Discipline And Other Skills

If you knew me, you’d quickly realise that I am one of the least tolerant people you’ll ever meet. Not that I’m racist, or a fascist or a hater of animals mind you, just that if you put me in the same room as say, someone who genuinely enjoys reading out signs or wearing underwear as a hat while cooking dinner my level of irritation can easily go from zen monk to hissing cat in under ten seconds. 

That is to say, if you met me in a bar, slurring sarcastically about people’s appearances while swirling my drink irresponsibly over your new shirt and dropping ash on your shoes there is no way in hell you would ever leave me alone with anybody’s offspring. Possibly even my own. 

Somehow though, I have ended up frequently being in charge of groups of children. By frequently, I mean over 20 times a week. And by groups, I mean up to 15. And I haven’t even killed any of them yet! Obviously, I’ve had to develop some sort of discipline skills. Otherwise one ends up with chaos – shouting, running around, violence, a nervous breakdown, The Lord of The Flies… you get my drift. 

I imagine that most teachers have ways of dealing with children who won’t pay attention,  screech around the classroom and who think that a good friend-making strategy is a swift kick juuuust under the ribs (in an upward direction). That said, most teachers can speak the same language as their students. What I wouldn’t give to be able to understand the kids. (Actually, don’t answer that. What I wouldn’t give is all my free time to learn Japanese.) Right now all I’ve got is a loud voice and an expressive face. 

Yesterday though, had to be a low point. I want to add, as a disclaimer of sorts, that I have a chest infection, brought on by a weekend of snowboarding. So, yesterday was my first day back at work after a two-day hiatus. Which mostly involved reading the entire archives of flotsam and watching Wife Swap online while chewing down antibiotics and letting cups of tea get cold. 

Wednesday is my worst work day. Partly because many of my classes are obnoxious and partly because I have to do four one-hour classes in a row without a break. Then another class. That’s five. So, by the end of it, I’m ruined. Even without 500mg of amoxicillin coursing through my feverish body. (Before you say it, no, I wasn’t infectious.) 

Anyway, yesterday, I finally lost my temper, something I’ve been threatening to lose with varying degrees of believability for nigh on five months. Yesterday though, at approximately 4.45pm, I had a total melt-down, directed at a pair of utterly horrid 9-year-old boys. They talked though other kids’ answers. They kicked other kids. They kicked each other. They punched each others testicles at ten second intervals, hard. They mimicked everything I said in high-pitched voices, but with everything pronounced in INFURIATINGLY BAD ENGLISH. 

Eventually, I had to drag pull call the two of them out of the room and shout (yes, shout) for a full minute about violence and behaviour and respect. Y’know, because 9-year-old boys are all about respect. Not that they understood a freaking word of it, but I think that the fury in my voice carried the sentiment. It certainly carried it out to the office loud enough that one of the Japanese women who works there came scurrying out to direct me back into the classroom and continue the tirade in Japanese. 

Back in my room, the other kids were terrified. I’m pretty pale, but when I’m angry my face goes a violent shade of red. I had to play games for the rest of the class to get them to calm down.

Now, I’m fairly sure that the red face/shouting was partly to blame, but mostly, it was the fact that in Japan, corporal punishment isn’t exactly illegal. I’ve seen plenty of teachers hit kids. Not in a whipping with a cane kind of way, more a thwap with a laminated flashcard or a smack on the bum. And by god, do the mothers thwap. I was horrified when I first saw it, but now, I’m glad of it. Before you all chime in with accusations of child abuse,  I don’t actually hit the kids. But they know that teachers can hit, so once the temper is lost, the memories of previous thwappings come screeching back, and the kids behave. I suspect my discipline skills are lacking.

Anyway, the second incident came in the Junior High School class. I have a class of eleven 13-year-old boys who vary in ability from competentish to table. My best student is also a kid who, I can tell, sees me as a person. I’m pretty sure that there are adults in his life who take him seriously when he talks. He’s a good kid. He makes a good effort to communicate, to translate what the other kids are saying and he even makes jokes, which is sadly, rare. 

Anyway, the kids were out in the office area after my class doing some kind of written work, eating microwave popcorn. I came through on my way out with an armful of my stuff, swooping down to steal some of this kids popcorn. Straight away, cries of “Teacher! Teacher! Teacher!!” I ignored him, and continued snarfing up the popcorn. “TEACHER!!!” I looked down. The half cup of cold coffee that I had been cradling in my arm had spilled its contents, drop-by-drop out of the lid, all over his white shorts. And his white shirt. And the cream carpet. I fished some tissues out of my bag and help him mop up the worst of it. Then I scuttled out. 

It seems my coordination skills are somewhat lacking too. 



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