Imagine, you are 14. You are in class listening to increasingly harder lessons, but you would rather be playing sports, video games or simply chilling with your friends. You have no end in sight of this terrible thing called schooling. You have no drive, after all, people who study are nerds, and you don’t want to be one of those. Heaven forbid! So you doodle in your workbook, consider taking a nap, then turn to your friend and start chatting. Sound familiar?
I’m sorry to tell you, you have just been diagnosed with Chuunibyou. Second year sickness.
This is a very real and serious sickness that every Junior High School teacher in Japan faces. How to get my second years motivated, energetic, and most of all excited about learning. I will absolutely admit that reality is it’s the biggest uphill battle you will face on a daily basis. After all, I sympathise, I was a 14-year-old know-it-all myself.
As first years in Junior High, students are still very much elementary kids. They love games and are pretty malleable as students. As third years, they are focusing on High School entrance exams and mature so fast. Soon you will lose them to the wider world and they are gone forever (prepare to shed tears at the Graduation). But as second years? Well, they begin to get cocky. They have no pressure of impending exams and are starting to find their adult selves.
So how do you deal with it?
Three simple steps.
This is actually harder than it seems. You have to make everything a game that doesn’t look childish. This takes creativity but also it’s important to remember that at this age, everything is a competition. Take a simple game and add a Batsu (punishment). Add a race component. If they can fight and challenge each other for points or see someone receive a punishment, the lesson becomes more satisfying and engaging.
Pro tip: A personal favourite is to add a skull card to a match game. If the skull is revealed, that person must return all their cards to the unmatched and shuffle the unmatched cards. Sounds simple. Sounds lame. But trust me, it gets wild pretty quickly.
This sounds like a challenge. But the easiest way is to, instead of relying on the students to answer if they feel like it, use a random feature. For all my classes I use volunteer cards (pictured below) which are numbered up to 40. As all students have a number, this is a great way to randomise them. They are always in my back pocket. So I just pull one out and those students are it. It gives the students a little more impetus to focus. In some classes, the students actively request the volunteer cards.
Pro tip: Make a note of the numbers in each class that are unable to play, or problematic and remove the cards from the deck prior to the lesson.
As a teacher this seems basic. But many of my colleagues have asked me how I have such a great rapport with my students? I take the time to learn about them. I have over 500 students and it’s impossible to learn all of them, so my key is to find common popular interests. For example, Love Live anime or Arashi the Jpop band. I spend an inordinate amount of time watching and listening to these things, and then incorporating them into my lessons. It makes the lessons interesting to the students because they can talk about the things they like.
Pro tip: For an added bonus, learn something related that you can use. For example, I learnt how to do ‘Nico Nico Nii’ from Love Live and the kids lose their heads when I do it in class.
Self-medication. Make sure you have lots of coffee or energy drinks around. Because if you want your students to output 100% you need to output double that. It can be highly exhausting. So stay hydrated with water and caffeinated.
Be sure that you have an emergency supply of your favourite booze, sweets or meals at home to help you regenerate those HP points after a rough day, because, despite best efforts, you will have terrible lessons.
Just keep on teaching!