Friday, February 25, 2000: The Incident

I knew class 2-2 would be a pain in the ass. There are a group of girls in that class that are so disrespectful and openly defiant that it makes me not want to teach that class. There are problems in some of the other 2nd grade classes, but nothing compares to the flak I get from this class. OK, so we're doing the betting game in groups and as it just so happens, all the worst kids in the class are sitting by each other so they get grouped together. Whenever we came to that group to get an answer for the question no one would have done it. I ground the game to a halt every time we came to their group. The worst part about it is that one of the kids is a smart girl. I remember her from 1st grade and she used to be a good student. Only now she's friends with a total punk. The two of them took out their pens and were drawing pictures and writing letters on the paper I gave them. I told them twice to put it away, and they did, but they took it out again, twice. By that time I was just so ticked off at them that I snatched away the pen cases and took them to the podium. We continued with the game, but Masuoka and Kato (the two girls) defiantly approached the front of the class twice to reclaim their pen cases. I had to shout at Masuoka to get her back, then she stormed out. Inoue-sensei tried to go after her, but I stopped her and we continued on with the activity. The class just wasn't the same after she left, the event pretty much ruined the activity. I was furious and took down all the names of the kids in the wretched group before I left. I wanted to see them after school for a good scolding and assignment of sentence-writing, but after talking to Inoue-sensei I decided only to call in the two girls whose pencil cases I confiscated.

After the next period, Masuoka and Kato came into the teachers room and Masuoka had the gall to snatch the pen case right off my desk!! I couldn't believe it!! I grabbed it out of her hand, stood up tall and shouted, "How DARE you!?!" She fled the scene and there was dead silence in the teachers' room for a full 10 seconds. Of course, most of the teachers already knew of the incident in the classroom, but for those that didn't, the English teachers took the time to explain it.

After school only Kato showed up. The good kid gone bad. It really makes me sad to see these kids go sour. It's a teachers' lot all around the world and not particular to Japan, I know, but the teachers' lack of discipline makes everything 10X worse.

I knew a stern approach with Kato would work, but as soon as we sat down she started to tear up. She said that she didn't know that I'd be talking to her! She thought it'd only be the Japanese teachers. By the middle of the discussion she was really crying and she didn't give me any grief about having to write sentences. She apologized in English and Japanese. I gave her only 40 to write. "From now on, I will pay attention in English class". Not bad considering the commotion that her and her friend caused during class. I wanted to hand back her pen case personally, but I had two days off next week (they are test days, so I took a couple days of nenkyu (paid vacation)) and offered to come back specifically for it (I figured the teachers would talk me out of it). This did make an impression on her, but I let the teachers convince me to give them the case and they would give it back to her when she turned in her sentence-assignment.

As Inoue-sensei and I went back to the teachers' room it occurred to me that I didn't know which pen case was Kato's. I gave them both to her and told her explicitly not to give it back to Masuoka, to wait until I came back before any decision like that was made. She said she understood (but I'm always skeptical). Can she handle it? I had a bad feeling about this on the way back from school. It's only a pen case, but it's the principle that matters. If they give it back to Masuoka everyone will know that my word means Jack and no one needs to pay attention to me, ever, and that the Japanese teachers will stick up for them against me. I told Inoue-sensei that Masuoka could only have it back after she apologized and wrote sentences, and she'd have to apologize to me, not the Japanese teachers because it was me who she insulted in front of all the other teachers. Man, that pisses me off more than anything.

Tuesday, February 29, 2000

Worked on web page a bit today and yesterday. Finally finished off Koya-san section. I have a bad feeling about tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 1, 2000: Disappointments

Those idiots! I ask them to handle one simple thing and they can't even do that. Kocho gave back the pen case back to the girl after I left. They can't do anything right! I was so furious when one of the English teachers told me that I left school and wandered the streets for a while. It took me a while to cool off, I usually don't get this angry, but today I'm steaming. I ended up walking by a kindergarten and a pre-school. I watched the kids play, so happy and cheerful. All seeming to get along with each other and their teachers. I thought long and hard about at which point a kid becomes bad. I mean, at what point does a person decide to become a total bastard (or a little bitch in this case)? There's got to be some event that pushes them over the edge into total loserdom. Sigh.

I'm so pissed off at all this crap. Masuoka won't apologize or write sentences. What the hell is wrong with these kids here??? And the teachers??? They won't do anything about this total lack of respect. At some schools it's much worse than this, but this was a good school last year, and I'm trying to hold onto that. Maybe I should just let everything slide. But she is so defiant and disrespectful... I'm so down on the job today, down on all of Japan.

Thursday, March 2, 2000: Mountains Out of Molehills/Revelations

Everything's been blown way out of proportion. This one small incident has turned into a monster.

Today I spent some time on Yahoo and looked at ticket prices for a one-way to Hawaii. Not so bad.

I was supposed to have a conference with the homeroom teacher and Masuoka after school, but she had a convenient toothache so she went home right after school. So instead of talking to her I talked to the principal for about an hour and he kept referring to some kind of special circumstances at home so that's why she was acting up. Kind of the wrong thing to say to an existentialist; we're responsible for our actions regardless of our environments or backgrounds. I really let him have it and shredded him with arguments and by the time we were done he agreed with me, but he wasn't going to follow through with it or help me out if I push too hard. He said he liked my theory, but he kept bringing up these special circumstances and this special sort of background and he implied that she should be given special allowances. He wouldn't tell me what the circumstances were.

But I did get a call from a parent today. She speaks English because she was in the States and she's only peripherally involved in all of this but she wanted to explain to me what's at the root of the problem. It's very complicated and I promised her I wouldn't tell the other ALTs about the specifics, but it has to do with Japanese discrimination, 'burakumin'. The stuff going on that school is crazy. Supposedly, a teacher could get fired for what I know now and that is only the tip of the iceberg. I'm sure the board of education would love to know exactly what's going on, but since I promised, I can't tell.

Friday, March 3, 2000

Finally met with Masuoka, the principal, the homeroom teacher, and her English teacher today. I wasn't sure what kind of approach to take with her. When kocho-sensei told me yesterday that he wanted to talk to her alone before I talked to her, I had my misgivings. But when I sat down in his office he told me that she had something to say before we started. She then opened up a sheet of paper and said, "Jeff, I reflect about what I did". That really surprised me. Of course, completely scripted and arranged by kocho-sensei and probably not genuine, but she said it in English and that was something to consider. I tried the soft approach. I even asked her if she had any suggestions to make the class more interesting, was there anything she wanted us to do in English class? She had no answers of course, but I think it at least made an impression that I asked. She was almost catatonic during the entire meeting. Wouldn't raise her head and I had to look real hard for a nod or a shake of her head when I asked her a question. I offered her a deal: I'd try to make my lessons more interesting if she'd try to pay more attention in class. She said no. After much more discussion (on my and the teachers' parts) she agreed reluctantly. I knew she couldn't even write the alphabet so it'd be impossible for her to understand anything that goes on in class, but she could at least try to look attentive, right? I offered her my hand to cement the deal, but she refused it. I figured it was worth the gamble, if she did shake my hand it would make a huge impact in her mind, if she didn't it would hurt my position, but I could regain it. But I shouldn't have tried it I suppose, I mean, she couldn't even look at me during the meeting. I'm just glad it's over with. I didn't try to make her write sentences, there's no way she would have, and all the discussions she's had with her teachers and kocho used up enough of her time and energy to be punishment enough.

I was going to hang out with a friend in Kyoto this weekend, but we postponed it because it'll rain on Saturday and in a couple of weeks it'll be a 3-day weekend so that's more time there. Can't do anything because of the rain, but it's better than the freezing cold. It seems like only yesterday that the snow was coming down in huge-feather-sized flakes. Discovered today that my VCR is fried; I'll have to buy a new one.

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