Thursday, July 10, 2008


Yesterday was a busy day but nothing to show. I had kindergarten English in the morning and the older class (there are three ages of children in the kindergarten) was observed by the mothers. I don't mind that much but the children were so quiet and shy yesterday that I even spoke with the principal after class.

In general Japanese children are wary and hesitant to stand out in a group. They are afraid to make mistakes, afraid of being laughed at. To be corrected is a horrible disgrace so it is better to fade away as much as possible. Doesn't that sound terrible? Doesn't that sound like a terrible stereotyping? You will always find many types of children in any society and in any culture and there are so many personalities that I know it isn't fair to say these children are this type of child etc. But I find many quiet, fearful children in my classes in the kindergarten and in the classes I teach at home. I often can't get a child to look at me let alone answer me. They wait until some other child will give them an answer and the interesting thing is that often a child who will not participate ("can you repeat after me? No?") when called upon with be whispering the answer to the next child when he freezes up.

Yesterday I had 30 minutes with the children barely whispering to me and all of them looked like scared animals in front of the Big Bad Wolf. I've taught these kids for three years! Granted they were loud and noisy when I asked them things as a group but I wanted to show the mothers each child individually so it was a simple routine of asking

"So-and-so. Where are you?"
and the child was supposed to raise his hand and say
"Here I am!"
Then I'd shake his hand and ask
"How are you?"
and the child was supposed to say
"Fine thank you."

The kids in the three year old class can do this! These kids could do this when they were in the three year old class. Why is it they have become so afraid to stand out? And no, I don't think it is just because the mothers were observing yesterday.

The principal said that she has noticed this tendency especially in this class and other part time teachers like myself who come in weekly have called the situation to her attention also. It may have to do with the classroom teacher who is extremely well organized, never veers from a schedule and speaks to the children in a logical, quiet way with little emotion herself. But as I pointed out, this is common in all Japanese children but I still think it needs to be addressed. When a child is 15 or even 8 it is a little late to ask him or her to be more outgoing and social but the kindergarten seems like a good place to start emphasizing the fun in life, the excitement of trying new things and positive aspects of stepping out of your own shell which is still in the making.

I'm just babbling. Maybe I have become too out of touch with this brand new generation. It just seems that is a joy lacking and I don't know why.


Ursula said...

What did you mean with "with this brand new generation."

Were the Japanese Kids, say your husbands generation more outgoing?

meggie said...

This post made me feel sad, Tanya, for the young to be so repressed. You are right to question why?
Joy is a part of childhood, & to be encouraged. Spontaneity? Could you trick them into laughter?

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

I love the clam analogy. This is sad; however, it will make drawing them out and seeing them flourish all the more joyful! Maybe it's simply the group dynamic, would they be this way one on one? Good luck, Tanya!

Clare said...

I'mù sure it has something to do with modern day teaching techniques - teaching as a group and not addressing each child individually. I had a similar problem when I was teaching English a couple of years ago to 8 year olds. They were fine working in groups or pairs, but ask them to do something on their own and they were at a complete loss.

Best of luck.

artfilstitch said...

I can understand where you are coming from with "this brand new generation" thought. The Japanese culture is so different from ours in the USA. I've enjoyed my visits to Japan, the people are so courteous and quiet. Maybe, the children are introverts in the outside world and that may be due to their teaching in the home. Just rambling.....Oh, how I wish that the children in the USA were taught some of the manners that the Japanese people display!

Shelina said...

That is sad to be so repressed. Did the principal have any suggestions on drawing them out of their shells? or did the principal think this was normal behavior? That is what I worry about with my Japanese guest - just trying to find a way for her to be comfortable and willing to make mistakes.