Monday, October 4, 2010

The Devil has come to Earth, and he landed in Japan.

Necessary Background information: Japan passed a law 15 years ago, prohibiting teachers from removing students from class. Students have the RIGHT to stay in the classroom.

I have found myself frustrated as of late with Japan’s education system; more specifically, with how Japanese teachers deal with discipline. They simply do not have a discipline plan. I learned that in order to be an effective educator, students must be aware of all rules, procedures, and most important, consequences.

I have seen teachers let students sleep claiming, “It’s okay, he’s tired.” I have witnessed teachers try to lecture over student conversations. I see students blatantly disregard the teachers’ instructions and continue to be disruptive. I rant about this particular aspect of my life because there was an incident lately that has been driving me crazy.

Before I really took note of the discipline problems in my school, I took it upon myself to halt the disruptions of one particularly rude student. When verbal cues were not enough, I sent him to the back of the classroom, hoping that would end his bad behavior. It did not work. He kicked desks, refuse to participate in activities, and STILL conversed with students (completely ignoring how far removed he was from them).

There is no detention. I cannot remove him from the class. Students have the RIGHT to remain in the classroom. This means students have the RIGHT to disrupt the learning of others. I am stuck with this little bastard. I have almost no ammunition on which to base any threats.

Sending him to the back of the classroom was certainly a shock for the class. Imagine an environment where no one gets punished, then suddenly the new teacher (An American white guy) starts in with a new brand of Justice. This student (let’s call him Beelz), thinks I hate him now. Not only does he think I singled him out in class, but because the entire school lacks a discipline plan, I might as well have singled him out in front of the whole student population.

I can’t exactly blame him for thinking this way. After all, he’s been in a system with no consequences for far too long. This is his way of reacting to change. Since then, he has not felt the need for restraint. He talks though the whole class, never participates in activities, and is a complete asshole to me whenever we interact. Even if I press harder, the discipline will obviously be inconsistent with ALL of his other classes. No progress will be made. I also fear that coming down harder on him will make act out even more. It’s like giving an F to a student who has given up on school. I could give him extra homework, but he wouldn’t do it anyway. I could get angry, but that would only add fuel to the fire. To make matters worse, it seems like my Japanese Team Teacher has just stopped short of telling the kids, “please be quiet,” but it almost always falls on deaf ears with Beelz. As the assistant language teacher, I feel I must follow the lead of my Japanese counterpart. Even she complains how much of a terror he is. If this were America, I could fix his attitude, I think.

I’ve spent some time talking about this spawn of Satan, but I want to highlight the good portions of Japanese students too. I believe the reason there is no discipline plan is probably due to the vast majority of students being exemplary in the classroom. There are only a few students who act up in my class among the 120 students I teach. Most are fantastic, studious, and respectful. They are kids after all, so some minor discipline issues still abound.

I am happy to teach in a foreign education system, but this is just one aspect that bothers the shit outta me.


  1. Do you discuss the problem with people hire up? Is there no one you can talk to? How about the student's parents? Surely they don't condone their son's behavior!

  2. Everyone kind of "puts up" with bad behavior. I will not go over my JTE's head. If she's fine with having the kid be an asshole, then who am I to complain?

    As for parents, I know nothing about the culture between school and home. This is probably a good option in America, but not in Japan. Teachers are supposed to be like parents in this country.

  3. The solution is to invite him graciously to take over the class and just sit down and wait to see what happens. You do not want to interupt his interuption so politely explain to students that the class instruction is his and out of respect you will sit and wait for him to finish. Anythime a student wants to be distruptive you simply step aside and let the silence speak fot itself. You might find other students feel embrassed for you and take care of the situation amongst themselves.