Wednesday, February 16, 2011


We had a little bit of a 'come to Jesus' moment with the cats' class today (no I didn't proselytize any of my Japanese students). I call them beloved ruffians because that's just what they are. One student in particular (actually one of my favorites, partly for these reasons) is extremely loud and playfully irreverent. He's good at doing voices and mocking or imitating tones, all of which make him an excellent student for me (if not for those having to teach him grammar and give him tests). He is the opposite of the feared silent-student, paralyzed by shyness.

I've called him out countless times for being loud, or being rude, but his playful irreverence, so useful in compelling him to talk, basically makes any attempt at sternness fall flat. Which is fine with me; I'd rather merrily point out that he's rude and that might be why he has no girlfriend (I told him this when he said some other guy's girl was chubby).

So today before class, he was playing with a piece of cardboard folded in thirds, which he discovered made a great Cyclops of the X-Men visor, and was playing with it as such here and there during class. At some point when everyone was supposed to be talking to their neighbor, discussing the answer to the little quiz we'd just done, I borrowed it from him and pretended to shoot lazers (SIC) from my eyes. He made a comment that blue eyes are the best, and I said it was too bad mine are green. The girls were like "really?" and I was like "..maybe." (Because in actual fact they are kinda blue, but look very green if I wear green)

They laughed, and in Japanese he went on to say whatever, it was cool, and mostly he thought brown eyes weren't pretty. "No, I don't like brown eyes, or black eyes. I hate Chinese people!" I sort of stopped shuffling the papers I'd gone back to the front podium to shuffle and stared at him. "Excuse me?" (in English) I was stunned by a blatant statement of racism, although I have heard lots of Japanese people feel this way about Chinese people. And as we wrapped up that moment, I told him, "You said a bad thing just now, and I am not impressed."

I knew he wouldn't understand all my words but I hoped my disapproval would be apparent anyway. But his inability to be serious was showing itself, and I wasn't sure whether to push the point. Luckily, Mikan-sensei stepped in right then. Normally he is really easygoing in the classroom, laughs a lot, and isn't overly strict on them. He gives the first impression of a young teacher whose students just love him; I always thought of him as very kind. But he can make students cry (maybe not this loud kid) when he gets serious.. it's always blown my mind when I'm in the staff room and a student is by his desk, and Mikan-sensei speaks to them in deadly quiet tones dripping with disapproval and the kids are just desperate to fix whatever it was they did wrong. Good lord. One first-year asked me if I thought Mikan-sensei kind, and I said yes. He told me, "Well, in club time, he's scary."

Anyway I almost didn't notice when he began because it was in Japanese and I thought we were just moving to the next part of the lesson. From what I could gather, he asked them "Why do we study English? Your entrance exams are already over, anyway, so why are we doing this?" and the loud kid responded with something I didn't understand, which I later imagined to be something about international citizens of the world, globalization, etc. Mikan-sensei asked "Oh is that why? Is that why you are studying?" and the loud kid said that was why he was, at least.

Mikan-sensei said something I didn't fully follow, but I heard the words "say bad things" in there. He paused, then added a bit about thinking before you open your mouth to speak.

It wasn't til just a moment ago I remembered his wife lived in China for a while (London, too; she's a cool lady, very international, her English is amazing!).

Anyway, he totally did exactly what I would have hoped to do with the moment were it my own class in my own language! Yay for internationalization!

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