Many years ago, I was a speaker on the JALT Four Corners Tour through Kyushu. My presentation topic was one of my favorites: “Dealing with Difficult Students.”
I never meant to be a teacher, yet here I am, and here’s how.
According to the French writer and existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, humans are born with no purposes to serve. We all know why scissors exist but we don’t know why we exist, and that allows us to create our own worth.
When I attended one of the first annual brain days in Kita-Kyushu I met a really interesting man named Tim Murphey. This was the first time I had met Tim and my attention was caught by his juggling balls.
Soon after I started studying for my MA in applied linguistics (language teaching) at the University of Queensland in Australia in 1995, I began to teach Japanese as a part-time teacher at two universities.
At the beginning of this year I had a particular class that was difficult to manage, the kind of junior high school class here in Japan that has issues with noise, participation, and even, at times, things thrown across the classroom.
It was near the end my first year of high school. I get a note: Marc Helgesen, report to Principal Stephens’ office. Actually, Mr. Stephens was the assistant principal. Those of you who know American schools know “assistant principal” means the person in charge of discipline.
Many years ago, I was playing music in a small Irish pub called The Shamrock, in Shinjuku. It was a rather strange structure with a wall going right down the middle of the room, dividing it into a bar and a lounge area. The stage where I sat and played was the only place in the room where it was possible to see both sides of The Shamrock.
I was starting to warm to my subject as I scanned the sea of student faces before me, when I was suddenly arrested at the sight of Jun-ichi. Jun-ichi was my most enthusiastic student.
“Thank you so much for your interest in us and your respect for all.”
Of all the sweet, heartfelt messages my students had written me on our final day of class together, this one, written by Lila and her phone translation app, really took my breath away.
There was this boy in France, whose paternal upbringing was so crushing and humiliating that by his early teens he had lost every ounce of self-esteem and self-respect. He was ceaselessly reminded of his incapacity, stupidity, and no-goodness for anything.