My vocation as a teacher extends back nearly two decades and in this time I have had the opportunities to teach thousands of young people of a variety of ages, nationalities and social backgrounds. Over the years, I have come to realize that while a good teacher must obviously have passion for their subject they must also balance this with a sense of respect for the present stage of their students educational, ethical and spiritual development and rather than dominate must instead stimulate if they hope to instill the same sense of passion in their students.
Having grown up in England, I have long empathized with many students' reserve in the classroom: their reluctance to assert themselves, state opinions or to directly disagree with their peers or teachers. Like them, I also experienced rote learning and strict discipline during my secondary education in boarding school, a system that allowed little room for individual expression or character formation.
Throughout my teaching career, I have constantly found amongst young students a great diversity of thought, feeling and opinions eagerly awaiting the right channels and surroundings to be expressed. In my classes, I try to give the students the guidance and opportunity to use their abilities in a supportive and clearly focused situation where self-expression and creative thinking are valued as much as their ability to simply provide 'correct' answers. Even in my specialized courses therefore, I consider myself as both a guide and a conductor in my classes, hopefully offering materials in a way that will interest, engage and inspire the students. Since much of my course time is spent involved in pair or group activities and presentations, my role is to provide the map and then allow adequate time and space for the students to complete the task. I try to make myself both accessible and yet invisible while students are engaged in their work so that students will feel comfortable asking questions or including me in their discussion but not distracted while I am observing and evaluating their progress. I also make myself freely accessible to students outside the classroom, acting as both an advisor and friend, as I truly believe that sharing conversation and experiences free from the classroom's restraints is an essential factor in the teacher/student relationship.
However, I also believe that as much as possible, the classroom should be a place where the students can express themselves openly without fear of losing face or making a mistake, two barriers that impede true learning in the more traditional classroom. To facilitate this sense of self-confidence, I have come to recognize the supreme importance of a clearly outlined course structure where the students can immediately recognize their and the teacher's role within that structure. The necessity of a teacher explaining their methods, goals and expectations are of course important anywhere in the world, but I have found it to be especially true in Japan where the students, unused to taking the initiative or being spontaneous in the classroom, will often 'freeze' unless they clearly understand the task at hand. This 'background discipline' allows for a much more free, creative and congenial atmosphere on a daily basis, freeing the teacher to act more as a facilitator and less as an authoritative figure and disciplinarian.
Although the subjects I address in my classes are usually quite complex and serious, (environmental and peace issues, human rights, gender issues, homelessness and the economic disparities that exist both within societies and between the northern and southern countries), I constantly try to find ways to present the topics in an active and simple but not simplistic manner keeping it in mind that though the students often have some very valid ideas and opinions, their background knowledge of the specific topic may be quite limited. I feel it is very important, therefore, to connect the issues as much as possible with the students' personal experiences and to stay away from sweeping and sometimes abstract generalizations so that students feel a reason for studying the topic and a desire to express their personal feelings and experiences. This has naturally led to a key part of our class activities and preparation being conducted outside of the classroom, and I have tried whenever I can to both take students out into the environments and communities where the issues we are looking at actually exist and to assign 'self and family observation' homework so that the students naturally become aware of how they are directly connected to and affected by these issues. The result of this more holistic approach has been that students have become aware by themselves of the interconnectedness of life and global events and I am happy to say that so many of my students have said that such an approach has opened doors in their awareness and thinking like no other class they have taken before has done.
Thus, I try to ensure that my classes are enjoyable, practical, creative and challenging. The challenge I face as a teacher is to combine these goals in an active, non-threatening setting, where the students learn about the world and society around them, consider their place in it and then communicate their unique ideas with their teacher and peers. I have the energy, patience and enthusiasm to meet this challenge and am looking forward to further developing my materials and teaching methods and coordinating with other teachers who share similar hopes and goals in the future.
Chris Summerville's Core Course History (1992-2005)
One Year Courses, University Level (1st - 3rd Year)
Subject: Our Lifestyle, Our Environment
Content: Us and Shopping, Food, Health, Energy, Transport, Nature, Travel and Recreation.
Goal: To encourage students to examine the connections between our dailylifestyle and our
environment. To explore positive alternatives that will lead to a more sustainable relationship
with our local and global community and natural surroundings.
Method: Developing and utilizing the teacher's textbook, Looking Back, Moving Forward: An
Environmental Course for the Next Generation.
Subject: Global and Environmental Issues
Content: Endangered Species, Biodiversity, Energy, Pollution, Rainforests, Global
Warming, Human Rights, Peace & Conflict, Racism, Gender, Trade, U.N.
Goal: To raise student awareness of the myriad ways that these issues effect daily life,
to consider the causes and to become actively engaged in seeking creative solutions.
Method: Group discussion, Readings, Internet research, Role-play, Peer interviews, self, family
and community Surveys, Projects, Videos, Fieldtrips.
Subject: Global Issues Computer and Discussion
Content: Women's Issues, Stereotypes, Peace Role Models, Human Rights, U.N.
Wildlife, World Music and Culture, African Art, Islam, Maori, Terrorism.
Goal: To allow students to research and discuss a variety of global issues of their own
choosing, thus increasing their awareness as global citizens and their
computer, research and presentation skills in the process.
Method: Utilized and adapted on-line lesson plans from Social Studies School Service and
New York Times Learning Center. Intra- and inter-group Research Tasks, sharing
findings between groups, Class Presentations, On-line Discussions, E-mail homework,
Creation of a class webpage.
Subject: Movies and Issues: (a) Society & Civilization (b) Personal Relationships and Values
Content: Pacifism and violence, law and order, economic/ class/ religious boundaries, divided loyalties,
sexuality, relationships, minorities.
Goals: To develop students' critical film-reading skill and to consider deeply those issues that lie at the
core of our social and personal lives through their engagement with the film characters.
Method: Group presentations, Student written/performed dramatizations, mini-lectures, Film Report File, Film Reports.
Subject: Global Issues Discussion
Content: Topics chosen by the class at the beginning of each term: (E.g. Juvenile Delinquency, Education,
Environmental Issues, Terrorism)
Goals: To create an entirely student-based course in which prepared student discussion leaders lead their peers in
group discussion, thus allowing students to freely share their ideas and opinions, learn from each other
and gain confidence in expressing themselves while being stimulated to learn more about the issues.
Method: An article describing this course can be found at: http://www.jalt.org/pansig/PGL1/Summerville1.htm
Subject: Peace and Conflict: Peacemakers of the 20th Century
Content: The lives, words and actions of Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Aung San Suu
Kyi, Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, M.L. King (and student choice).
Goals: To consider the causes of conflict in society and our daily life through
examining the lives of 20th Century Peacemakers and to reflect on how
we can choose lifestyles that contribute to peace rather than conflict.
Method: Video, Readings, Internet Research, Peace Diaries, Role-play.
Subject: Media and Society
Content: Television, Advertising, TV News, Newspapers and Magazines, focusing
on Stereotypes, Gender, Youth, Violence, Minorities and Media Bias.
Goals: To draw on and critically analyze student's exposure to the media and in
the process offer the tools to become more media literate.
Method: Mini-lectures, Discussion, Media Monitoring Activities, Media Diaries,
Readings, Internet Research, Projects, Group Presentations.
Subject: Contemporary News
Content: BBC, CNN and NHK News Programs, a wide variety of British, American and Japanese
daily and weekly newspapers and magazines.
Goals: To critically analyze news content, presentation and bias, to compare and contrast the above from
both a cultural and political standpoint and to have students create and present their own news programs on
Method: Weekly individual student news presentations, group editorial reports and a final project which entailed each
group presenting a 30 minute news program using real footage and playing the role of anchors, reporters and
Subject: British Culture Seminar
Content: 1. The Fatal Impact: British Colonialism and Australia, New Zealand, India and Canada.
2. In Our Own Back Garden: The Black Experience, Poverty and Unemployment, Ireland, The Green
Goals: 1. (a) To learn about the history of British colonialism and its impact on the native peoples of Australia,
New Zealand, India and Canada. (b) To consider contemporary society in these countries and how they were
affected and shaped by their colonial history.
2. To increase student awareness of the underside of contemporary British culture and thus present a more
complete picture of the diverse cultures and issues that are a part of contemporary British society.
Method: Lecture, Video, Discussion, Reports, Seminar Journal.
Subject: Introduction to American Culture
Content: 1. American Values and Beliefs, Religious Heritage, Government and Politics, Education, Leisure, Family and
2. The Immigrant Experience; Ethnic and Racial Assimilation.
Goals: 1.To present a general overview of the historical and social factors that make up contemporary American
2. To expose students to the diversity of cultures that have contributed to contemporary America.
Method: 1. Mini-lectures, Discussion Activities, Readings, Oral Reports.
2. Each student researched one ethnic immigrant group and in both a class presentation and general class
activities became a member of that group for the final month of the course.
Subject: Academic Writing
Content: Paragraph writing, Thesis and topic sentences, Methods of Essay Development, Research skills,
Bibliography, Quotes, Footnotes.
Goals: To assist students in becoming proficient in writing clear, well argued and carefully researched
academic essays on topics of global and social relevance.
Method: Mini-lectures, Peer Editing and Criticism, Peer Discussion, Individual Student/Teacher Conferences.
One-semester courses on Drama, English Literature Debate and Reading. (Course Descriptions available upon request).