Friday, June 27, 2014

Boy Problems

Japanese children are a mystery to me

I'm not trying to promote the exotification of Japanese culture, but sometimes I feel as though I don't know my students at all.

Alright, that is a bit of an overstatement, but let me explain. The younger children are more forthcoming about their feelings and emotions but as they age, they become more reserved and withdrawn. As a female teacher, the girls are at ease with me; and while there are boys who confidently interact with me, the majority are shy. This reservation and fear does not help me understand their personalities and it also does not necessarily help gain respect, as I've had issues balancing kindness while also commanding respect. Let's give some examples!

6th grade
 M. Elementary

Yūga is one of the few outspoken boys who actively participates in English class. All the students participate, but he goes above and beyond to learn and use as much English as possible. Also, it's not rare for him to ask me how to say a certain phrases in English so that he can use them during class. In general, he's a good kid. However, last week as I glanced across the room to check everyone's progress, Yūga looked at me and said, "馬鹿野郎 (ばかやろう, Bakayarou or idiot)" assuming that I wouldn't understand. I changed my expression and asked, "Who is?" Seeing the stern look on my face, he smiled, pointed to himself and said, "I am." I told him he was right and walked away. 

6th grade
G. Elementary

Rin is an outspoken boy who enthusiastically disrupts English class. His participation in class usually depends on his interest in the lesson. I remember my first interactions with him consisted of him repeating the word "China" even though the lesson had nothing to do with countries:

Me: Do you like baseball?
Rin: China!
Me: Let's try again. Do you like baseball?
Rin: China!
Me: Well, I guess we're done here.

I referred to him as the "China Kid" until the 6th girls from my other schools confessed that they were in love with him and with that confession, I learned his name. He is also the only student who refuses to call me by my name. Instead, he either calls me ★のカービィ先生 Hoshi no Kābī sensei (Star Kirby*-sensei) or ★のガービィ先生 Hoshi no Gābī  sensei (Star Gabi-sensei). To retaliate, I call him Rin-chan (Baby Rin), which also makes his name sound like a girl's name.

"Kābī" ("Kirby" in Japanese sounds) a lot like "Gabi."
 If only they knew how much ass I kick with him in Smash Bros.

Last week, the homeroom teacher asked me to begin class without her because she needed to speak with a student in the hallway. I walked into the class and inquired about the day's classroom leaders, who were suppose to lead the English class chant. When the students remained silent, it was Rin who ratted out his friends and told them to hurry up because class had started. What!?!

Maybe he was polite because the English Advisor, who was visiting the school at the time, had to co-teach with me because the homeroom teacher's "talk" turned into a 20-minute yell-fest? Nope! He did it again another day and even told a few a his friends to shut up while I spoke. Weird!

a.k.a. Kyūto Hyūto (Cute Hyuto)
5th grade
K. Elementary

Hyūto is an another outspoken boy who enthusiastically disrupts English class, but he also actively participates. Does that even make sense? For example, one day Hyūto kept interrupting my lesson, so I asked if he would like to be the teacher for the day and lead the class. I assumed that he would remain silent out of embarrassment but to my surprise, he rose to the challenge and took my place in the front of the classroom while I stood behind his desk like a student. The lesson went well, and I even received compliments from the principal.

Last week while we were practicing the days of the week, I noticed that Hyūto was not only saying the words with me, but also rudely imitating my voice. I gave him a menacing look but he continued until I finished my review. My co-teacher stopped me from reviewing the months of the year and began to scold Hyūto in front of the class. Hyūto was then asked to sit alone in the back of the classroom. After class, my co-teacher called Hyūto to him and began to scold him once more. 

Giving you the stank eye!

Co-teacher: Were you making fun of Gabi-sensei? 
Hyūto: No, I wasn't.
Co-teacher: Then why did she look at you? Were you not saying the words at the same time? Were you not saying the words in a high pitched voice? Like a girl?
Hyūto: ::Silent::
Co-teacher: Well, answer!

This went on for 15 minutes, but my co-teacher used Hyūto's silence to berate him on his lack of respect. I knew it was necessary, but I couldn't help feeling bad when Hyūto began to cry. 

Co-teacher: Now that you understand, what will you do? 
Hyūto: Apologize to the class.
Co-teacher: To the class?!?
Hyūto: And to sensei
Co-teacher: Which sensei?!?
Hyūto: Hirofumi-sensei.
Co-teacher: To me?!? (my co-teacher lost it at this point)
Hyūto: to Gabi-sensei
Co-teacher: That is the only person who you should be apologizing to. Now go apologize!

Hyūto walked over to me, but remained silent as he used his shirt to wipe his nose and shield his face. My co-teacher left the room to speak to his homeroom teacher, but instructed Hyūto that he was not allowed to leave the room until he apologized. While he stood in front of me crying, I glanced around the room in search of tissues. I couldn't find a box, so I succumbed to  standing and waiting for his apology. After 10 minutes, he popped out of his shirt, apologized, and quickly walked back to rejoin his classmates.

Kind of like this, but his face was inside his shirt.

Boy Problems

From these situations, I learned that I shouldn't judge my male students' level of respect for me solely based on their participation in class. Their hesitation to interact with me is an issue but, in the end, boys will be boys. I never take instances of their disrespect to heart, but I will correct it if it occurs. Until then, I will continue to be that "friendly American face."


  1. This was really helpful that you went into details of your difficulties. I am looking into teaching abroad and am worried about which difficulties I'll face so seeing your story makes me feel at ease for if I ever come into similar situations to not take it to heart.

    1. I'm glad! I try not to take their antics to heart, but sometimes you'll encounter some really mean kids. I've learned, though time, that some of those kids have tough lives at home and it affects their behavior at school.