I had a bit of a meltdown yesterday.
I’ve been under a bit of stress at work recently (admin issues I am not going to go into), which probably contributed to my reaction to my first period class yesterday morning.
Ten students were late, drifting in during the first five minutes of the class (another three turned up later).
For my class, I ask students to collect the work I return to them before the bell and make sure they are ready to start on time (I make sure I am there ten to fifteen minutes early to set up). We then normally finish five to ten minutes early.
Yesterday, I let the late students take their papers and sit down. I didn’t say anything for a minute or so.
Then I let them know I was annoyed. In a mixture of Japanese and English (I rarely speak Japanese in class, and only do so to make a point), I explained the following in a firm way without shouting 🙂
- The class starts when the chime goes at 8:50
- I expect them to be ready to start at that time
- For this many people to be casually late is completely unacceptable
- From next week, if you are late I am just going to send you home
- If you can’t come on time, don’t come
After which I switched back to my usual relaxed self and conducted the rest of the class normally.
The incident got me thinking though. I always end up thinking about things I do differently, especially when they are unplanned as this was.
I think it will work, with my students, at my university. They are good students, I’m not asking anything unreasonably, and the university pretty much lets teachers lay down the law.
The thing is, I would never have done anything like that with a class of adults, in any setting. And my students are adults, at least in the UK. Most of the second-year class yesterday are also legally adults in Japan. But I treated them like a junior high school class.
I often hear colleagues refer to university students as ‘kids’, and I used to make a point of not doing so myself. Recently, though, I have noticed the word creeping into my own conversations too.
I wonder if we are infantilizing university students? After all, universities in Japan are basically an extension of high school, with the same packed schedule, the same lecture-style teaching approach, and the same focus on tests, tests, tests.
Do the students behave childishly because they are childish or because we treat them like children?
I don’t have the answer to this, but I wonder about it sometimes…
Anyone else teach at a Japanese university? Would changing institutional and teacher expectations improve things?