Admin blogging expectations Uncategorized

Update Frequency Poll Results

poll results

A big thank you to everyone who participated in the update frequency poll this week. The results were fairly conclusive:

Every day 0 0%
Five times a week 0 0%
Three times a week 2 17%
Twice a week 4 33%
Once a week 2 17%
Other 4 33%

The ‘other’ responses were basically ‘whenever you like’, ‘weekly or fortnightly’, and ‘when you have something to say’ 🙂

I am going to move to a twice a week schedule with the blog, attempting to write something meaningful on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Wish me luck!

curriculum extensive reading graded readers language courses materials online resources school management teaching Uncategorized university websites

ER@TU website

TU logo

The ER@TU (Extensive Reading at Tohoku University) Project now has a website!

Features of possible interest to teachers include the Guide to ER (bilingual page aimed at students explaining extensive reading and this particular program) and the Word Counts page, which lists graded reader titles and word counts only (aimed at teachers and students).

The website has both PC and mobile versions, and is not quite finished yet (to put it mildly!).

The site is a WordPress installation on Bluehost, as explained very thoroughly by Michael Hyatt in this excellent blog post. I paid for three years in advance, bringing the monthly cost to around 400 yen. This works very well, as my contract is also up in three years time, so hopefully this will give me some leverage with the university 😉

Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or suggestions about the site.

conference EFL eikaiwa ETJ Language learning online resources presentations self-study Uncategorized

ETJ Expos 2012

I’m very happy to announce I will be presenting at four of the ETJ Expos this year:

  • Tokyo (Sunday, Nov 4)
  • Nagoya (Sunday, Nov 25)
  • Sendai (Sunday, Dec 2)
  • Fukuoka (Sunday, Dec 9)

My presentation is sponsored by Oxford University Press, and I’ll be talking about free online resources to help students study independently.


SRS, RSS, LMS: online tools to boost language learner efficiency

The internet has already revolutionized language learning, giving learners access to resources that would have been inconceivable even five years ago. In this presentation Ben Shearon will introduce free online resources with the potential to transform English language learners’ self-study. Suitable for all levels and ages.


Other than the presentation, I’ll be catching as many presentations as possible and hope to meet and talk to a lot of people. Hope to see you there!


JALT Pan-SIG Conference 2012: Hiroshima University June 16th and 17th


I’ll be attending and presenting at the JALT Pan-SIG Conference both days next weekend:

Please come and say hi.

I’ll be presenting in Japanese on ‘how to start up an extensive reading program’ in room K104 on Saturday afternoon (14:10-14:40).

I’ll try to post a video of the talk after the event.

ALTs business EFL eikaiwa ES expectations JHS kids life in Japan school management teaching teaching culture Uncategorized university

Skewed rewards and incentives (why are university teachers at the top of the pile?)


I have taught at private language schools, public elementary, junior high, and senior high schools, and universities in Japan. They roughly rank in that order in terms of prestige, financial remuneration, and ease of getting a job.

A job at an eikaiwa school is the easiest to get, the worst paid, and has the least amount of prestige (want proof? See how estate agents treat you). Working in public schools is better paid, more challenging to get, and is perceived as being higher by society (some of the dwindling prestige of public school teachers rubs off). Finally, a university position tends to pay rather well, involves jumping through various hoops (publications, experience teaching at the tertiary level, Japanese ability, postgraduate qualifications), and confers a reasonably high status (varying somewhat according to the institution in question).

Seemingly illogically, the actual amount of skill required to do the job well seems to run in the opposite direction. I would say, based on my experience, teaching at an eikaiwa, where you will probably have students ranging from 3 to 70 years old, and classes that run the gamut from 40 kindergarteners to one sleep-deprived businessman or a group of senior citizens, requires the most skill to perform well.

Teaching in public schools can provide discipline challenges, but the range of teaching situations is less varied and the curriculum provides a framework that reduces the amount of material teachers need to master.

Finally, teachers at the university level probably need the least amount of teaching skill to get by: their students are selected for academic potential (yes, even at the worst universities) and teachers tend to have the freedom to decide on the content of their classes. University teachers are pretty much encouraged to teach to their strengths, and can get away with teaching a narrow range of material if they so choose.

So why are the positions that need the most skilled teachers the worst paid?

You can see something similar even within public schools: kindergarten teachers are the least well paid and regarded, followed by elementary school teachers, then junior high school teachers, and finally high school teachers. However, if we look at the potential impact that teachers can have upon their charges, the early years are far more influential. Children who have excellent teachers during the first years of their schooling, then mediocre ones later, are likely to do much better than children in the opposite situation. Why then does society seem to have its priorities so badly skewed?

Is this fixable? Can you imagine a world where kindergarten teachers are given the pay, training, and status the importance of their job deserves? Will the cushiness of university positions be reflected in salaries?

As always, comments very much appreciated below.