Over the last 21 months I’ve found myself questioning cultural elements again and again. There’s a kid in one of my elementary school classes who always acts out. He just told me to die, twice. Then he flipped me the bird. So I stood beside his desk like a South Korean soldier in the demilitarized zone and didn’t stand for it. Then I spoke to the teacher and she told me that the kid has no father. I went back to his desk when the other kids were performing and made sure he let them because I’ve gotten sick of his acting out.
He then proceeded to kick my feet. When I didn’t react he grabbed the bag that has his placemat for school lunch in it and hit me with that to no avail, it’s soft, no worries at all. The next thing I know he’s attempting to punch me! I jumped out of the way of course, quite the fan of boxing as exercise even though I don’t actually do it and know when getting out of the way is required. When he missed I put my hand up for him and told him to go ahead. He punched me 4 times with progressive strength. I figured it was best to let him do it.
I am a little upset, though. Whilst my mother assures me that I dealt with the kid the best way possible, it erks me that this kid clearly isn’t getting the help that he needs to deal with the loss of his father, however that might have come about. A teacher shouldn’t need to be considering borrowing her friends boxing pads so that the kid can have an outlet for his anger each week. Mechanisms should be in place for dealing with kids like these.
Back home I have numerous friends (and a good percentage of my family) from single parent households who have turned out ok, or even gone on to have very successful lives. They know who they are and I am immensely proud of them. It breaks my heart to think that this boy is going the right way towards having a really tough life.
In 6 weeks I will leave this place for one where I can actually do something to help troubled kids or whatever. Where I can say something to make them feel better. Where I can actually explain why I am standing beside their desk hovering. Where I’ll be able to teach people who WANT to learn.
This week I am lamenting the apparent collapse in society that is meaning that more and more children are left without fathers, either through divorce, death or otherwise. This week all illusions about what a ‘perfect’ society Japan is have been relegated to was. This week in light of certain world events too, I realise that elements of this place that are tough to deal with are not going to change. I’m realising that maybe I’ve grown up a lot over the last 2 years. Things that used to irritate me no end are no longer getting to me and things like getting punched by a student whilst interesting and slightly upsetting are no biggie anymore.
Being able to brush things off like water off a duck’s back is certainly something that JET has helped me to learn. I think I can go home in 6 weeks proud of the last two years and that is a good feeling.