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Apathetic? Shy? Or just plain useless?

October 10, 2006

Man. I was gonna write all about my weekend in Osaka, but I've just come back from a 3rd-grade class and I'm pissed off, so I'm not in the mood anymore. I'm gonna write about that.

This is the first class I finally got free reign over to do what I wanted, which was awesome (despite the fact that I only got told about that on Friday evening, and the class was today – the first day back after the long weekend). It was 3rd grade (15yo) and in the afternoon. That is always tricky times. The 3rd grade hate to speak up in class, and any afternoon class is always way too relaxed and tired to bother too much.

So I figured I'd kick it off with a bit of a fun game. Considering the strict regime they usually have, they love the opportunity to break it up. So I figured I'd do this game where half the class stood on one side of the room, and half on the other. The kids on one side had a bit of paper with an English sentence written on it. Their partner had to listen to them read it out and write it down and then bring that to me. Because of the competition, the kids yell as loud as they can, which means the whole room is raucous and it's an awesome change from sitting there listening to someone drone on for ages. This whole thing was meant to take about 5 minutes to wake them up and get them pumped for the rest of the class.

But Christ. They simply refused to listen. After the initial classically lethargic greetings, I asked everyone to stand up. Nobody did. So I asked again. And again. With raising palm hand gestures and everything. They eventually did. The I asked them to get into pairs. They just stared at me. So I tried again. Nope. So I went through and paired everyone off. Then asked, "OK, so does everyone know who their partner is?" No response. So I asked a couple of random people. They didn't know who their partner was. So I did it again, but getting the kids to sit down once I had partnered them, so they saw who they sat down with. But then I found kids were just starting to sit down whenever they felt like it. So I'd ask, "do you have a partner?" They'd say yes, but then when I asked them who, they didn't know. Or they picked someone completely random who was actually someone else's partner. So that didn't work either.

I began to get pretty pissed off. It had been about 7 or 8 minutes and still we hadn't even got pairs. So I stood at the front of the class and split down the middle, getting everyone one one side to move to that side, and everyone on the other side to move to their side. But they didn't. So I desperately stood there trying to split them, looking like Moses parting the Red Sea (or trying to, but failing, since this was a much tougher task). I had to walk all down the middle and hustle people off like a sheepdog or something. Then I tried to get each side to stand in a line, which they found impossible because the ones on the side were standing in front of their desks. So I had to explain how to take a step and stand beside their desk. To each student in those rows. Eventually I got two lines. Then I got the first in each row to raise their hand. "OK. You're a pair." Then the two behind them, please raise your hands. It took a while, but eventually they did. They'd sort of start to, then get scared, so put their hand down and look the other way or something. I honestly don't know what the hell was wrong with them. I was getting pretty annoyed, and so I let my voice get a bit louder and sharper. They stared at me a bit more intently, but still didn't actually do anything.

Eventually, I got all the pairs made. Then I gave the paper out to one side, and asked the other side to grab a pen and paper. Then gave them paper. And asked them to please get a pen. Some didn't have pens. So I asked where their pen was, and they would tell me it was on their desk. So I asked them to please get it. But they wouldn't. Eventually, someone else brought their pen over for them.

Then, the game could start. They all yelled at each other and had a great time and eventually I got a winning pair bringing up a correct sentence. So I gave them each a NZ pen, though I'd long ago decided nobody really deserved a prize after all.

Then it was time to have the actual lesson. And that went terrible as well. I tried to explain "Would you like –?" and "May I have — ?" constructions. Every time I asked, "Do you understand?", I'd of course get no response. They just sat there and stared at me. So I'd have to force some kid to tell me (after asking them several times). I asked them to practice it amongst themselves by asking each other for things like pencils and pens, and offering things as well. After a long lull, they began talking to each other. Then I tried to get random pairs to stand up (after asking them to several times) and asked them to give an example to the class, but they'd just stare at me. So I'd try to explain again. But they'd just stare at me. So I'd start the sentence myself, hoping they'd pick it up. "May …. I … have … " … no response … " … that … pen?" And they'd still just keep staring at me. In dumb silence. With pair after pair.

And eventually the class ended.

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