What Do I Do When a Student Hides Their Mouth Behind a Mask?

Face-to-face communication has been determined to be at least three times as effective as non-face-to-face communication, which may be one of the contributing factors as to why humans engage in such conversations on almost a daily basis. This degree of benefit is severely hampered when a student wears a facial mask.

Masks are worn in Japan to stop the spread of colds, flus, and airborne pathogens by completely covering the nose and mouth. However, by covering the mouth, the mouth becomes hidden and cannot be seen, thus removing the face-to-face communication benefits that help promote classroom learning.

Japanese Face MaskStudents expect to get the most value for their money, and this may only be accomplished with some clever thinking from the teacher. Although the student will continue to wear their mask, they can still express emotion and add important facial communication with the help of sheets of paper with images of mouths on them.

Drawing all mouth shapes by hand is the best option, but for teachers under deadlines, this may take away from other important preparation time. Time can be saved by printing the following characters with a 72 point font. (60 point font for children)

Emotion Mask

An emotion mask with "minor surprise" and "smile" expressions.

  • ) – smile
  • ( – frown
  • D – big smile
  • < - big frown
  • つ – biggest smile
  • く – biggest frown
  • | – apathy
  • / – confusion, disbelief, or skepticism
  • * – puckered lips, anger
  • . – light surprise
  • 。- minor surprise
  • o – big surprise
  • O – bigger surprise
  • ○ – biggest surprise
  • □ – maximum surprise, disbelief, or shock

Emotion Mask 2

A store-bought emotion mask.

After printing the characters, rotate them 90 degrees clock-wise, and affix double-sided tape to the rear of them so that they are able to stick to the student’s mask. During speaking activities, have the student choose the mouth shape that best reflects their current emotion, and then affix it to their mask. If the student wishes to change emotions, they may change the paper on their own.

If the student is often sick, and regularly wears a mask, consider printing a set of mouth emotion papers and giving them to the student as a gift, or even assigning construction of the mouth emotion papers as homework.

What Do I Do If I Accidentally Steal From a Student?

In Japan, there are many instances where the students have considerable wealth and choose to show their wealth through means of expensive watches, pens, pencil cases, and laptops. As teachers, one of the most important things to remember is not to steal from the student. However, there are situations where you may end up with the students items. If these situations arise, remember to never acknowledge ownership of said items, and always act as though ownership was never implied. This is a legal loophole in the Japanese justice system, where no crime can be committed if there is no ownership (ie. one cannot steal air)

After being discovered, always offer the item back to the student as a gift. If they accept the gift, it becomes their property and any ill-will disappears. If they decline the gift, you are legally allowed to have it and consider it your property.

One way of obtained student’s items that I’ve witnessed takes place during role-play activities. Tell the student that you wish to roleplay the concept of clarification over the phone, and point your chairs away from each other. This makes conversation more difficult as you are unable to see each other’s faces and body language. With the student facing the other way, their possessions often go missing.

What Do I Do When the Student Won’t Stop Crying?

We’ve all had multiple instances of students crying in classrooms, and it never gets any easier to deal with. Crying is a selfish, one-sided behavior that the students resort to when they no longer wish to express themselves with words. Great care must be taken in these situations to get the student to convey their true emotions.

If a student is beginning to cry, tell them to stop firmly, but not menacingly. Place several word cards on the table representing emotions and have the student point to all of the emotions that they are feeling. Often, their lack of vocabulary is what makes them cry instead of flustered, confused, frustrated, annoyed, confounded, perplexed, or enraged. By pointing to these words on the table, the students can let you as a teacher know how they feel, and then you can find the root cause of their crying.

Many teachers have not been properly trained to deal with crying students, despite encountering them on a monthly basis. Sure, it is much easier to throw a book against the wall and storm out of the classroom, but that will not make you a better teacher. Always do your best to pretend you are sympathetic during the class. You can always cancel all of the student’s future classes and cut off contact later.