Kids Will be Kids
When I first entered the doors of Doshisha’s kindergarten I didn’t know what to expect. How were the children going to react to me? Will they be any different from the children in America? Turns out children are equally energetic and wound up any where in the world. Everywhere I looked they were screaming, clawing at each other, jumping off the slide, hanging upside-down from monkey bars. To be honest, I was a little terrified.
Then I heard the first “Hello!” Many other small voices hesitantly followed, tiptoeing towards me as to get a closer look. My reply resulted in an explosion of giggles from the investigative party. I can certainly say spending time with these children allowed me to see a unique facet of Japanese life.
Most of the time I felt the kindergarten wasn’t much different than that in the United States, there was one apparent difference. When children got frustrated, or angry, sometimes just a little too energetic I often saw them hit (or even tackle) their teachers. Thankfully, because I am a foreigner I was granted a “barrier” from the children’s physical attacks. But the teachers I encountered weren’t as lucky; I witnessed countless numbers of secret ambushes. The teachers seemed more like “human piñatas” than “figures of authority.”
As an American, I found this shocking. I’d grown up with the idea that a “good parent” or a “good teacher” was someone who set strict boundaries and, when those were crossed, consequences. I’d assumed that these standards were the same no matter where you were in the world. But after volunteering at the kindergarten I realized rules aren’t considered nearly as important as fostering the development of a mutual child/teacher friendship. To me, this seemed more effective than the strict rules placed in American schools. All in all, it was an eye-opening experience that allowed to me to experience teaching English and, in turn, gave me new insight into Japanese culture.
Wha! Tackle teacher? This actually sounds like amazing fun for a kid. I wonder what the motive is for encouraging a friendlier student/teacher relationship from the kindergarten level, versus the “teacher as an authority figure” model in American education?
Yeah, the tackling thing does seem to be a bit extreme…considering that the social hierarchy in Japan can be stifling at times, and that as the child grows older, the teacher’s role as an authority figure will also grow. Maybe the workers at the kindergarten take on the role as a type of foster parent rather than teacher.
That’s a really interesting cultural difference, and I can definitely see a connection between raising kids in this way and all the unspoken social rules of Japanese society that we American kids had to adjust to.
Could you expand a little more on how teachers developed the “mutual child/teacher friendship”? And did you see any cases where, no matter how hard a teacher tried, he/she could not establish this kind of mutually sympathetic relationship with a student?