Today, I made one of my students cry.

Discipline in Japan is very different from America.  Though corporeal punishment is definitely not the norm, I’ve heard of plenty of second hand stories about teachers hitting their students.  And there’ve been plenty of times that I’ve walked into the staff room and zoomed back out just as fast because some poor kid was getting laid into by their homeroom teacher.  Tears flying down his face practically mixing with the spittle as the teacher screams.  It’s disconcerting, awful, and terrifying.  And Japanese people consider it “culture,” so I’m stepping on toes whenever I comment that maybe this teacher is being a little harsh.

I hate when other people cry, because I always want to cry with them.

But today, when my student cried, my heart broke and mended at the same time.

Those who follow me on twitter might be aware that I had a fancy schmancy “Culture” lesson this week on Katy Perry’s “Firework.”  Though the speech is fast and a little slurred, and the treble could be a bit more equalized, I thought I’d teach it because I like the message behind it.  (I also like the relationship it has to It Gets Better, though I didn’t talk about that in class however much I wanted to.)  It’s got a lot of similes and metaphors, so I can sorta pretend I’m teaching grammar at the same time.

As I was encouraging the students to answer this question, “Sometimes everyone feels weak and useless, like a plastic bag or a house of cards, but this song reminds us that we’re all fireworks–what does that mean?”, one of my boys started crying.  It was quiet.  And he was in the back of the class.  So only I noticed, because only I was facing him.

His father died three weeks ago.

He was absent for a week and has barely spoken since, when before that he was constantly giving me sass.  He’d never really tried in class before, either–he’s not the best student, and he doesn’t think English is important for him to learn.  But when I replayed the song for the students to sing along, he sang along.

I think that means that “Firework” helped him a little.  Or maybe it’s just a rocktastic song.

Moral of the story?: MUSIC + ENGLISH = AWESOME.  The end.

O-bon festival 2009, O-hori Park, Fukuoka. Yes, I took this picture.