When people think of language classes, consciously or unconsciously, they think of the textbook, the conjugations, the rules of agreement about parts of speech that the kids grasp but vaguely. They remember that some kids weren’t interested in all that, and they draw the conclusion that kids don’t want to learn.

This is simply not true. Everyone wants to learn, just like everyone wants to eat, sleep, have fun, and interact with other human beings. It is a natural impulse. In TPRS, we have found a way to facilitate that learning, a method that is as natural as the impulse itself. If  kids seem apathetic to us, it is because the system has made them that way.

In my view, for TPRS to work, we must bring a degree of happiness, of cheerfulness, into the classroom. It is our responsibility and part of our jobs, in my opinion, and we have to bring it to class every day no matter how we feel. That is why not everybody can be a teacher.

In TPRS we invite the kids into our classrooms with the message “We’re going to be happy [tell stories] and you can come along if you want to.” The message is that class will be fun and the invitation is there.  

Almost all the kids in elementary school kids will take us up on that invitation, some middle school kids will. In my experience, it seems that half of eighth graders, a magical year, have managed to retain a great sense of play and interest and sparkle, and they really show up in class. But then there is that other half, already exhibiting the “just tell me what I have to learn” mentality.

Can the instructor send the message to kids that language class will be a happy place for them to be? We can’t change the apathy that we see in older kids, of course, but we can change how we react to it. It is up to us. We can react with fun stories or we can accept their message that “learning is boring, school is boring, and I am boring, so please use a boring method to teach me.”

With TPRS, we are modeling a behavior. Our attitude is every bit as important as the skills involved. Whether we succeed with TPRS  is solely up to us.

If we feel that it is the method that prevents us from doing it, and not ourselves, we are wrong. We must reach across the perceived gap and bring TPRS to us. How? By learning the skills involved, of course, but by also bringing the requisite cheerfulness, the catalyst that activates the method.


2 Responses to “Cheerfulness”

  1. Yumiko Kusunoki Says:


    I’m teaching at elem school in Japan as a volunteer English teacher although I’m not a native English speaker. (I’m Japanese.) I’ve been trying to find a better way to teach kids everyday and come across TPRS. I have no knowledge of TPRS at this moment. But watching the Fast Language Class home page’s video and reading your blog, I’m really interested in it. I completely agree with you on how to accept the messages from students and how we teachers should approach them.

    Thank you!

  2. Lisa Says:

    I worked with a wonderful English Teacher at AEON in Yamaguchi Japan named Yumiko Kusunoki. Perhaps this is the same one? If so, I would love to talk to her again.

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