We all know those American high school movie stereotypes: the athletes, the cheerleaders, the nerds, the teacher’s pets. Who can forget the "Mean Girls" scene where Janice shows Cady the lunch table cliques. It’s also true we should be careful about describing these fragile teens “in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions” as the collective group from "The Breakfast Club" pens in their letter at the close of the film (cue: “Don’t You (Forget About Me).”
Language teachers — old and new alike — you are going to meet some wonderful, zany and challenging students as you navigate the classrooms of the Japanese education system. Here are the six characters I would pick if I had to make a terrible teen movie about teaching high school English in Japan.
1. The Whisperer
The most ubiquitous of the Japanese students, this child speaks more quietly than a falling sakura (cherry blossom) petal.
Apparently, most teachers just allow them to do this because you can always count on their look of sheer terror when you interrupt their whisper with an: “Ehhh? Say again?” As you cranine your neck in their direction.
“Oh, God. This foreign person actually cares? Maybe if I speak more quietly, they will give up,” they seem to think.
Everyone in the class looks away, trying to save them the embarrassment of actually having to participate in class. A fly buzzes by, drowning out the student’s third attempt at an audible answer. After constant pestering, it is usually possible to get them to at least blurt out a few strong attempts at a sentence. However, too much pestering will terrify the other whisperers in the class (i.e. everyone) so proceed with caution.
- Favorite place to sit: Not the front, that’s for sure.
- How to spot them: Their mission seems primarily not to be spotted.
- How to inspire them: Show, don’t teach. Shout during the entire class, if you have to. They’ll catch on.
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