Japanese schools are interesting. The teachers will arrive at around six to (on average). Although, don’t feel bad for them, because they’re not being worked rugged like teachers in
Better than this is being an ALT (assistant language teacher) in
Since the Japan government governs their school systems with a strict series of mandates they officially hand down every textbook, lesson plan, and testing schedule, and so other than the occasional Open Class for the P.T.A., the teachers have very little to prepare for.
This can be a good or a bad thing depending on the quality of teachers at the school. Lazy teachers will chit-chat all day long (if the principal and vice-principal aren’t exceedingly strict), while other more energetic teachers will put in an astonishing amount of effort. This may be why
When testing into High school for example, good test scores will allow a student to attend a fancy ivy-league-school-type academic institution. The rest of the knot heads, however, will have to attend the more or less decrepitated and lackluster institutions. It’s no wonder then such emphasis is put on standardized testing in this country. However, this is something I personally think needs to be amended –as it in no way fairly determines the genuine intelligence of a person, but greatly hinders their future opportunities –unfairly so. Also the indeterminate amount of stress on a child can’t be healthy, and truth be told, the amount of studying for test-prep and examination doesn’t seem to improve the students I.Q. efficiency when compared to alternative teaching methods and learning styles.
A good example of teachers who go above and beyond would be my own schools science teacher, Nakawa sensei. I remember my first day as a new ALT here well, because Nakawa sensei was building a real breathing mannequin. In fact, I thought it would end up being a robot. It is this kind effort which I admire.
Of course, with all the hours the teachers are required to put in here… they have more than enough time to do a little more and go the extra mile. Or, at the very least, they get paid for their hard work. Meanwhile, I still find a lot of leeway for discussing the newest issue of my favorite manga, such as Naruto and One Piece, with the really cool lady P.E. teacher Shimada sensei, who sits beside me.
Speaking of cultural differences in school, the first week of teaching in Japanese classes was a little strenuous for me. I thought the children had a major disciplinary problem, because they kept looking over onto their neighbor’s papers and copying the answers or whispering over their shoulders to their friend sitting behind them. It wasn’t just one or two students either, it was everybody! And the Japanese teachers just went on ignoring it as if nothing was going on!
I kept telling students to sit down and do their work, but normally my advice went completely ignored –by everyone. Then when one student would get out of control the teacher ignored that too. I was really shocked, but I was coming from the American system. In
At first I thought all of my students were a bunch of cheaters. But only gradually did I find that they worked communally –as a group. Something which I couldn’t grasp having been raised in a very individualistic mind set of ‘me, me, me… depend on me’. I really didn’t have a clue as to how ‘copying’ could motivate students to do better. Now I know that letting students communicate and share freely in class improves overall class grade averages.
Yeah, I know… that concept sounds weird. But because the kids all work in a communal manner they get to benefit from one another’s general knowledge. That standard never seems to change, however. Unlike
Although there can be instances where a student abuses the system and takes more than what they are contributing to (class &/or society). Never underestimate peer pressure in a Japanese classroom, or in Japanese society in for that matter. It is enormous and unavoidable. Although they may not have eccentric genius springing up everywhere, utter and unflinching conformity is highly valued in
For example, if one student constantly bothers others or hinders the class, or disrupts the class too much, the other students will eventually team up on him/her and give that person a brutal dose of their mind. Sometimes this comes in the form of in-class humiliation –a little bit of ego deflating. In these cases everyone can share in a round of point and laugh at the idiot –and this tends to send the clear message of, “Get your act together.” Other times it can come in the harsher form of bullying. Something which teachers are always on the lookout for. In schools with no discipline bullying can run amuck –and peer pressure bullying is often the case for child suicide in
Certainly I learned a lot my first few weeks of class. I learned to be patient and not get annoyed when I would ask a student a direct question like, “What did you do on the weekend?” only to find them suddenly turned around in their seat facing their friend behind them asking them the answer to the very same question. In retrospect it’s kind of comical, but it is their way, and so it is a force of habit.