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Recent Changes in Japanese Children, Teachers, and Parents

Educational experts give a number of reasons for the recent incidents of violence by junior-high school students. Among these reasons, they cite: "Less interaction among children the same age has caused a decline in communication skills." "Parents don't scold their children so children lack patience." "Fewer teachers can understand children's feelings." "Neither teachers nor children have much extra time since the five day school week was introduced." It seems that a combination of factors is responsible for the unusual behavior of junior-high school students. We will continue to consider the causes of such incidents from diverse points of view.
Source: This article was originally written for "Education Forum" April,1998 issue published by Benesse Corporation

We talked to some recently retired junior-high principals and asked them about the changes they have seen in children, teachers, and parents over the years.

On CHILDREN: "Children can't communicate openly and sincerely."

Nowadays, junior-high students tend to express their feelings in an abrupt manner: "XX ignored me!" "That pisses me off!" "Drop dead!" They react to situations without thinking them through and lack the patience to tolerate something that bothers them. Both home life and school are responsible for making students like this.

We need to consider how to encourage open, sincere communication at home and at school. But, in our fast-paced society today, we have little time and energy to do this. Words reveal what each person feels at a certain moment and they reflect her or her way of life. Children need to gain experience in choosing words to use. Words are tools to create viewpoints and they help us see things from different perspectives. Children need to learn to observe a situation closely and express their feelings about it in a precise manner. This will encourage them to step back and think about a situation before losing their temper. But, first, adults should be models to children and try to display a willingness to observe a situation and listen calmly.

On PARENTS: "Some parents believe in their children blindly and overprotect them!"

These days, parents tend to overprotect their children. As living standards have improved, the number of children per household has declined and parents now give children all their time and love. Parents feel sorry for their children if they have a problem and help them without letting them learn to handle problems on their own. Some parents still continue to take care of everything for their children even after they have graduated from high school.

On the other hand, there are some parents who do not do anything for their children because they are too busy. While the children of these parents are independent and learn to take care of themselves, their upbringing tends to make them self-indulgent and disobedient. When teachers want to talk to such parents about their children's problems at school, many of them fail to show up.

It is natural for parents to believe their own children and place the blame on other people. We all try to defend ourselves when criticized. In such situations, it is not easy to listen calmly to what others say. We should encourage parents to understand this about themselves. As teachers, we can provide parents with information on how to relate to their children.

On TEACHERS: "Fewer teachers know how to talk to students!"

Junior-high school students like famous brand goods like "Nike" shoes. They do not think it's wrong to use other people's things without asking first or even to shoplift. They are very selfish, but also anxious about their image. They lose their temper when scolded in front of other students. They whisper in class and show no interest in learning. They can not make decisions on their own. These are tendencies that we see more and more, but of course, they don't apply to all students. Nevertheless, it is a fact that teaching is becoming increasingly difficult.

In general, teachers are very capable, and many don't like to be told how to teach. Nowadays, fewer teachers know how to communicate with students. Many teachers lecture students on their problems instead of trying to come up with solutions together. Classes do not reflect students' interests so it's not surprising that students find them boring.

If we want students to show greater awareness of moral issues, adults around them should be good examples and have the confidence to say what is wrong is wrong. At home and in society, it is important for students to experience the importance of patience, working hard, and delaying gratification to attain a goal. It is also a good idea to show adults what school life is actually like for students. Teachers need to improve lesson content. Teachers can try to make classes more appealing to students even though they themselves were taught in a different way.

A lot of information is available on make classes more interesting. These methods include team teaching and other forms of cooperation among teachers or working with local specialists on lesson content. We can tackle present problems through teacher cooperation.

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