Where’s the Devil?

We all know where the devil is, of course. In the details.

So what I have managed to get out of Me First in the past couple of days (and it hasn’t been easy) is this:

A) Three boys are kicking, punching, hitting him etc., when the teacher is not looking.

This may be hard to understand if you are in a country where kids are even remotely supervised, but kids here are left to their own devices a lot: break time between classes, when the class is moving to music class or English class, during lunch clean-up, etc.

B) Me First tried to tell the teacher on one occasion. His response was that he didn’t see what happened, he had the boys give their version of events (in front of each other) and apologize to each other. Me First didn’t tell me because he was made to feel that he was wrong (by apologizing.) After that he felt that the teacher wouldn’t listen. He is afraid the other boys will get him back if he tells.

I also have felt the teacher minimized my concerns on several occasions. (Does anyone else remember the ruler incident?)

C) Me First is not the only boy being hit or kicked, though he said he “gets it the most.”

D) At least one of the other boys is taunting him by calling him “gaikokujin” and “America-jin” in a mean way.

That last one is kind of the clincher for me. Hitting, kicking, stupid stuff like that? Boys do that shit. It isn’t nice to talk about, but they do. But the name calling and picking on someone who is “different” crosses another line, doesn’t it?

I heard this boy say this to Me First at the beginning of the year. (This kid has poor social skills, I think I think I mentioned before. Even 2nd graders should no better than to do stuff like that in front of the other kid’s mom, right?) Me First seemed to handle it well, explained calmly that he wasn’t actually “gaikokujin.” The other boy seemed to get bored and walked off. Me First didn’t get that the other boy was trying to be mean to him, so I let it slide. Perhaps I shouldn’t have.

Anyway, sorry to keep going round and round like this. I’m still trying to get my head around it, and steal myself against what I expect to be another minimizing reaction from the teacher. An absolute disgust tears through me when I think that this little boy, who I gave birth to and nursed and cuddled, have fretted over and laughed with, who has given me great joy and more than a few gray hairs, that other children think this boy is an object for their ridicule and abuse. And right now, just thinking about his teacher makes me feel sick to my stomach. He taught for 34 years. How many other children did he ignore?

But I’m being dramatic.

It doesn’t help matters that I feel like I’m being set up, again, to play the role of Hysterical Angry Foreign Woman, aka Kaya What’s-her-name and just about any other foreign woman on TV here. Even the “half-talent,” even the old ones, like Helen What’s-her-name who are over sixty and have never lived anywhere else, are presented that way.

Maybe I can work it in my favor.


Night, loves.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ds
    Feb 24, 2013 @ 22:45:51

    I’m getting angrier and angrier, just reading what your son had to go through. I’ve been in Japan a while, and have taught at every level from elementary school to university. I’ve seen this kind of crap get glossed over all too often, and it makes me sick.

    As I said before, step one is to DOCUMENT DOCUMENT DOCUMENT. Take your time, open a word document with simple columns “date, time, location, incident, witnesses, reaction”. It will help you to NOT get the label of a hysterical mom. There is a lot of power in being able to sit down, show a list of incidents, and be specific about them. Please compare the two sentences below:

    “Other kids sometimes kick and punch my son”
    “There have been 14 incidents this year where my son was punched, and 5 where he was kicked. This happened 60 percent of the time in the presence of ….sensei, and 50% of the time at lunch”

    Don’t fall for the “we have the kids apologize to each other” excuse, either. It is a waste of time. A forced apology has all the value and desirability of a bucket of warm hamster vomit. Plus, it involves the victim in the discipline process, which is absolutely not right. Why should a little boy apologize for the crime of being punched? It’s nonsense. Ask the school for specific actions, not words.

    Take notes at any meeting. Who was present, who said what, who promised what. The date and time and location. Record it if at all possible.

    Play the gaijin card. No need for tears or hysteria, but do show that you will not be a typical passive J-parent. Just say something like, “well, where I come from, events like this often end up in the media. Especially when the school allows them to continue after being informed. I wonder if Japan is the same way…”

    For most/all principals, the most important thing is his school’s reputation. Not you. Not your son. Not the bullies. His school’s name and standing in the community. If YOU can threaten HIM with losing that, then you have the chance to make some progress. Otherwise, Team Japan will close ranks and you will get the very polite, very sincere brush off.

    Again, sorry for the essay, but this is one of my pet peeves of living here. I love my life and had a generally great experience when my son was in elementary school. But the underlying combination of brutality and passivity that many Japanese have gets to me at times.


  2. Kym
    Feb 24, 2013 @ 22:53:37

    I think you underestimate yourself – rather than coming across as hysterical, I think you can definitely play it cool, calm and collected. Putting stuff in the renrakucho is a really good idea, put the teachers on their toes before you even have to talk to them.
    How stressful! But don’t write off the battle as lost already. And if you did in the end decide to go with home schooling, am sure there are some other mums around the place you could farm him out to for different subjects. Could surely come up with a better curriculum than the school’s too. ;)


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