I made another kid cry today. It wasn’t one of the little ones this time – it was Jerkface, the loud, obnoxious eleven-year-old who’s bigger than I am. And he didn’t get over it quickly, either. He was sitting there with his head in his hands for like five minutes.
As is suggested by his name, Jerkface is a pretty big jerk. He’s loud, he insults me, he insults the other kids (even his beloved Bonze), he complains constantly that the games are boring or the lessons are too easy or too hard. The other two in the class, Ken’ichi and Bonze, are eight and much smaller than he is, but he’s always wrestling with them.
He doesn’t do any of this to be mean – he’s just hyper and thinks it’s fun. He doesn’t really get that he’s twice Bonze and Ken’ichi’s size, and that it unsettles them a little when he shouts at them or pounces on them or something. He also doesn’t get that the pouncing part is dangerous. He managed to accidentally bang Bonze’s head on the floor pretty hard once.
Totally being a licensed psychiatric physician like I am, I would diagnose him with ADD. It’s a good day if he can focus on what we’re doing for sixty seconds at a time. He’s not stupid – on the occasions when he can stop spinning around for five seconds and focus, he picks up on stuff really fast. His best day ever was the day he had a really bad cold and didn’t have the energy to run around. He learned most of a month’s worth of vocabulary in one class period. (This made him worse in subsequent classes, when he already knew everything and thus got bored.)
I think he’s also pretty insecure. He’s got a major, major boy-crush on Bonze, and gets possessive whenever anyone else talks to him too much – his repossession attempts are not subtle. The thing is, I don’t know if he ever really hangs out with anyone his age. I’ve only ever really seen him playing with the eight-year-olds. The other ten-year-old who used to be in the class seemed kind of intimidated by him. Jerkface is huge.
And I’m saying all this because it ought to have been obvious to me that he was kind of fragile emotionally, and I needed to be careful scolding him. But today, following some unusually bad behavior even for him – he absolutely refused to play a game, which he’s never done before – he actually shoved me.
I think that, because he’s bigger than I am, I let that upset me too much – some of the little kids whap me with the toys sometimes, but I don’t usually get mad at them about it – and I think it showed in my face or something. I tried to pull him over to the corner with me so I could talk to him alone, and he wouldn’t come; so I opened the door and told him to go sit outside.
And he sat down on the floor and started crying.
Ken’ichi and Bonze were excellent about this – they sat there and very quietly talked about something else while I tried to calm him down. I would’ve expected Bonze to be good, but I’m really proud of Ken’ichi. (In terms of intentional damage, Ken’ichi’s actually usually more of a force of darkness than Jerkface is.)
So I kind of sat down with him and said all the usual crying-kid stuff in extremely crappy Japanese – “I’m not mad at you, you don’t need to get upset, but you’re disrupting class and it’s not fair to Bonze and Ken’ichi,” etc. He didn’t really respond, so I got up and left him for a minute so I could give Bonze and Ken’ichi coloring sheets, then put Jerkface’s down next to him. I sat there and graded their homework until Jerkface got up and went over to color with the others.
The manager had told me a couple months ago to go get him if someone started crying in class; I’ve been disobeying him for Mr. Weepy because he always cries, and it’s always just to get attention, and I didn’t bother with Zoh because that lasted all of thirty seconds. This struck me as more serious, so I went and got him. Jerkface and Bonze’s moms were sitting right outside when all this was going on – I felt kind of nervous about leaving the kids alone in the classroom right in front of them, but I didn’t have a lot of alternative. (I’ve left a couple kids alone in the classroom once or twice before, when one hurt him/herself (or thought they had…), and I needed to take them to the bathroom. The bathroom’s very close, so I don’t feel it’s unsafe, but I suspect some of the parents wouldn’t agree.)
By the time the manager got over there, Jerkface was happily coloring with the others and trying to get Bonze to tell him what he wanted to be when he grew up.* So, that was over fast. I finished grading the homework and let them color for the five minutes remaining in class.
Though the door had been standing open during Jerkface’s crying jag, from when I’d opened it to send him out, his mother, who was sitting outside, hadn’t noticed anything wrong. I waited until she’d gone out into the hallway, and Jerkface had gone into another room with Bonze, then stopped her and said, “Today, Jerkface was a little -” Japanese adjectives failed me.
“He was bad?! Were you bad?” She waved him back into the hallway. “What did you do?”
I didn’t want say anything that might upset him again. I said, “No, no – he’s not bad, he’s just noisy. Jerkface, no more acting up, okay?”
“Okay, okay,” he said, seeming completely recovered. I don’t think he was – he still looked kind of drained to me.
“He’s always bad, even at school!” his mom told me. I don’t really approve of the Scolding Your Kid In Front Of The Teacher maneuver – especially since she had no idea what he’d actually done – so I said something like, “Well, Jerkface is Jerkface wherever he is, I guess.”
The manager later repeatedly reassured me – calling over the English-speaking guy to translate for/corroborate him – that Jerkface’s bad behavior is well-known, so it’s fine that I yelled at him. English-speaking guy said, “Teacher-before-teacher-before-last* could never control him! So what you did is good.”
“Well, I can’t control him either. I just made him cry. I don’t think that’s good.”
So, not feeling particularly good about my brilliant teaching skills today.
* Bonze gave this the careful consideration he gives to everything, and then said that he wants to move to America and be a farmer. …I guess it’s hard to do that in Japan, if your family doesn’t already have a farm? Jerkface, who has stated an intention to climb Ayers Rock, told Bonze that Australia would be better. Ken’ichi also wants to go to America, though he did not specify what he would do there. Maybe he just wanted to follow Bonze.*** Bonze is kind of a rock star. A tiny stoical monk rock star who always sits seiza-style. Okay, I, too, find this completely adorable – I’m just always surprised by the level of devotion he apparently inspires in other guys.
** I have the records of the previous four teachers (two of whom irritatingly have the same name), but no earlier ones, for whatever reason. Today I learned that Jerkface and Bonze have been around longer than my records extend. They were listing off the names of teachers they’d had here, and they knew six names. This makes them feel like ancient sages to me.
*** I think Ken’ichi’s one of the ones who said he wanted to go Mexico before.