Thursday, December 2, 2010

Be True To Your School


Just a short one today. I've been writing for nigh on 73 days straight - not including this. Frankly, that scares me - but it's well worth knowing that I have wonderful readers from around the world reading this - or perhaps they are preparing a court case for me slandering them. Again, it's never my intention to offend.

We've all heard that the Japanese students are very studious. It's true. Sort off. Just like in any culture, there are some kids smarter than others, and there are some kids who study more and study better than others.

I was not one of those kids who studied. Ever. I got by on my phenomenal short-term memory and ability to write incredibly small cheat notes and hide them under my watch. 

In Japan, the kids there go to regular day school for what seems like an inordinate number of days per year. In Canada, there were always a couple of PD (professional development) days off, along with a few national and provincial holidays. Factor in a two month-long summer break, two weeks off for Christmas, one for March Break, and in the grand scheme of life, we didn't have to do a lot of school. I used to go to school at 9AM and leave at 4:17PM or numbers there about depending on what level of school I was in.

Here in Japan, in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, I spend four days a week at one of seven junior high schools within my rural city. On the fifth day, I rest at the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) office and write letters and short stories and filled in my diary entries and put out my Wonderful Rife for the monthly Tatami Times newsletter for AETs (Assistant English Teachers) in the province. 

Hardly a tough life. It was a wonderful rife.

But let's take a look at an average year for the students at one of my junior high schools here in Ohtawara. Take a look at the first scanned image at the top. Going monthly, you can see how many days the kids have school. Remember, they have five full days, Monday to Friday, and a half-day on Saturday. There are club activities every school from maybe an hour before class to two to three hours after school. And remember... the teacher's need to be present, too.

If we add up all of the school days, you'll notice that grade 7 (Year 1) students have 229- days of school. With Grade 8 (Year 2) and Grade 9 (Year 3), students being in school for 230 and 221 days of school respectively. Comparatively students spend 1206, 1212 and 1162 hours in school for grade 7, 8, and 9. And no, that does not include any club activities like singing, music, baseball, kyu-do (Japanese archery), judo,kendo (Japanese fencing), soccer or tennis. There's also cooking and chess, tabletennis, science, math, English and drama clubs.

Neat, huh? I'm not saying that the Japanese are smarter than anyone else. If nothing else, Japanese television has proved that to not be the case. However, what it does offer is a chance for students to get a leg up on the competition.

Having said that, I'll end for today and let you know that the next blog will be about something called cram school. 

Sometimes, it's good to be a gaijin.

Somewhere teaching, 
Andrew Joseph
Today's title is by the Beach Boys: BE TRUE TO YOUR SCHOOL

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