Tag Archives: Education

Sometimes, the tough nuts do crack

Last term I taught the same four classes of 6th graders every Friday at my weekly visiting school, and many of you know that I was saddened to learn that I wouldn’t be teaching them this term. Luckily, the 5th graders that I’m working with now are adorably enthusiastic. 🙂

This week, however, the 5th graders are on a ski trip, so the other JTE, who’s now working with 6th grade, asked me to come in just for today. I got to see the 6th graders for the first time since early December, and it was a shock to see how they’ve changed. Maybe the class psychology has shifted now that it’s their last term at elementary school, or maybe simply having a new JTE has changed the way they behave in English class (even though the same homeroom teacher is still ostensibly in charge of discipline. Keyword, ostensibly…).

The most surprising change was in fourth period. This class was always the most stressful part of my Fridays last term: there were 4 boys in particular who were unruly and disruptive, and the homeroom teacher was explosive and borderline abusive, in my opinion. So I was apprehensive as they filed in today.

Not only was the class pretty well-behaved, 2 of the 4 boys in particular seemed to have transformed! Last term, they had chatted with each other and the other 2 boys, wandered around the classroom and often didn’t participate in activities (indeed, actively sabotaged them on occasion!). Today, by contrast, both of them seemed really engaged and focused.

One of them — let’s call him Okada-san — especially stuck out to me. He knew all the answers, participated enthusiastically in the games, and had this big smile on his face the whole period. I had always known that he was sharp (the disruptive kids are often the ones who are best at English and consequently bored out of their skulls) but it was still so inspiring to see the change that this 12-year-old kid had undertaken in less than 2 months.

Of course I felt a little sad that all this had taken place after I left — could I have done something differently to make it happen sooner? was there a way I could have better gotten through to the disruptive boys? — but still, it gave me all kinds of warm fuzzies. And I’m more optimistic than before about seeing how these kids will have grown up when they enter my middle school as first years in April.

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“Honest work”: a few words

Today at 3:55, I was sitting at my desk at my visiting elementary school, trying to look busy as usual. At that school, I have a set schedule and never teach any classes after lunch, so it’s a challenge to find enough to do in those post-lunch hours.

Then, one of the vice principals made an announcement over the loudspeaker. I caught a few things: it was an announcement for staff, something was beginning at 4pm. I got up to ask another teacher what this was about, and it turns out the teachers were all going to do a massive cleaning of the school to prepare for a school festival-ish thing next weekend. I decided to see what I could do to help.

When I joined the other teachers outside to weed the garden/playground area, everyone apologized profusely, mostly about me wearing a skirt and joining them in a dirty job. This happens often. Whenever someone else gives me work to do, they fall all over themselves apologizing and expressing regret that I have to go to any effort. It’s just a cultural thing, but I wish people understood that I actually cherish having tasks to complete! And if they’re as menial and straightforward as pulling weeds, so much the better!

It’s impossible for me to explain it to my coworkers, but I would so much rather be out in the dirt doing something productive than sitting at my desk in the stuffy staff room as the blood pools in my lower body.  I truly, honestly, 100% don’t mind making hundreds of copies of a worksheet if it’s work that needs to be done. I guess I’m saying I enjoy doing these modest tasks because it makes me feel useful. At work, I want to feel like I’m contributing something. And hey, I was given a delicious little mochi this afternoon for my 30 minutes of hard work. 🙂