For the most part Japanese elementary school students are the sweetest, cutest, most lovable representations of humanity on earth. The high-point of my week (as it is for many of the teachers in my program all across Japan) is the day at the elementary school (see video).
But today there were some poorly-hidden exceptions to the rule. I would’ve had no notion of the upheaval under the glassy surface if I hadn't noticed that hardly any of the teachers were in the office eating lunch at the regular time. I asked where they were, and after getting through a couple attempts to dodge the question I was told that two of the 4th graders hadn't returned from recess and had probably ran off into the nearby hills to escape. Most of the teachers were out looking for them. It was snowing, by the way. Then I noticed a 2nd grade boy eating his lunch alone in a corner of the teacher's office. I asked why he was there, and was told that one of his classmates (who happens to be one of my favorite students and is practically communicative in English) punched this boy in the eye and he'd just returned from the hospital. Of course I would not have been informed about any of this if I hadn't pursued the information myself. Now I'm wondering what else I've incorrectly assumed about the going-ons at the schools. I also have to wonder how much conscious effort is put into showing a good face for the foreigner. I've definitely heard students told to behave better so as to make a good impression on "the foreigner", and seen problems and conflicts postponed because of my presence. Sometimes I really wonder how much of the picture I'm being allowed to see.