I have lately been woefully neglecting what I set out to do in the first place and that is to talk about Japan. I’ve had some great experiences here, and one thing that I thought might be of interest was my experience working both in Japanese schools and my experience working in American schools. I’ve worked in both and would like to shed some light on some of the major differences and similarities I’ve encountered.
This will start of a series of posts that I hope to share with you. I think that maybe there are some things that lots of people know, but maybe I’ll be able to shed some light on some things that people don’t already know.
There seems to be a real mystique surrounding Japanese schools. This of course has a lot to do with anime and in fact Japanese culture itself. For many in Japan, just like for many in the States, high school is considered to be one of those special times in ones life. Practically everyone in the country gets misty eyed around graduation season. You can’t even count how many pop stars create graduation themed songs.
I think in this respect Japan has the U.S. beat on graduation mania. For most high school students high school graduation is that time that sends you off into the wonderful world that is college. For me it was the time that I said good bye and good riddance to any number of people I didn’t like. I was a couldn’t wait for college girl. This is generally not the case in Japan. Most people tend to look back on high school as their last care free time. It’s very common to stay in touch with your class and to have yearly meet ups when possible. That’s generally why there are so many anime created with school at its center. It’s a very strong and powerful connector for the audience be they young or old.
Many people said to me before I left that my job would be significantly easier as a teacher simply because I would be in Japan. Sure, my students are extremely well behaved. Nearly all of them, but that’s because I am at a very competitive school. It’s the kind of school that I can mention in passing only to receive an awed look of respect. I don’t get to take credit for this since I lucked into the position, but I’m often afforded some of that respect simply by being connected with the school.
Of course there are schools in Japan with the same types of problems as schools anywhere else on the planet. Japan has students with absent or no parents, bad home lives, low motivation, and any number of other problems shared with thousands of “troubled” children around the planet. The reason you don’t know is that, well, talking about the nasty things isn’t exactly what Japanese people tend to do. Bottom line children are children no matter the culture or country.
Teachers still work very hard. They certainly work longer hours here, but it doesn’t have the same high pressure feeling that it did in the states. Teachers generally have time during the day to do all of their grading and other paper work. Of course even with that extra time during the day they still stay late. It’s expected or they want to. It’s never exactly clear which it is.
Of course the teachers are only there because the students are. They actually have to kick students out of the building. Hopefully this has a been an interesting introduction to what I expect may be a longer topic than I first anticipated. Here’s to trying to post more often.