I don't often write about my students thinking that it might be an invasion of privacy or could be counted as gossip, but I wanted to put down some thoughts about one of my students. I'll call him Y-kun. (Kun is an affectionate title for little boys.)
Y-kun has been coming for English for a little over a year. Another student's mother asked me if I was starting a first grade class because her neighbor wanted her son to join. I happened to have three other boys who wanted to start English so I told the mother to pass along the message. She hesitated a bit and then blurted out that he was quite a handful and much more "lively" than other children. That's okay. More often than not it is the bright and cheerful and slightly hyper children who do better in English. They are not afraid of making mistakes, they are willing to try anything.
When Y-kun came with his mother I got a glimpse of what "lively" meant. I had to hang on to him! Literally! If I didn't hold on to his wrist he was opening cupboards and playing with the telephone and jumping on the sofa and chasing cats! Hyper is putting it mildly. I also perceived that the mother was at a breaking point and consulting her would just result in verbal abuse (yes, I know that is a strong word) for Y-kun.
Y-kun lives in another area and goes to a different elementary school. Even so, most of the children in ALL my classes know him or know of him. I hear about the problems the swim school teacher is having with him. I hear about what went on when he was in kindergarten. Teachers, including me, are constantly scolding, threatening and sometimes yelling at him. Children do not like him. He is brash and annoys all the other children with either his boasting or his complaints. He can't follow rules or instructions. He cheats, he pushes, he grabs, his normal voice is a high scream. I have heard that he has been diagnosed with emotional problems (well good, I'm glad it's not just me that thinks something is off!) but he still struggles through life with little or no professional help. I have no training and as I said, if I ask the mother to remove him from my class, he will just be labled a troublemaker again.
I wonder how fair it is to the other three boys. We waste a lot of time trying to get Y-kun to play fair or take his turn or stop yelling. I know it is not the Japanese way, but I have said to the other boys that Y-kun is different and so they should make allowances for his mistakes and try to help him when he gets frustrated. (For awhile I had the other three boys complaining that I was playing favorites because I always let Y-kun go first or overlooked some of his cheating.) The three other boys try but sometimes things escalate to yelling matches...
So why am I writing this all down?
Y-kun has a generous heart. Sometimes the fights with the other boys start because he wants to lend them his eraser or his pencil or his book. And the other boys don't want it, or don't need it and Y-kun gets upset because he wants to give something to them. Almost every single week Y-kun brings me a present. A rock he found along the street. A moldy potato from his garden. A crumbled cookie that he's brought from home. He brings me bugs and flowers and things he's made with Scotch tape and weeds. Often his grandparents will send him to English with vegetables or flowers or rice that they've grown. He has learned from them to be generous and loving. A couple of weeks ago Y-kun brought me a wilted wildflower complete with dirt-covered roots (sprinkling dirt all over the floor and table and everyone's books when he pulled it out of his bag). I exclaimed that Tetsu just loved this flower and was thinking of going to buy some seeds.
"Plant it! I'll plant it for you!"
and I had to catch him before he headed out towards Choco's kennel area. He directed from the window and I planted the flower. Each week since then Y-kun checks to see if his flower is growing and assures me that I can harvest the seeds from it later and plant those all over my garden next year. He really is a clever little boy.
Yesterday's present was a stalk of seeds from a wildflower at his grandparent's farm.
"You can plant these and then next year you can eat the sprouts and be healthy!"
He also brought 5 wilted four-leaf clovers, one for each of the other boys and for Tetsu and me.
"Because four-leaf clovers make you happy."