To teach is to learn

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A big difference between Japan and the West is how teachers instruct children. Generally In Japan, a teacher instructs or shows how to do a thing, and the students observe and/or repeat the action. This process is repeated until the student becomes competent in the action or concept. In the West, a much broader spectrum of teaching methods are used. One school may use a system similar to Japan, while others give children a list and encourage them to figure out objectives by themselves. Some schools might even mix the two systems and others. Each system has its own advantages. No one can say which system is best because of so many factors. Some systems equip the students to function in a particular society, and sometimes certain systems are better or worse for individual students.

What is consistent across all cultures and methods is how the human brain functions. Seeing, hearing, and writing are all ways to learn. When students study, based on what they hear, see, or write can determine how much they remember. For example, writing notes down while listening to a teacher’s lecture will help most students retain that information more effectively than the student who only listens. But no matter how attentively one listens, observes, or records, a more effective method of learning exists: teaching. Once something is supposedly learned, the individual can put his or her knowledge to the test by teaching someone else that thing. By doing this, one can truly see how well he or she actually knows this thing.

In education, and in English learning in particular, some students understand concepts and ideas more quickly than others. This is not a problem, but an opportunity. For a Japanese or non-native English speaking student, the English language can be daunting to learn. Because English comes from a mixture of so many languages and cultures, it can be difficult to find a pattern to ease the learning process. When a student learns something difficult, the teacher can of course move on and focus on other students that still have not quite grasped the idea, but this situation presents an opportunity for students to help their peers, and by doing this, they also help themselves.

When a student who is struggling to understand a concept is helped by their peer, someone who is in the same situation as they, many positive effects can take place. First, the student teaching the concept further cements the learned idea in their mind. This also increases their confidence in the moment, but also exponentially in the future as they learn other things. Secondly, the student being taught might be at ease by being instructed by their peer. Their peer is not exactly an expert in the subject, or from a foreign country where they could have more easily learned it. They two of them are in the same boat, or the same situation. This can give the learner confidence. “If they can do it, so can I,” they might think. Lastly, such situations can foster friendships between the students, which has obvious benefits for their social and mental health, and overall school experience.

By employing such methods, this also helps teachers cover more material to a deeper degree. Students having a high level of confidence will carry that confidence into their future, particularly if they move to different cultures that teach and learn differently. It allows them to adapt more easily to different situations, and such an ability can contribute towards long term success.