Thursday, 8 February 2007

Anti-internationalism

Yesterday I went to the Elementary school. I had a class with the sixth-grade students in which we played a passport game. I made the kids practice asking and answering these questions:

What is your name?
Where are you from?
How old are you?
Where are you going?

Therefore, as well as doing something fun and reviewing previous lessons, it was also a good way to make the kids think of something beyond the borders of Japan. I showed them pictures from many countries, and they had to decide which one they wanted to visit. During the role-playing activity at the end of class, the kids were all using English enthusiastically. Also, they had done very well at thinking outside the square. Sure, there were a disproportionate number of children who wanted to go to America or England, but there were also children who said they want to go to Egypt, Russia, Iceland, Mongolia, Peru . . . In short, a good lesson.

Until the end of class when the homeroom teacher DESTROYED ALL MY GOOD WORK!!! He decided to take the time at the end to point out that ‘foreigners’ are not as kind as Japanese people; in fact they are very scary. He told the kids to learn the dialogue and all other essential English off-by-heart, absolutely perfectly before even thinking about going overseas, otherwise they will get yelled at by scary airport staff. He told them about the time he went to Hawaii on a tour and a ‘big black lady’ was yelling “Hurry up! Hurry up!” at them to get them moving. If I know anything about Japanese people, I know that a group of them in an unfamiliar situation will stand where they are left, blocking the way for people, collectively thinking “What to do? What to do?” and waiting for one of their number to make the first move, so the airport lady was probably quite justified at telling them to hurry up. But even if Mr. Sixth-grade Teacher has been yelled at in Honolulu airport, that doesn’t mean that he should tell his students about it and scare them into spending their whole lives hiding in Japan and never going out to see what the rest of the world has to offer. Jerk.
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