Dropped Pencils and Other Disasters

So yesterday evening I went to the excruciatingly long meeting to discuss the problems with the fourth grade class.  I arrived at 6:30PM, and didn’t leave until after 9PM, and no, there wasn’t a bathroom break.

The teacher started out by saying “wasuremono ga oi” (ha ha) and then talked about how the students were unable to concentrate. As an example, he talked about how some students dropped their pencils and books during class (that would be my son). I looked at the desk. It’s rather small and flat -topped. There’s no groove for a pencil, not a lot of space for the many items they need for studying. I don’t think my son drops his pencil because of ADD or whatever. Anyhow, it went on like that. The dropping of pencils is noisy and distracting, according to the teacher, and is something that needs to be dealt with.

Around the two-hour mark, the parents began expressing their concerns.  Although there was some praise for the emphasis on academics (one mother mentioned how the students are expected to correct their homework during recesses as if it were a good thing), several mothers complained that there was not enough homework. I realized then that there was no point in expressing my petty concern, which is that there is no recess.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think that if the kids got a break once in a while they might be better able to concentrate.

Of course I also did not object to the teacher having told my son that Americans are “teki to ni” (i.e. careless and not detail-oriented) and that my son should be more like the Japanese who are so very precise and detail-oriented. I believe his exact words were “Nihonjin wo kichiro o suru.”


5 thoughts on “Dropped Pencils and Other Disasters

  1. i think you should have spoken up and it’s scientifically proven that not just kids but everyone improves thinking and productivity when given breaks, especially active breaks. when i worked in public school, if the kids looked like they were zoning out, yawning, etc after working hard on a standardized test or some such, i would get them up to do jumping jacks, run in place stretch, etc, and back to work, they worked faster and their thinking was expressed more clearly in written work.

    as for the lazy american comment, this teacher should be reminded where modern industry started…

  2. It makes me crazy that they take away recess as a punishment for “bad” behavior (even here in the lazy US)…doesn’t it seem just a tiny bit likely that if active young bodies can’t sit still and pay attention, they NEED to run around and get some fresh air? When my kids start bickering/fighting in the mornings, my first response is to throw them outside.

  3. I’m planning on talking to him privately. We have a meeting coming up and I have a long list of concerns. But the other night, by the time I had a chance to speak, it was already 9PM and I was pretty much fed up and just wanted to go home.

    I have expressed my zany ideas on numerous occasions during similar meetings at my daughter’s school, and normally the response is something like, “Well, that’s one opinion,” and then my ideas are ignored. Most of the mothers at this most recent meeting wanted their kids to study harder, and wanted them to have more homework.

  4. More homework? Why don’t they buy workbooks at a bookstore and have their kids do them? That’s what we do here. I thought that’s what everybody did (either that, or send their kid to cram school.)

    Good luck. That stereotypical “meticulous” Japanese comment stings…. maybe you can come back with a zinger about American “imagination.” (Joking) Anyway, even if he privately feels that way, he shouldn’t be saying it to your son.

  5. I found your blog after reading your interview on the UK Telegraph website. You and I have been living parallel lives, it seems. My parents live in Irmo, South Carolina, and I was a JET from 1994 to 1997 in Tokushima, in the former Yamakawa-cho, now part of Yoshinogawa-shi. I don’t remember if we met or not, but I definitely remember your name.

    Part of the reason I don’t live in Japan anymore is that I have an 8 year old son, and I doubt that I could put up with the kind of idiocy that was demonstrated by the “amerika-jin wa tekitou” comment from the teacher. When I was a JET, I was permanently thrown out of faculty meetings, when I questioned why a “hikkikomori” child who had missed 218 out of 220 school days was being advanced from the first year of junior high to the second year. One of my wife’s favorite English language phrases is “(Jim) does not suffer fools easily.” I can endure a lot when it is directed at me, but I cannot easily restrain myself when others are being subjected to harassment that arises out of ignorance and apathy, particularly when the victimized are those who cannot be reasonably expected to stand up for themselves. There is lots of ignorance and bigotry around the world, but in Japan there is such a pervasive mindset of “shikata ga nai,” (it cannot be helped), that it is often unbearable.

    I wish you good luck, and “gambatte.” You are doing great work, and in the end, the world is a better place for it.

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