Delayed Respect

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By the end of the year I had a few of girls that I just couldn’t reach. No matter what approach I took, they never seemed to like English class very much.

Not every student you teach is going take a liking to your teaching style or the subject that you teach. I do think a good teacher is able to get through to most of their kids, but I think it’s nigh impossible to get every single student to like you. One of the teaching struggles I ran into while teaching at a shogakko (Japanese elementary school level) was teaching sixth graders. Oddly enough that was the same grade level where I started to experience a bit of burnout with in the U.S.. Okay, maybe not a little burnout…a lot of burnout.

I remember being excited to start teaching during my first year. I would ask other teachers about what to expect. When I would tell other teachers what grade level I’d be teaching, many of the responded in suck in air through their teeth in a “better you than me” fashion. I would wonder why so many teachers had this response to teaching 6th grade. I asked around and the common answers I would get were “that’s when their little hormones start kicking in” or “that’s when kids start to get too big for their britches.” After my two-year, middle school stint I’d have to say that sixth-graders can be a handful, but no two schools are going to have the same types of kids.

Here in Japan, the biggest problem from my sixth graders during my first year wasn’t misbehavior at all, it was quite the opposite. I would sometimes teach something or try to get a response, only to be greeted by dead silence. I don’t know if it was nervousness on their part, or the whole “I’m too cool for this thing,” but it doesn’t make you feel very good when your kids aren’t responding. It took the sixth graders more time to warm up to many than any of the other grades.

They weren’t ever rude, but I could just tell they weren’t really feeling my class. The other day I was walking to the train station and I saw one of them. I said hello and was polite, but I was so surprised when my former student not only talked to me, but walked with me until I got to the station. The conversation was in Japanese and I was just asking her about middle school and if she was nervous about starting. When I said goodbye to this student, it was a good feeling, she almost talked to me more in that short walk than she had talked to me all term.

Seeing this student, and her going out of my way to talk with me made me realize that sometimes the lessons you teach may be reaching students when you don’t even realize it. This is inspiration for me. If I continue to go out and give my best everyday, even the students you least expect, may be getting it. Though some students may end up having a postponed respect for your class, and what you do as a teacher, as long as they get it…delayed respect is perfectly okay with me.

Donald Ash

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  • http://intothesunrise.com Nanami

    I think it’s a good experience when you meet a student outside of class. In school we have to show a certain “face” as a student or as a teacher. Unless you have one of the few teachers/professors who really take down barriers between you and them–those oddly enough are the ones I always respected the most now that I think about it.

  • Waltlanta

    I think you’re spot with that last paragraph. I don’t teach, but I get a similar feeling with my interactions here in the corporate world and the people I meet. It’s really hard sometimes to get into someone else’s head, and when we get wrong, we tend towards negative thinking.

  • Lily

    Hi. I know my comment is too late because this has been written almost a year ago, but I’d just recently discovered your website and I have to say you’re now one of my favorite people :) You look like a fun teacher. I love reading blogs about Japan because one of my greatest dreams is to go there someday. And I also love the fact that you’re a teacher too! I was also an English teacher to fifth graders. I also had a similar experience as to how students are unresponsive to class, but eventually they warmed up to me. I just had to find out what makes them tick, like how the girls like to talk about crushes and boys (yes, because they’re on that stage now), while the boys like games and stuff. Then one time I taught them a game (well, it’s a sort of a tag game where you run a LOT!) and when I joined them, we all get to have fun and at the end of the day they’ve gotten closer to me.
    Good luck there in Japan! Have a nice day!

  • Lily

    Hi. I know my comment is too late because this has been written almost a year ago, but I’d just recently discovered your website and I have to say you’re now one of my favorite people :) You look like a fun teacher. I love reading blogs about Japan because one of my greatest dreams is to go there someday. And I also love the fact that you’re a teacher too! I was also an English teacher to fifth graders. I also had a similar experience as to how students are unresponsive to class, but eventually they warmed up to me. I just had to find out what makes them tick, like how the girls like to talk about crushes and boys (yes, because they’re on that stage now), while the boys like games and stuff. Then one time I taught them a game (well, it’s a sort of a tag game where you run a LOT!) and when I joined them, we all get to have fun and at the end of the day they’ve gotten closer to me.
    Good luck there in Japan! Have a nice day!

    • thejapanguy

      Hey Lily!
      There’s no such thing as too late here. You’re about to make me blush, lol.

      Teaching is like that sometimes. You teach your heart out, give your all, and sometimes you think it falls on deaf ears, but if you’re truly out there trying, your words and lessons WILL reach somebody, right? It’s one of those warm fuzzy things about being an educator I think.

      Seriously, thanks for your comment, Lily

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