Unpopular Once More

I made myself very unpopular today. See the teacher thumping the kid yesterday, I couldn’t leave it at that. I think partly it’s because it’s plain wrong for someone to let a kid get them angry when they’re in a position of responsibility and actually acting on that anger. But at least partly it’s because I didn’t do anything or saying anything at the time, I saw the teacher pulling the kids hair, I should have done something then. And I’m worried that part of the reason I didn’t is because of who the kid was, I don’t want my stalker seeing me as somehow helping him, I REALLY don’t. Course it doesn’t matter who the kid is I should have acted and I didn’t.

So I acted post event. And boy am I unpopular.

I thought about it, I really thought about it, wrote down what I’d seen just afterwards and then spent a good few hours working out how to deal and what to do or say. I was all the time thinking ‘what would I do if this happened in England?’ and then thinking but this wouldn’t happen in England, or at least if it did the response would be obvious. If it happened in England I’d know about the response, so was I missing something because of my lack of language skills or understanding cultural body language? Well maybe but I still had to know what was going to happen, make sure something was.
If I did that in England wouldn’t I be being a busy-body? Yes probably because it is none of my business when another teacher needs to be disciplined or told his conduct is wrong unless I am the superior of that teacher…and here I’m a language assistant nominally classed with the second year teachers. Nothing to do with the third year or Social Studies. But it did happen right next to my desk in the staffroom. In my space as it were.

So if I were in England and it happened in my room or near my room, then I would have justification in asking what was now happening about the incident. If it happened in the staffroom I would expect the SMT to make a nicely impersonal announcement at a staff meeting or else quietly go around the teachers present to explain what was happening.

Who would I ask? Well probably my line manager or head of department, though if I were friends with them I might ask the person who intervened…which in this case would be the Mountaineer, ie. the head of the third year. However the language barrier means thats out of the question. My direct superior is at the Board of Education and speaks no English so she’s out of the question on two counts 1, the language barrier and 2, I don’t want the local BOE getting involved in what should be a matter for the school…if the school is dealing with it. So no BOE yet. So it was the Jedi I spoke to, not techincally my direct superior but the guy I most commonly work with.

And I asked I didn’t tell, I really really didn’t want to be the ALT saying ‘well in my country we do this and thats better’ not did I want to be the assistant saying ‘you should all do this because thats how I’d do it’, not great ways to get things done.
I asked generally about discipline and had to explain that no discipline did not mean the cane…then I had to explain about detentions and I was eventually told that discipline in Japanese schools consists of apologising and talking. Ok fair enough. So then I asked about teachers hitting students to be told that that didn’t happen any more. And then I explained what I’d seen.

I got the distinct impression I shouldn’t be talking about this but ploughed on anyway. I explained that as it had happened by my desk I would like to know whether it was likely to happen again? No… What would happen to the teacher and the pupil in question? Not sure….I’ll get back to you.

Next thing I know the Chocolate Snowman (ie. the teacher who hit Stalker yesterday) is at my desk apologising in really quite good English. And at that moment I realise that I have been present in England when a teacher hit a pupil. Only I was a pupil then and again just watched in horror as a boy was ‘clipped around the ear’ for being cheeky (a case of mistaken identity actually) and I remembered too what had happened. No press, no police, no sueing but the teacher had apologised to the boy. So before I’d thought it through I asked if the Chocolate Snowman had apologised to the boy.

Just to clarify with non-teachers or non-English teachers what I was asking. Potentially admitting you are wrong to a pupil in such a situation can be construed as losing that pupils respect (although you probably have already if you hit them) and possibly losing your position of authority in that pupil’s classes eyes. Not admitting you are wrong is saying it’s ok for you to hit them of course and to me thats the lesser of two evils. Not apologising is saying that they don’t matter to you…again lesser of two evils.

He hadn’t. I asked if he was going to. He wasn’t. By now the Mountaineer was listening too and the Jedi. I said I couldn’t accept his apology if he wasn’t going to apologise to Stalker. I crossed my fingers Stalker never finds out about this. I was shaking inside. I’m an assistant I shouldn’t be saying this to a guy whos been teaching thirty years, I shouldn’t be saying this in front of his superior and mine! I shouldn’t have to say this. But I did.

This morning Chocolate Snowman quietly apologised to Stalker at the back of the staffroom. I am currently being cold-shouldered by most (if not all) of the staff…not a whole lot of change admittedly but I can tell it’s purposeful now rather than anything else. I’m not sure how long it will last, the Mountaineer doesn’t seem to be which I’m glad about but I do hope the Jedi explains exactly what bit of my actions the problem was with.

I kind of did the right thing…but I’m not so sure I did it the right way, the apology thing was acting on instinct and that was not so good after really thinking things through like I had. I couldn’t not do anything though, I mean yeah he didn’t beat the kid up but he did hit him, and intimidate him with little provocation that I could see (mostly the kid just stood there and didn’t say anything, he looked tearful but he was always looking directly at the teacher which in this country is not right I think…) I couldn’t just sit here. I wish I thought before I jumped in though.

6 thoughts on “Unpopular Once More

  1. I can’t see how else you would have done it, but the Japanese seem to be rather cagey about apologising for stuff. It’s a face thing.

    I also seem to recall that, historically, peasants weren’t allowed to look at nobles, on pain of decapitation. It’s an eye contact thing that may have carried across into wider society. (I may be confusing this bit with Chinese culture.)

    Anyway, that’s enough armchair anthropology about a country I’ve never been to, and where my best frame of reference is probably Patrick Tilley’s Amtrak Wars series of novels.

    I hope things get better for you soon. 🙂

  2. You didn’t "kind of do the right thing," as you put it. You did "The Right Thing." Notice the capital letters. You saw an injustice and you acted upon it with cool, reasonable thought. When the man inquestion refused to make it right, you stuck to your guns and pressed on until he did.

    If people shun you for doing The Right Thing, they aren’t worth your attention.


  3. Stick to your gut instincts Mish. If you know in your heart something is wrong, fight it. If you know something is right, stand by it. The world might give you a hard time, but your conscience will be clear.


  4. Truer words were never spoken. Just look at your karma rating for today if you need any further boosting.

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