Saturday, October 02, 2004

Bad teacher

Today I handled a tricky situation badly. I'm not going to write about it in detail now because I'm too damned tired - I was up at 5.30 am, and it's past midnight now.

But I wish I hadn't been so persistent. The student in question has a mental problem. I should have noticed how bad it was, and didn't. I hope I didn't traumatize him too badly. He is obviously deteriorating. In the first semester he seemed excessively shy, but was able to speak when it was necessary, and did his homework, and was able to squeak through. He has now stopped speaking altogether, in any language, and stopped doing homework as well.

I hope he comes back next week, so I can ... not apologize. I don't think that would help. But I want to give him some options he might be able to manage. I don't think I did that today. Actually I think it's unlikely that he can cope with the options either, but I want to try.

But... I'm still not even sure if I should. The cultural thing is rearing its ugly head. I know teachers in Japan are supposed to be parent figures/counselors/nannies at school, but is this also true at university? Are we supposed to make allowances for mental problems and just pass students who can't learn because they can't cope with life and it would be 'unfair' to expect them to? Is it professional to pass a student who didn't do the required work? Is it even kind to pretend he did, or to give him an easy way out? Or is it just making things worse?

I must consult my Japanese teacher friends. I did consult one Japanese teacher I bumped into at the bus stop after work, and she wasn't much help. She doesn't know me well enough to be completely honest. Her comment was that for some students just getting to class is all they can manage and you can't expect more from them. But she didn't tell me if she passed them. I asked, but she avoided answering.

I think that means she does.

And I don't know if I like that idea.

I hate the fact that I am spending so much time on one student who shouldn't be in university at all. I hate the fact that most likely his other teachers are just going to pass him and hope he goes away. I hate the fact that most likely nothing I do will make any difference. He needs help, in a big way, and urgently. There is no proper system set up for helping people like him.

I'm not qualified for this and I'm way out of my depth. I can tell I'm going to be going around and around with this. I need to get some sleep. Maybe then I'll get some perspective back. Maybe the right thing to do will be obvious in the morning.