Yesterday, after Mika-chan punched Takahashi in the gut, I decided that I had better have another clarification session with Kawaguchi-sensei cause I wasn’t about to endure injury for the cause of teaching English to an armed Bi-Polar, ADHD suffering juvenile delinquent. I also wanted to find out how I could help Takahashi who, though I feel she must be doing something to provoke this violent behavior, I’m still kind of on suicide watch with her. She might be a Babaa but she doesn’t deserve to die.
I had a sit down with Kawaguchi and it went as follows:
Wait a minute!
Did I tell you guys about the Mika gut punch already? I didn’t did I? OK, let’s backtrack.
Aisatsu (greeting) time at the start of a class should occur within one minute of the bell to begin class. Once all the kids are seated, the designated student (it changes daily I think) says: “Ki wo Tsuke…” to which all the students stand at attention and prepare to bow, followed by, “…rei!” at which point they all bow. Then, fairly in unison, they shout, “Onegai shimasu!” which has a dozen meanings but in this case I presume, from the students’ perspective, it means something like,”Ok, we’re here now so do us a favor and please teach us something useful.” All seats should be filled by this point, I should add. An absent student is rare and a late student is even rarer still. Yesterday, there was one empty seat in the class well into the second minute after the bell…
Betcha can’t guess who’s?
“Who’s seat is that in the back?” I asked Takahashi. The seating arrangement changes so frequently at my schools, I can never keep up.
Takahashi just looked at me, eyes squinted, lips pursed, and cheeks puffed out. A weary look filled with dread and dark thoughts, for Japanese anyway. To me it looks like a petulant child or a spoiled little girl upon being told “no!”
“Mika’s seat, I see…” I said, trying to look like I commiserated. “Where is she?”
Through the shaded window of the classroom’s door a shadow shaped like a midget sumo wrestler had appeared. It dawdled there a moment like it was telling itself, “Ok, I won’t kill her today, I won’t kill her today…I can do this…” I nodded towards the door. Takahashi turned as it slid open and Mika walked in, leaving the door open in her wake, and leisurely strolled through the aisles to her seat in the back; the whole class trying to ignore her. Usually, believe it or not, lateness would incure all kinds of hissing and booing from your fellow students, it’s such a no-no here. But, in Mika’s case, it was as if everyone knew that even the slightest sound or eye contact with her could incur her wrath. She slammed herself into her chair, making as much noise as possible, reached into her desk, pulled out a manga magazine I wasn’t familiar with, held it up before her face and began to read it.
Takahashi sighed aloud and glanced at me. “Go ahead and begin the lesson,” she whispered as she made her way to the back of the room, like a dead man walking towards the gas chamber.
The students were torn between paying attention to me and sneaking a peek at what they were sure was going to be something to see in the back of the room. Takahashi-sensei said something I couldn’t hear from the front of the class with the body language of “please don’t make my life any more difficult than you already do.” Mika put the Manga down on her desk and glared those cold coal black eyes at Takahashi. I couldn’t hear the words but her body language replied, “Bitch, if you don’t back up off of me, I’m gonna break the promise I made to myself at the door not to kill your sorry ass!” Then, I saw Takahashi, and Mika, both reach for the Manga…
Oh yes oh yes oh yes they both, oh yes they both, oh yes they both, reached for the manga…
Nope, a tug of war did not ensue. Mika snatched it from Takahashi’s weakened and terrified resolve and backhanded her in the gut, shouting “Jama! Shine!” (Fuck off and go to hell!) Takahashi must have had, at that moment, the same thought that raced through my head: If she’d had a knife in her hand, Takahashi would be mortally wounded right now, but I gotta give it to Takahashi: she stood her ground. She actually reached for the manga again, and the backhand came again, only this time she blocked it…and spewed some corrosive Japanese I can never catch. Words of scolding I’m sure cause Mika looked about half a heartbeat from going into one of the tantrums of rage she’s prone to. So, Takahashi backed off and Mika, satisfied that she’d won this battle, returned the Manga to its position in front of her face.
Actually, with Mika not making efforts to disrupt the class, which is her modus operandi, the class went very well. The kids were able to practice and use the grammar. At one point during the class I was having so much fun with the students that I noticed Mika peak from behind her manga to see what was making the girls giggle so much. She placed down the manga and actually leaned in to catch a glimpse of the Karuta game we were playing in groups. We made eye contact and I could see that her temper was still hot but that it was exclusively for Takahashi-sensei, not at me and not at her fellow students. But, about five minutes before the bell rang, Mika reverted to form and started making the chime noise with her mouth very loudly: “DING DIng Ding ding…ding Ding DIng DING!” Over and over until the actual bell rang.
Once it rang, once again the students do aisatsu: “Kiwotsuke…rei! Arigato Gozaimashita!”
Mika came immediately up to Takahashi-sensei like they’d had unfinished business that needed settling immediately. She actually came to pick a fight with her. I could see it in her eyes. She just needed a reason. During the class, Takahashi, a very talented sketch artist, had drawn with a yellow piece of chalk a rendering of Sponge Bob Square Pants so accurately and adroitly that the whole class was oohing and ahhing…that is, everyone except Mika.
Mika picked up the yellow piece of chalk after the class while Takahashi and I were packing up to leave and began to deface the work…Takahashi saw this and reached to take the chalk from Mika’s hand. Mika drew the hand back, holding it close to her, drawing Takahashi in like a black widow. Then she went toward the board again and Takahashi reached for the chalk a little more aggressively, and…umph! right in the goddamn gut! Sucker punched. Not hard, but hard enough. I saw Takahashi actually restrain herself from hitting her back, and again I was impressed with her.
Mika laughed, her face red and evil.
So, when I got back to the office I scheduled a little talk with Kawaguchi, and this morning we had it.
You won’t believe what she told me today!
Stay tuned for episode 7, coming real soon!