Monthly Archives: March 2015

Teaching in Japan – Teacher Transfers

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I’ve been asked by a few people what the differences are between the education system and teaching in Japan versus the United States. This will be the first post of a possible few to talk about those differences. Clearly I am not an expert on either system, but I have worked in both and feel that I can at the very least comment.

Today’s topic is the Japanese system of transferring teachers. Since coming here, I’ve been shocked to discover that once teachers pass certification tests and become full-fledged teachers that they belong to the board of education they tested with. This means that they are guaranteed a job within the prefecture that they certify with. It’s kind of similar to the way some school districts in the States handle alternative teacher certification programs. Once you are accepted, it sort of guarantees a job. Again it depends on the district and the teachers themselves plus of course openings.

After a teacher passes, they are sent out to a school for what you could call a probationary period of a few years. Then the younger teachers will be transferred at some point. No one has exactly told me how many years this might be. I think it depends on your own personal accomplishments and the preference of the school, but you will be transferred at some point.

Here is where things get a little tricky. This process of transferring doesn’t end at some designated point of years or experience, or at least I’ve yet to discover one. For example, six of the twelve teachers in the English department at my current school have been transferred to other schools or programs for the coming school year. Some of these teachers are a good ten to fifteen years older than me and have been teaching for a long time.

To my knowledge, the teachers have no control over where they might be sent. A teacher may spend a few years at a school like mine, internationally minded with fantastic students, only to be sent to a reform or an industrial school or even a school with severe behavioral problems. The teachers go where the board of education wants them or in some cases where they think they will be the most useful. The teachers don’t really have a choice.

I can already hear you wondering about the problem of a teacher’s current living situation. Yeah, they don’t really take that into account either. They might send you anywhere within the prefecture (state for those of you who don’t know). This leads some teachers to only see their families on the weekends, or to need two apartments.

I will say that, while my own personal experiences lead me to dislike this system, I can definitely see the benefits. It does cut out the idea that a better teacher deserves better behaved students. It also spreads the talent around. The best teachers aren’t just reserved for the top schools. They are spread out through every type of school in the area. Students of all ability levels get to benefit from teachers who are passionate and motivated. In the States, we tend to have a problem with good teachers only going to good schools.

Students of all ability and motivation levels deserve good teachers. We often tend to forget that students are a result of their situations and not always of conscious choice. Giving them teachers who are able to perhaps pull them out of a slump is a great idea. It also strengthens the teachers by putting them into situations they might not consciously have chosen to face. Being in a difficult classroom can be just as much of a learning experience as being in a good one. Being in a difficult classroom can make you grateful when you do have the opportunity to be in a better classroom with more motivated students. Believe it or not, there are some teachers out there who take for granted how willing and motivated their students are because they’ve never struggled with difficult children. I kind of feel sorry for them for that because they don’t always appreciate what’s in front of them. Those are just my thoughts though.

Hopefully I’ve managed to focus on both sides of this. I’m afraid this came off a bit on the negative side. The system is what it is. I’m honestly just trying to report what I know or have heard because this is something I’d never heard of before coming here and working here. If you have questions, feel free to ask, and I will do my best to answer. Comments and more thorough perspectives are also always welcome.

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Adette Price Chapter 10: Trouble in Town

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It’s that time again. A new chapter of the Adette Price story is on the books. Go check it out down there.

With a loaf under each arm, Adette made her way back across the square. The whispers chased her out of the village. Adette tried her best not to make out what was being said. She shuffled along, doing her best to keep hold of Karl’s leash. He was being obliging at the moment.

With her head held high, Adette marched out of Swynton’s front gates. People watched but lost interest quickly. Her novelty was finally beginning to wane. A few steps through the front gate, a shiver ran the length of her spine and stopped her dead. When she looked down at Karl, she found that he was looking up at her.

“Oh no.” The scream Adette had anticipated split the air and her skull. She felt her knees crunch into the gravel beneath her feet. Karl skittered out of the way. His eyes twitched back and forth from her to the main gate and back. A cold nose slipped beneath Adette’s arm. Karl’s tongue found her cheek.

“I’m all right. I just hope no one was paying attention to me. Sorry Karl, last time today I promise.” On jellied legs, Adette rose and turned back. Apologetically, she tied Karl to the nearest tree. The bread she stowed just out of reach of Karl. Then she darted back toward the square, feeling nervous that she’d look strange. The farther in she got the more the headache seemed to subside. The other paid her no attention. They  seemed to be focused on the center of the square. A ring of people had formed but Adette wasn’t sure around what.

Adette did her best to ignore the subsiding pain in her head and push through the circle of people. She earned herself a few nasty looks but managed to get into the inner circle. A young boy lay on the ground shivering and shaking violently. His mouth stretched open in a silent scream. His eyes stared into the sky above.

Reluctantly, Adette followed his eyes into the bright blue, mid-afternoon sky. As her eyes swept upwards, she spotted a thin shadowy tendril. It pulsed with a darkness that seemed to suck in the light around it. What was it connected to? Bodies jostled hers, trying to force her back into the crowd where she, the outsider, belonged. She cleared her throat and shoved her way forward. In her distraction, she’d lost track of the tendril.

“Everyone make way please,” called a voice from the back of the crowd. This time everyone yielded and backed away from the boy. A tall, scholarly looking man stepped through the cooperating crowd with a leather bag in hand.

“Thank God doctor. He just collapsed. He won’t move.” A woman, who was obviously the boy’s mother, was speaking frantically. The boy hadn’t changed in the least. Adette squinted. She had a suspicion. If only… there it was. Into the boys gaping mouth slithered the same tendril she’d seen before. The closer to the boy’s mouth it got, the finer it became.

“It’s taking him over,” Adette whispered before she could think. A few people turned to look at her. Adette pretended that she hadn’t said anything.

The doctor made a big show of checking everything he knew how to check. Adette could tell by the look on his face that he had no idea what was wrong with the boy. He couldn’t help him. Only Adette could. The trouble was no one else could know about it. The doctor began making motions to get the boy back to his home where he could exam him more thoroughly. She had to do something, but what? The tendril of darkness had all but gone. Soon it would be inside him. Who knew what it would do then.

Adette watched in horror as the boy was scooped into the burly arms of one of the on-looking men. Everything began happening more quickly. The man who’d picked him up was halfway to a standing position when the boy’s mouth snapped shut. All traces of the darkness were now gone. His eyes slowly rolled downwards. They took in the sight of the gathered crowd. They rested slowly, predatorily on each face before finding the familiar face of his mother.

“Mommy? What’s going on?” The desperate mother snatched the boy out of the arms of the man. Adette didn’t buy it for a second.