One of the fun parts about being a foreign teacher in Japan is that I can get away with a lot. One of the problems of being foreign teacher in Japan is that I can’t get away with a lot forever.
On rare occasions I’ve taken students to the principal’s office or to their homeroom teacher in the teacher’s office. With junior high this is rather risky, not only am I foisting my problems off on someone else and admitting I can’t control my class, but I’m also “forgetting” that education is both compulsory and a right until the end of 9th grade and removing a junior high student is a questionable legal act. It’s better to stick them in a the corner, or at a desk just outside the door. Also, in Japan, the Group is very important and being removed from the Group can be quite shocking. With high school students this isn’t as big a legal deal, but removing them from the group is.
That said, I’m also the only teacher I know who’s thrown students out of class during observations.
The first time happened in a first year high school class. One of my worse students, let’s call him Mr. Sato, was famously bad and the kind of student who immediately goes to sleep and counts on his friends to take notes. Since my class was a speaking class, that wasn’t possible. He had to be awake and he had to work with a partner.
However, on the day of open classrooms (during which other teachers in the school could observe our classes) Mr. Sato’s usual partner was absent and he believed that meant he didn’t have to do anything. After the warm up, he immediately went to sleep. I woke him up and he pointed to the empty chair next to him and went back to sleep. I woke him up again, he pointed to the chair again and I pointed the empty chair next to another student and said be his partner. This repeated a couple more times. Finally, the fifth time I woke him up, Mr. Sato snapped and said “WHAT!” which is Japanese for “leave me the fuck alone already”.
I told him to get out and, surprisingly, he left without any argument. This, in it’s own odd way, is telling. As I said before, In Japan, the Group, in all its forms, is important. Mr. Sato clearly wasn’t feeling a part of the group.
The teacher observing my class was visibly shocked, but he understood.
The second time it happened was fairly recent and occurred during open school when three mothers were observing my class. The open school happened to fall on a presentation day when my students had to get up in pairs and do an original conversation. The first couple pairs were okay, but the third refused to go up. I wasn’t too surprised, as one of the partners, let’s call him Mr. Kato, had been sleeping, trying to do other homework and generally being unhelpful during the writing phase (prompting his partner to declare “I don’t have a partner.”) I said they didn’t have a choice. They had to go up and do their conversation.
After some “negotiation” they finally went up and, well, first Mr. Kato tried to take his script (not okay) then he tried to cheat (also not okay) then he tried impress me with his attitude (fool). I pointed out I have a nine year old daughter with more attitude and better English and put him and his partner out in the hall to practice. I apologized to the mothers and, surprisingly, they stuck around apparently to watch the end of the match.
Eventually Mr. Kato and his partner went up and did a decent job, which earned me some points with the mothers. Although that’s exactly the kind of stuff I have to worry about and I reported what had happened to the homeroom teacher (I also told him the other students had done well). It’s also the kind of stuff I really ought not try a third time.