No discipline in Japanese schools?

One of my students is an elementary school teacher, and she loves talking about her job. Saturday was Dreamwork Day at her school so she was a bit tired by the time she came to class. “Dreamwork Day? Sounds fun!” I said, but then she explained that all the teachers had to clean the school to give the students a dream… erm… yeah, a clean school should encourage children to do their best to fulfill their dreams. I think that’s the point, anyway. Still, cleaning sounds more like ‘nightmare’ work to me.

She then told me that one of the teachers had stuck tape down the center of the corridors to make ‘lanes’ so the kids wouldn’t crash into each other, and we launched into a debate about whether they should walk on the left or the right. She said that in Japan people walk on the right, facing the oncoming traffic. I argued that you should walk with your back to the traffic so that drivers can see you and have more time to react, just like when we see and pass a cyclist. Anyway, the argument was going nowhere so I asked why the kids bump into each other so often in the corridors.

“Oh, it’s because they run all the time” she said.

“Are you allowed to run?” I replied.

She then told me how the teachers tell the kids not to run, and if they do it repeatedly, then their homeroom teacher is informed. So, I asked what the homeroom teacher does about it. She said the kid will just get warned again, and again.

So I’m sitting there wondering if the bad kids ever get punished. Sure they get warned, but never punished? I asked if they are ever sent to the principal, or if they ever get detention, and she said “no, never”.

Hmm… It may be petty. They are just kids after all. However, when you have to start sticking tape on the floor so the kids that run are less likely to crash into each other, well, that just seems silly to me.

Should we turn up the radio so we’re less likely to hear the kids swear? Should we turn back the clocks so we won’t notice if the kids are late? No wonder crime is on the rise in Japan, and the foreigners usually get the blame for it. Go figure!

On a side note, it was my birthday yesterday. Happy birthday to me! Had some drinks, ate a cake and watched a movie about a horse…. oh it’s fun to be thirty-one.

5 comments

  1. Jenna Baylor

    Interesting stuff as always. Discipline is a major problem in my school too. Being an almost six foot female, I have no trouble hauling kids outa class. The rest of the teachers seem content to let the kids walk all over them though. And this is a *private* school where the parents are presumably paying more…? Don’t these teachers get any training on how to deal with poor behaviour?

    By the way, I was curious to hear that Rikuto climbing stairs was a potential problem “for his mother and I” …

  2. Jenna Baylor

    Oooops sorry, what you actually wrote was “for his mum and I”.

    I’m curious, does anyone know what kind of training people get in Japan when they want to become teachers? How rigorous is it?

    • Nick Ramsay

      Hi Jenna, you found something I wrote over two years ago! I’m afraid I can’t comment on how rigorous teacher training is in Japan since my only experience was in ESL teaching. Interestingly, though, there was a scandal fairly recently involving people bribing their way to teaching licenses.

      Rikuto is just 14 months old and we have a steep wooden staircase. This morning he climbed right to the top! My wife has just got back from the store with a barrier to put at the bottom of the stairs to put our minds at rest. :)

  3. Robin

    I work as an ALT in a the worst junior high school in my city, there is no significant discipline whatsoever. A maths teacher was assaulted by 2 boys a few months back, they were given a warning by the police and allowed back to school, for assaulting a teacher! Another teacher was hospitalised with neck injuries after being punched in the forehead, the boy’s mother was called into school and was witness to her son being “critisized” by the principle. He is still at the school and has recently made aggressive gestures towards me, as well as telling me to “die” everytime he sees me. Somehow telling your teachers to die is just normal in Japan, as he does it to all the Japanese teachers too.
    I’m stumped! I don’t know why they allow these kids to get so out of control!