Odd Dynamics


An odd dynamic has popped up and I have been trying to figure out if it is general to societies everywhere. I am teaching at a junior high school in a somewhat countryside setting. Four elementary schools feed into this school. Two are quite large (332 and 368 students) and situated in the more developed part of the district. The other two are smaller (67 and 108 students) and located in quite remote areas.

One of the small schools has received English lessons from native speakers for several years now. Retention of knowledge and quality of pronunciation are both high at the smaller schools. I think the small class sizes (8 to 22) play a tremendous role, as the teachers are able to give attention to each student. I rarely encounter behavior issues while teaching at those schools, so I often end out with spare time at the end of classes to cover additional material.

Enter the bizarre twist. My feeling is that the students from those schools are not the star performers at the junior high. Picture being in a class where you know 40% of the other students. Now picture being in a class where you know only 3 other students. For the children from the large schools they still feel like they belong when they enter 7th grade, but those from the small schools are put into rooms with a bunch of strangers (who already know each other.) I think the advanced students end out being shy and nervous.

Of course anyone who was a nerd in school also knows that speaking up to answer the questions that the other kids won’t answer will most likely bring some pain. The Japanese system seems to magnify this; hence the Japanese saying: “The nail that sticks up will be pounded down.”

My feeling is that this probably would occur in any society. It’s a shame that one can’t get the benefit of the small rural school without the difficult transition to a suburban middle school.

I remember kind of an opposite effect as a kid, when a local Catholic school (which only provided K-8 education) fed into our (7th-9th grade) junior high. Suddenly there were a lot of new kids in 9th grade, but they all knew each other, so in someways the existing students were outsiders.

Another odd dynamic occurred today, which made me very happy. One class almost never raises their heads; rarely repeats after me when I ask; and often look very glum. Today they went through our standard greeting with feeling and energy. Listen to me read and repeat after me instructions were followed smoothly. There were a few bumps along the way, but I was amazed at how well class went. If that happens next week I will probably cry with joy.


One Response to “Odd Dynamics”

  1. sunkissd1 Says:

    Interesting how some things are so universal. My daughter found the same thing when entering public middle school from an elementary background in private school, then again, when leaving the middle school and enrolling in a different middle school. She quickly learned at her new school that you don’t volunteer that you’re from that other school. New school thinks kids from the other one are snobs.

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