Another Phonecall From The School

9 Feb

On Friday evening I got a call from the school.

History tells us that the school doesn’t ring to tell us what a great day Shou has had and/or how well he did in math or something.

No, history tells us Shou’s teacher rings to impart such things as ‘HTB and Shou were playing handshakes, HTB lost his balance and is now in the nurses room with an egg on his head’, or ‘the kids were playing with basketballs in the gym at lunchtime when Shou threw a ball and the other kid turned at the last minute at got it to the side of the face and is subsequently now in the nurses room with an egg on his head,’ or, and this is the gem it truly is, ‘Shou and a 3rd grader were fighting when Shou put him in a headlock. The 3rd grader bit his arm and thus Shou is going home with teeth marks…’ Then there was the whole fiasco with the summer holidays.

Friday’s was a bit more serious. Serious in that it wasn’t just Shou being a seven year old boy, or having better balance or being the one that didn’t hurt himself when him and HTB both fell.

I have had issues with the school walking group before. Basically there are 6 kids, the 6th grader walks at the back and is ‘in charge’, she is followed by a 3rd year boy, Shou, a 2nd grade girl, HTB and then the 5th grade boy is supposed to walk in the front. They walk along a main and busy road and are meant to walk in single file and not piss round. Obviously Shou and HTB, when they started last year, couldn’t walk more than 2m without turning around to talk to each other, fall over, stop to pick up sticks rah rah. Hence why I walked with them and got the school to change the order so the older kids were in between them – you know, the more responsible ones, who could tell them to stop bleating and walk straight for Christ sake.

I now pass the group walking after I have dropped Marina and Ryu off. They are usually late because the 6th grader and her sister are consistently ten minutes late to the meeting point EVERY morning. They are starting out behind and in a ‘need to hurry up mode’.  The 5th grader rarely walks at the front, preferring to saunter back to talk to the 2nd and 3rd grader. This leaves the slowest and least coordinated boy at the front, HTB. Without someone ‘to follow’ he starts turning round and trying to join in the fun (as you would), and the pace slows and inevitably he falls over cause he’s trying to look at all the cars (he knows the make of every car ever made), pick up sticks, and listen to the conversation. I do feel sorry for him. Multi tasking for this kid is H.A.R.D.

Apparantly, since about the start of term 2 (we are now in term 3, or maybe 4 – not sure but the start of term 2 was months ago), four of the kids, Shou included, have taken it upon themselves to occassionaly kick or push the back of HTBs big hard Japanese school bag to get him to go faster. I have no doubt this was perhaps coupled with phrases like ‘omae, hayaku ike’ (bloody hurry up) and the likes. This isn’t happening the whole way to school – but it is happening at least once every second morning or so.

Shou’s teacher, on Friday, said they had all had a group meeting, in which the kids admitted to doing this, HTB admitted to having put up with all this ‘bullying’ for ages and not saying anything, and the oldest girl admitted to trying to tell them to walk properly but nobody listened so she just left it. The teacher had spoken to the principal and actions were being taking. Bullying is taken urber (I don’t even really know what the means) seriously in Japan. The teacher was ringing all the parents. I have no idea what the other parents said but I probably spoke to her for about 20 minutes. I usually have quite an opinion about these things, as you know.

Obviously, I said how shocked I was and how sorry I was that Shou was involved with this. I then went into half defense mode and half solving mode. The kids are expected by the school to walk. I take Shou in the car when its pissing down with rain or we have a typhoon warning. Most kids still walk and Shou actually got some shit from the other kids on the days he went in the car. His teacher even approached me and said the school would prefer if I still made Shou walk in the rain. I said no. I would go along with the ‘build character’ and ‘team group’ shit for walking the other days but unless she could gurantee he wasn’t going to spend the day cold and wet then I would continue to drive him on those days and I would prefer it if the school, the teachers included, didn’t tell him how weak he was for his mother driving him. It wasn’t HIS choice it was MY choice. shut the fuck up rah rah.

I digress, what I’m getting at is that if the school REQUIRES the kids to walk every morning then in my opinion they needed to try and provide, to the best of their ability, an evironment in which the older kids know the dangers and guided the younger kids. Does the school have a walking workshop for the older kids I asked? once or twice a year? This might sound dumb to a lot of you. Or perhaps the school could implement a rewards system whereby the head of the walking group report each day, or once a week, and the kids could get a certificate or something – congratulations, you have been a responsible walker for term 2. Or something.

Anyhoo, this doesn’t take away from the fact that HTB was starting to not want to walk to school. On Friday we had a family meeting. Pivaleges were taken away and future consequences were talked about. We tried to talk about how Shou would feel if it was him getting pushed and told to walk faster every day. Tried to see if he remembered how it felt when the kid at soccer was giving him shit and he came home with half a black eye. But he couldn’t. Just said that was fine cause the next week everything was fine. I think its very hard to teach empathy to a seven year old when they haven’t experienced anything similar.

Last night we rang HTB’s mum. Shou appologised to HTB, who was laughing and said he couldn’t believe we had rung becuase it was fine, and I had a long talk to his mum.

She said she was shocked on Friday when the teacher rang. She said she expects Shou and HTB to bicker like siblings because for the best part of each day it is just the two of them. But that she was really upset for her son knowing that the 2nd, 3rd and sometimes 5th grader were instigating things. We talked for a bit longer and I said I’d keep in contact with the teacher and if a week didn’t fix it, or as soon as it started again, I would start walking with them. I’m the only mum that has the flexibility to be able to do that really. When Marina starts first grade in a couple of months I’ll start walking everyday for a while anyway. Without the current 6th grader I fear it might get worse.

Gah, what a long post that turned out to be. Apologies. Fuck this parenting lark is taxing. It is very easy to get on the defensive and find the faults in the other kids, in the school, when your child is in the wrong too. I would be quite happy to drive Shou but that wouldn’t really teach him that he has to just walk nicely and that he can’t join in any name calling, and if the others still do it he has to be brave enough to tell the teacher when they get to school. Anyhoo, quite possibly off to NZ for 6 months come July. A lot needs to align for this to work and preparations have only just begun, but hub would like a solid yes or no within two weeks – so we can tell HTB’s parents and they have plenty of time to do the paperwork to move him to the school in town from the start of the school year (April) – like the father has threatened they would do on two occassions, if we took Shou back to NZ for any extended length of time.

With summer holidays and all the bollocks that goes with a Japanese sports day, Shou (and Marina) will only actually miss out on two months of 2nd and 1st grade study. And by miss out I mean not physically be there. I am sure the teachers will arm me with enough homework, summer workbooks, and drills to last us.

Luckily NZ primary schools don’t have much homework!



7 Responses to “Another Phonecall From The School”

  1. Tash February 9, 2014 at 2:40 am #

    We always have an adult on our walking school busses – I think you waking with them is a great solution, and doubles as your exercise for the day! You could power walk back even 🙂

    • gaijinwife February 9, 2014 at 3:32 am #

      definitely an adult walking takes away the school putting responsibility on a 12 year old! Its an hour round trip though so will be very good exercise 🙂 The School the kids might go to in NZ – have seen kids scooter to school. Sold the whole trip for Shou 🙂

  2. Tash February 9, 2014 at 2:40 am #

    *walking, not waking.

  3. Adam W February 9, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    It blows my mind that they’re even allowed to walk by themselves at all. But Japan is a lot safer than the U.S., I suppose. Do you think that HTB might have some behavioral disorder? I mean, obviously I have no idea how he is, but he seems really socially awkward in situations that are easy to gauge.

  4. Tracy February 10, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

    In NZ a lot of the schools have walking school buses and there is always at least one adult with them – wearing a high viz jacket – in fact I think the kids wear them as well. There definitely should be some adult supervision because lets face it, kids have the attention span of goldfish half the time and half the fun of walking to school is to chat to your mates 🙂

  5. littlebelgianwriter February 11, 2014 at 9:11 am #

    In my country, a lot of schools have got walking school buses too, but here a teacher has to walk the children to a designated pick up point, where the parents are waiting on their kids. It seems not responsible at all to have children take care of other children when there is not even a sidewalk.

    • heather February 13, 2014 at 1:52 am #

      ooooo the walking groups!! >_< When Meg was in grade 1 the head of the walking group was a soccer mad athlete. He used to lead the kids at double pace and then when someone yelled out they needed a break he'd stop UNTIL THE SLOWEST KID CAUGHT UP THEN KEEP GOING. Sorry for yelling but that peed me off no end as the slower kids were the ones doing it toughest after all! The grade 1s and 2s would arrive home bright red and panting. We led a mutiny and the walking group imploded and now my 2 walk with one other girl and that's it. I'm sure we lost out on safety if anything dire should occur but it beats daily boot camp!

      Don't let them beat you down!

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