Don’t Forget Your Pencil!

Time for a quick rant about my job as an English teacher in Japan. Before continuing, please read my disclaimer.

This post is about children who forget to bring a pencil to class. Do I even need to say more? Surely that’s like going swimming without you’re trunks! If you’re going to school, take a pencil. It really shouldn’t be any more complicated than that, right?

Why then, do I have kids who repeatedly forget to bring a pencil? I’m going to assume that they have two bags; one for regular school, and one for English class.. but only one pencil case, and you know which bag that’s in.

After one of my seven-year-olds forgot his pencil for the umpteenth time, I decided to teach him a lesson. Instead of lending him a pencil as I usually do, I sharpened my own pencil and deliberately broke the tip off it. I gave him the tiny broken pencil tip and told him to write with it for the rest of class, and if he didn’t like it (which he clearly didn’t), he should bring his own pencil the next week.

One week passed and back he came, again without a pencil.

So, what can you do? In the Eikaiwa industry, making your student write with a tiny, broken piece of lead is such a horrendous punishment that any other school would have a disciplinary meeting with me and put me under observation! In the Eikaiwa industry, disciplining students doesn’t go much further than having the secretary ask the student to be a little nicer… and to bring a pencil. Why? Because parents pay for their children to enjoy learning English, not actually to learn English. At least that’s the way it seems. Either way, they don’t pay for their children to be told off, and it makes you wonder if ESL in Japan is a big joke.

What did I do? Well, I stepped out of the classroom and told his mum directly, in front of the other mothers, that he had forgotten his pencil (and homework) again, and to make sure he comes to class prepared next time. If you can’t discipline the kid, embarrass the mother!

If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!

2 thoughts on “Don’t Forget Your Pencil!

  1. Ahh Nick don’t stress about it.. and yeah the kids arent there to learn they are there to have fun or whatever.. I love Japan, but if English was a priority the country would be completely fluent by now.. when you consider all of the money spent on English education in Japan in the past 30 years, its amazing that hardly anyone actually speaks it…. But I guess it all comes down to what the Education ministry there feels is important… University entrance exams dont test spoken English and so its not a priority… Oh well.. it’s their money!

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