Firing A Class


As well as teaching a rake of little kids, I also have 8 Junior High School classes. In Japan, Junior High School lasts for three years and is the equivalent of 7th/8th/9th grade. 


I’ve already mentioned that there’s another foreign teacher in the school. He’s Australian and pushing 50. He’s also a gym teacher in a high school so he’s pretty fit and energetic. However, he seems to have a major discipline problem. As in, he just can’t do it.


Every two months we switch over the elementary classes so that I take his timetable and he takes mine. For the first two or three weeks after the switch I deal with chaos. The kids just aren’t used to not being able to run around screaming all the time, hitting each other and hitting the teacher. I am NOT OK with being hit. No matter how hilarious it is to the kindergarteners. So, I have to lay the smack down for two weeks and teach the little bastards some respect.


In Japan, all kids are taught to respect their teachers. A lot. But, we’re not real people. We’re foreigners. So the rules are different. They think we’re clowns. So the respect needs to be earned. I try my best. 


Junior High School classes don’t change. We’re supposed to keep on the same classes for a whole year. However, in the last 7 months, I’ve been asked by the other teacher (let’s call him Bruce from now on, he’s going to crop up in a few posts) to switch classes twice. Once I traded a lovely class of 2nd year girls for a class of 1st year boys. They are rowdy as hell. Rowdy I can deal with.


The other time I got a class of 10 2nd year boys (and three girls). Some of the boys are just horrid. They are somehow silent and obnoxious at the same time. Sullen and mean. They refuse to do any work at all. As in, I give them a wordsearch and they draw penises on it. They sent emails on their phones. They answer calls. They refuse to look at me. 


Now, I’m no fool. I know that no 14 year old boy wants to be at an after-school English class til 10pm on a Thursday night. But, there are a few good kids in the class. (My god, those poor long-suffering girls.) Their parents are paying money for their kids to learn English. It’s just not fair. So, I accept that there’s going to be a certain amount of not-working in the class but I do expect it to not totally ruin the learning for everyone. 


If a phone rings, I expect a “May I go to the toilet” and for the kid to leave the room to answer the phone. I don’t give a crap how long he’s gone for so long as we’re not all sitting listening to his conversation. If I give a worksheet, I expect them to at least make a decent attempt at pretending to do it. Copy off the kid next to you. Circle a few random letter combinations in the wordsearch. I allow quiet chatting while doing worksheets. I don’t collect them for correction at the end of class (I correct them during class so they go home with a sheet of good English). Just pretend to work and I’ll leave you alone and concentrate on the kids who actually are working!




So anyway, a few weeks ago I came to the end of my rope. After 40 minutes of utter frustration, I snapped. I told them I didn’t want to teach them any more. That they were too bad and rude. That from now on, the owner of the school would teach them. That put The Fear into the good kids. After all, she knows their parents. She can speak Japanese. Trouble ahead! I told them that there was 20 minutes left in the class. We have games. We have playing cards. We also have worksheets. I threw a stack of worksheets on the floor. They sat there uncomfortably. Then they all took a worksheet. 


And started drawing penises on them. 


At the end of the class I asked them all to write their names on their sheets and give them back to me. Something I’d never done before. The best of the bad kids quickly started erasing the penises and so on. The bad bad kids just left them. 


I told the owner of the school that I was firing them. She wasn’t that surprised that they were bad, but she was horrified when I told her just how bad they were. She promised to take the class the next week and give them a bollocking. 


The next week, I skipped the class. The owner of the school never showed up. It was left to the poor Japanese grammar lady to bollock the kids. God dammit. They don’t respect her either. 


Anyway, the good kids apologised, the bad kids ignored me and I went back to teaching the class. What the hell was I supposed to do? I have another class right after that one so I can’t exactly go home and leave poor Japanese lady with two classes to teach every week. 


I’ve been waiting for… oh…. six weeks to talk to the owner of the school about this (and a million other issues). 


Rant actually over this time.


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