran English teacher before I came to Japan, my teaching expertise dramatically expanded as a result of my doing judo and teaching Japanese EFL students. Now I can say, without hesitation, that the most important element in my classroom evolves around the concept of respect. I have judo and my early Japanese students to thank for teaching me that.

When I initially studied judo from Sohei Uchida at the Waseda University judo dojo, he told me, “You can’t do judo alone; you need a partner.” He also said that since one cannot do judo alone, one must respect one’s partner.

In essence, because one has a partner, one can do judo. If one’s partner is stronger, then one learns from that partner. If one’s partner is weaker, then the stronger partner helps the weaker one.

This was a revelation for me because I had always been a very independent person; I had never really thought much about partnership or “give and take.” This philosophy changed my life in terms of my adaption to judo (I became a black belt), my international marriage and my English teaching in Japan.

Our students cannot speak English alone; they need a partner. So our curriculum, classes and lessons are all geared to interaction between two people.

Just like judo, our classes encourage constant practice, warm-ups, trial and error challenges, and question and answer scenarios between partners. We believe in orchestrating activities whereby our students can experience English with each other.

Even though we don’t say it directly, our students know inherently that their partners deserve respect, namely because they could not do any of these fun activities alone.

Respect is a win-win situation.

My first priority as a teacher is to respect my students in such a way that they will feel it. If I respect my students, like a mirror, they will reflect that respect back to me. And once that relationship has been established, they will almost certainly respect each other, the subject matter and in the final analysis, themselves.

This is my goal in teaching English, to plant the seeds of self-respect and self-confidence so that students can take the strategic step of speaking English to someone other than me, the teacher. If respect is absent in the classroom, I don’t think any real learning will ever take place.

Share your stories of mutual respect in your classroom! We would like to hear from you! Don’t forget to share this blog on Facebook , Twitter, or Pinterest with your ideas as well! Check out Educators Only Source for additional resources on how to connect with your students!

Guest Contributor:  Helene Jarmol Uchida, a former New York junior high and high school English teacher, is an EFL expert in Japan. She is the owner of Little America, Inc., which operates two English schools in Fukuoka, an English materials Book Store (nationwide) and conducts teacher-training seminars through its NPO Affiliate, TEMI (Teaching English Methods Institute). Uchida has written several EFL books for children and adolescents, the most popular of which is “The Challenge Book”. She has been a regional correspondent for two leading English newspapers in Japan, namely “The Japan Times” and “The Japan News”; the later featured her column “Primary Advice” which focused on how to teach English to Japanese children. She has lectured at five universities in Fukuoka and has been a guest speaker for several Japanese Boards of Education. Uchida firmly believes EFL and ESL should be more experiential, and she stands by her motto, “Never underestimate the ability of a child.”