The Japanese Student vs The English Teacher

by Karen
(Gunma, Japan)

The Japanese Student vs The English Teacher

I teach English as a second language in Japan to over 200 students a week (mostly boys) and I have to say they are all pretty good kids. Most of the time the teaching experience has been rewarding. But at one time or another, I have also experienced this scenario. if you enjoy it, check out my blog.

The Japanese Student vs The English Teacher

He stood with his back pressed against the wall. The wall on the other side of the principal's office. A fact that did not go unappreciated. She had pressed him to it. Pulled him out of class. His hair stood up stiff on top, dyed brick brown and waxed into a solid sculpture of Tokyo cool, making him seem taller. A small spot on the wall behind him was visible through a gape in his ear, one that usually dangled abstract decorations luring curious glances and looks of disapproval. But earrings are forbidden so all that remained was the hole; a hole large enough to fit one of the gold buttons from his black, military-style school uniform.

She knew he probably wouldn't take her seriously. She was only five feet, but the three inch heals brought her up close, nose to nose and she raised a finger, pointing it deliberately in his face, feigning a sternness she didn't feel. It was his second time around. Failed her class completely last year along with a few others. That set him back. Repeating the whole year and now only three weeks in and he was heading that way again. She had grabbed his cell phone, laden down and jangling with pink trinkets and small metal mementos of the sub-cultural life he escaped to in Tokyo every weekend. Weekends, she felt that would be better served by studying a bit of English or math. She had confiscated his PCP and comic books, noting, as she did, unwrinkled paperback textbooks residing beside them. These distractions now lay in her big red bag, the one with the American Flag design on the side, the symbol of her profession: English teacher.

He knew it was coming, but when it hit he hadn't expected the force. And now with his back against the wall, and a finger in his face he felt scared. She never yelled, or got angry and this rare display sent the confidence and attitude that he greased and slicked over himself as he primped in the mirror this morning running down thin mixing with the sweat on his forehead and creeping down his cheeks. He tried to recover, cool like, pressing his hand behind him flat against the hard cement school walls, trying to push them back, push himself away from the words slapping hard in his face and he turned his head and eyes away and down.

She knew her Japanese was broken. She knew his English was poor. But the look in his eyes, for just a moment, as her tongue wagged its warnings threats and ultimatums, showed his vulnerability. She laid it out, stripping it down to the naked brutal truth of the alternative for a 16-year old boy without school to back his future up. Did his eyes water? Were they going moist? Had the smirk, the cover, the chiseled arrogance in his face, cracked? Did he see his life as worker in McDonald's? Waiting on teenagers for the rest of his life? She punched out every word, measuring them, making it all count. She was in control. Not angry...not even close. She knew this would be the last time. But as soon as she made the hit, it started loosing its sting.

In one or two minutes it was back. He'd recovered. Confidence and attitude now making their way to the front, sauntering down the aisle, passing by rows of seats, an audience of lost opportunities and wasted time. Out they all came on to the stage; stage left, stage right, center stage; the smirk, the roll of the eyes, a shift of the shoulders, the impatient sigh, Tokyo cool.

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