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Suicide & the Hangman Game

There’s a report in a Japanese paper about how a TEFL teacher in Yachiyo has come in for criticism after continually playing Hangman‏‎ with students even after a student at the school committed suicide by hanging. (See below for a translation of the original article.)

Now I think pretty well every teacher on the planet has used hangman at one time or another, not least because it’s a popular game in many different languages and cultures, but like all activities there should be a level on sensitivity on the part of the teacher.

If someone has just hanged themselves at your school, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that it’s probably not exactly the right time to play a game whose central theme is hanging!

So, I was thinking about alternatives to drawing a hanged man. One I read about was drawing a tree with 10 apples and at each wrong guess, the teacher erases an apple.

It doesn’t quite have the same impact as the original!

How about simply scoring against the teacher? A right answer is 1 point to the class and a wrong answer is 1 point to the teacher.

Any other ideas?

{AF}YACHIYO, Chiba — A foreign English teacher in charge of an English class at Shumei Yachiyo Junior High School is facing criticism after it emerged that the teacher drew pictures of a person being hanged (a la the game “Hangman”) when students answered incorrectly in class. In 2008, a student at the school hanged himself, but the teacher allegedly continued using the game regardless.

The parents of the student who killed himself, meanwhile, are angry. “This kind of teaching is a problem,” they have said.

The testimony of several current and former students led to the discovery. According to the students, since at least 2007, the teacher has used the drawings on the blackboard, adding a line and circle to the picture every time a student can’t answer a question or answers a question incorrectly, gradually forming a complete picture that resembles a person who has been hanged.

According to the parents of the third-year junior high student who hanged himself on school grounds in November 2008, in his school notes there were also pictures that looked like hanging victims. At the wake for their son, the parents showed the picture they had found to their son’s friend, who told them that it resembled pictures drawn by the English teacher in class, the parents say.

One graduate of the school said, “I considered it a part of a game, a harmless black joke. But, now, thinking about the fact that someone killed themselves, I don’t think it was a good idea.”

Another student said, “It was also going on in 2009 (after the suicide).”

The reason behind the suicide is unknown, and no causal link has been made between the student’s suicide and the teacher’s drawings or any instruction on the part of the school.

The parents say that despite the fact that in a study record he submitted to the school, their son wrote, “I had great conversations with people on a suicide website,” they received no contact on the matter from the school. They have filed a suit with the Chiba District Court, seeking around 84 million yen in damages on the basis that the school did not respond appropriately despite the suicide warning sign.

On the pictures resembling hangman, the parents said, “Even if it was a joke, the fact that it’s being done in a classroom is itself a problem. We were shocked to hear that it continued even after our son’s suicide.”

The school, communicating via a lawyer, said they wanted to refrain from making any comments on the matter because of the suit.

According to Professor Kazumi Fujimori of Musashino University, a clinical psychologist and author of the book “Gakko Trauma to Kodomo no Kokoro no Care” (School trauma and care for the minds of children), the use of the pictures could almost be considered a form of “power harassment,” when a person abuses their position of authority to harass others in the workplace.

“In these times, when there is a trend for even the media to show self-restraint in mentioning suicide, if that kind of instruction was really going on in the classroom, it shows great carelessness. Even if the teacher meant no harm, for the students, who must accept whatever form of teaching is given to them, it is similar to power harassment,” says Fujimori.

Original Article (no longer working)

{/AF}

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