The aim of this post is to illuminate a bit of what is accepted behaviour in schools in Japan, and to debunk the myth that all Japanese kids are well behaved. This is a myth that I believed before I came to Japan, and while these things are all relative, if you have this impression, you haven’t worked in a Japanese school. I’ve worked in a few. Some of my ALT friends have had schools where students vomited in class because they were drunk, or where all the staff hid in the staff room when one of the cars in the carpark was blown up. We’ve all had kids we’ve seen smoking. One of my Japanese friends reckons everyone he knows has been a student in a class where the teacher has had enough, said something like 「じゃ、勝手にやってください」(Fine, just do whatever) and basically thrown their hands up and gone back to the staff room.
These things are probably true of schools in many countries. Anyway, here are some things some of my students have said to me or about me, without being rebuked, in my presence. I think they’re remarkable mostly because I think these are things most students wouldn’t say to most teachers in Australia. There may also be a bit of subconscious (??) ‘well it’s a foreigner, so it doesn’t matter’ idea, but I think it’s largely that teachers put up with a lot.
‘How old are you?’
‘妊娠しとる?’ (Are you pregnant?)
「ゴミ箱」’It’s in the bin.’ (when asked ‘where is your worksheet?’)
‘Are you married?’
‘How many children do you have?’ (Was quite impressed with the English on that one)
‘Do you like me?’
‘Do you play sex?’
‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ (Also ‘Are you boyfriend?,’ ‘Are you have boyfriend?’)
‘I’m オッパイ oppai!‘ (boobs) – when asked ‘how are you?’
‘I’m デブ debu!‘ (fat) – when asked ‘how are you?’ When I failed to react, he did a big belly gesture in case I wasn’t getting it.
‘先生、ピアスはゴルドボール!’ (Your earrings are gold balls! – lit. the word for balls, yep as in testicles.)
‘あ、アメリカ来た.’ (Oh, here comes America.) – This one was about me, not to me.
Kids’ parents have said about me in my presence:
‘かわいいですね!’ (She’s cute, isn’t she!)
Teachers have said:
‘Wow, you can use chopsticks well!’ (All foreigners know this phrase well.)
‘You’re prettier than you look in the photo your company gave us!’ (From a school principal at my initial introduction to the school, with my supervisor.)
‘Don’t they drink milk in America?’ (this was not said to me, but was one teacher asking another after I took my milkless lunch tray from the staff room)
‘So, are you going home to America for the holidays?’ (By a teacher who had helped me teach an Australia lesson about myself)
Hope this post hasn’t been too whingey. Sometimes it gets a bit frustrating, but can be quite funny, this job.