The last school year came to a close in mid-March after which I spent a good deal of time idle before my desk. This month-long break is in stark contrast to the contrast of western schools and marks the end of the academic calendar. Many find it strange of course, but the primary reason seems to be the hot and humid summers and a lack of ventilation systems with which to handle them. I couldn’t ever foresee the people of Japan changing an established system though. During the breaks, my job is to show up to work, and make sure that I can continue to do my job in the future – so basically nothing. I’ve spent the bulk of my time studying Japanese, preparing some teaching materials, and also staring off into space.
With the new school year comes a number of changes though, the biggest of which is the cycling of teachers between schools. In what would come across as madness to any teacher back in America, educators and school staff are employed by the board of education rather than individual schools and are cycled every couple of years. The announcement comes on the last day of school and serves as a source of anxiety for many of the teachers; this game of Russian roulette could place you on the other side of the city as it could a distant island. In addition to this, the teachers that remain will also cycle the grades that they teach, not knowing their assignments until within a week of the first day of classes. Obviously the start of every year requires a bit adjustments to a fresh environment. This year however I fared pretty well with the teacher changes. There was one teacher in particularly that I loathed teaching with. She didn’t control her class and at times would retire to the teacher’s room to leave me for dead. I would have no choice but to diffuse those situations with dodge ball. I was worried in particular about losing a couple teacher from Kaminishi since they have been there for a few years now, but the ghost passed over and spared them. There are some wonderful people at that school, and being so small I feared that losing even one or two of my favorites could drastically alter the environment.
My middle school post is also very susceptible to change. Where other foreign teachers have a number of English teachers, the size of my school necessitates only one. If Mrs. Yoshida were to leave, the duties that are asked of me by the other teacher could really change quite a lot. In the end she stayed, but there was an additional teacher who has been brought in to help. The new guy has taken up the English reigns, while my former partner and I patrol the room. There is no need for the three of us to be there as she is definitely encroaching into my duties… Overall, I am really happy with this year’s outcome and definitely think I came away with better teachers than I lost.
The other change of course are all the students shifting up a grade. I have been looking forward to it for some time because there are all people that I’ve already gotten to know. The kindergarten students who loved me have simply become 1st graders and transfer that excitement and energy to the elementary schools. More significantly the 6th graders have brought their comfort with me up to middle school where it is harder to make an impression on older kids. The younger kids growing up is certainly the easiest way to establishing inroads at that level. This new grade has finally ushered in hallway antics and genuine conversation at lunch. It wasn’t bad before, but my job has simply become more exciting in and out of the classroom. This isn’t without consequence though, my genitals are taking a fair bit of abuse in the lunchroom…
Edit: People have been struggling to understand the last comment. Kids that are comfortable around you also tend to be a bit abusive.