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Saturday, Feb. 2, 2002

JAPAN LITE

Five ways to ensure classroom collapse


All the talk in Japan about classroom collapse, where teachers have lost control and students wander in and out, brings back memories of my junior high in the United States. There was no such thing as classroom collapse in those days. Instead, it was called normal.

From what I remember of my two short years in the public school system, the "classroom kingdom" would have been more appropriately labeled the "animal kingdom." The classroom dynamics were very much in the hands of students who ensured chaos by running a secret society involving budding yellow journalists, gossip columnists, soap opera hopefuls and future CIA officials. Our society was knitted together through clandestine operations including hand signals, notes and test answers sent via hacking coughs.

How did our teachers deal with us? Through threats and warnings. Here are some famous teacher threats that ensured the classroom stayed in the hands of punks.

Am I going to have to separate you two girls?

This was the ultimate compliment, a public acknowledgment of a bond between two girls, that would surely seal their friendship. Although assigned seating in alphabetical order is meant to help prevent students from talking in class, no one has figured out how to prevent even the most unlikely best-friend relationships from instantly taking root between girls who would hate each other if they were seated on opposite sides of the room. Seating is of utmost importance to girls in junior high. It is common knowledge that two girlfriends may contract fatal diseases if they are not with each other throughout an entire class period. There is even suspicion among teachers that friendship is genetic and that students are more likely to become best friends with those whose last name begins with the same letter.

Am I going to have to send you to the principal's office?

This is the ultimate compliment for a boy. Everyone admired, even if only secretly, the boy who was sent to the principal's office. Students were awed by his ability to challenge the most feared adults who dared interfere. His bad-boy negotiation skills entertained the rest of the class, who looked on as he tested the teacher's patience to see how far he could go before being personally escorted to the principal's office. Among those students left behind, the curiosity of what actually happened behind the closed doors of the principal's office was immense. The bad boy could make up any manner of valiant stories and we would have believed him. He was a hero in our eyes.

One more outburst and you're going to have to stay after school for detention!

At first, detention is no fun. You have to stay after school and sit in a classroom with other students under the close supervision of a teacher. But after a couple of times, you become friends with the other students and it soon becomes a party among the inmates, sort of a members-only club. You might even actually get some homework done.

If I hear of anyone giving problems to the substitute teacher, you're in for detention!

When a regular teacher was absent, usually a substitute teacher came in for the day. An unknown teacher guaranteed chaos. Most students would take on completely different identities for the day. I could be the A student for the day by answering to my friend's name, and she could be the sports goddess for the day by turning in her paper with my name on it. We knew we'd never get detention for such innocent fun.

You're the worst class in the history of the school!

We were always told our class was the worst class in the history of the school, as if we would be ashamed. To the contrary, we couldn't have been more proud! We were making our mark on society. We would be remembered forever. Hooray class of '81!

No wonder my parents yanked me out and enrolled me in private school after just two years.

E-mail: amychavez2000@yahoo.com Web site: www.amychavez.com


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