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During my career as an English teacher spanning over four decades, there was a time when something unusual began occurring in my classroom. Students chatted away, with some even standing up in the middle of the lesson, and occasionally, arguments would break out among them. It was really a challenging period.
Around the same time, I noticed that similar problems were happening all over Japan – what they called the “collapse of classes and lessons.” I felt helpless, and I wasn’t sure how to control my students better again.
Then, I came across a book called “Restitution” with the subtitle “Restructuring School Discipline.” It sounded promising, so I decided to give it a try. After all, I had nothing to lose.
The book suggested a different approach to dealing with misbehavior. Instead of punishing students, it encouraged talking to them.
I started by saying to a student who broke a window, for example, “I’d like you to do something, if you’re willing, that can change how your classmates see you and make you proud of yourself. It would be even better if this ‘task’ had something to do with a window. Can you think of anything?”
I loved the author’s idea of dealing with discipline issues. It felt democratic, not forceful, and focused on the future rather than dwelling on past mistakes.
As I continued with this approach, I got better at it. My relationship with my students improved, and teaching English became less of a challenge.
One day, during a culture day event, a talented student performed a mimicry act,
imitating us teachers. The audience burst into laughter. Then, he said, “Next is
Imamura-sensei.” Then he said mimicking me, “Would you please die?”
I was shocked, especially in the context of “Restitution.” I realized that I might
have been too superficially kind without genuinely caring for my students.
The mimicry act wasn’t understood by anyone else in the audience, but it hit
home for me.
Looking back, I realized that “Restitution” is more of a skill than a grand
educational vision. However, it did help me regain control of my classroom and
saved my teaching career. I am now truly grateful for this English book that
turned my teaching experience around.