William Smith Clark is a rather famous figure in Japan, or more specifically, in Hokkaido – Japan’s northernmost major island. Who was he? Not a famous name to western ears, admittedly, Clark was a schoolmaster who was asked to go to Hokkaido as a visiting lecturer at the Sapporo Agricultural College back in 1876. You probably weren’t even born then.
Life in Japan circa 1877
Clark stayed for 8 only months, but left a legacy that remains until today immortalized in the phrase that is still popular in Japan today: ‘Boys, be ambitious!’ His life story is not the point of this post, but it is interesting reading, so I recommend you take a look at this article from Time Magazine.
What Clark achieved in his 8 months here was incredible. His students went on to achieve great things, and always spoke about him fondly. EFL teachers are, by and large, not going to leave an impression as lasting as W. S. Clark, but we can and should recognize our responsibility and duty to be inspirational and instructive.
Lessons from Clark
How can we do this? One lesson we can learn from Clark is that he had a very clear idea of what he wanted to pass on. A clear knowledge of English, and on a more fundamental level what we want to teach in each lesson, will help use to pass on information effectively.
A second lesson from Clark is that we should speak positively and encouragingly. His final words to his students inspired many to achieve more than they thought they could. In a TEFL context, we should keep the mastery of English in the sight of our students – help them to improve one step at a time and show them how they are improving.
What’s your ambition?
William Clark didn’t stay put in Hokkaido. His own ambition led him back to America where he became a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Follow your own goals and move onto better things if you have the opportunity! EFL teachers, be ambitious!
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