So I was going to write another list post about random tidbits you maybe didn’t know about Japan schools, but first I figured I’d give an update on where I’m at and what’s going on in regards to that!
Also because I ended up including a bunch of disclaimers that took up half the post last time before realizing I should just throw this info all in one post. So the list will come later.
School’s in Session!
While there was a delay thanks to covid, things are back on track and schools have been open where I am for about 3 weeks now. It’s been fun getting to finally do the job I came here to do.
First off, I teach at 2 junior high (middle) schools in Japan. Junior high school in Japan is 3 years, and the equivalent of grades 7, 8, and 9. Naturally, most anime takes place in senior high school, which is the equivalent of grades 10, 11, and 12.
Here the grades reset at each new school level. So elementary school is grades 1 – 6. Then it goes to junior high school grades 1 – 3, and then it goes to senior high school grades 1 – 3. Senior high school is not mandatory here, although most kids continue on to senior high school. Some kids go to work for their family business or whatever though instead of spending another 3 years in senior high school.
I’m currently in a small city in Nagano prefecture. So the schools I work at aren’t in an urban setting – far from it. One school is surrounded by orchards, and the other is basically on the side of a mountain! I spend most of my time at the first school, because it’s much larger and has more classes.
The kids so far have been super shy. Well, mainly the girls. I think for most, if not all, it’s their first time seeing blue eyes (although my eyes are blue AND green… they look blue from a distance so no one ever notices >.<). And I bring that up only because the girls in particular are super shy / giddy. For some classes the first time I walked in the girls would all run to their friends and start giggling.
In one class, immediately after the bell rang a group of girls gathered and said something like 「彼の目がすごくきれい！！」 which I understood but then the Japanese English teacher laughed and told me “they really like your eyes”. Individually the students are very shy, but when they’re in groups that shyness practically disappears. It disappears, or they all act shy together.
Even after three weeks, their faces still turn beet red if they have to say something to me (the teachers often have me ask the students questions like “what’s your name?” or maybe something more advanced like “what did you do last night?”). If I was to approach a girl in the hallway or after class to say something to her, she’ll freeze up like I’ve held her at knifepoint. Which actually makes me feel kind of bad about doing it haha. If I wave or say something to a group of girls, they’ll giggle about it after I leave.
One last story on that front – I was in the admin office chatting with the receptionist when the kids were leaving after school. While in Canada most kids just get the hell out of there right when school ends, here many kids take their time and many will just sort of hang around and chat with each other inside and outside the school for 30 minutes to an hour after school. Most clubs aren’t active at the moment because of corona.
Anyways, there was a group of girls standing outside the admin office window chatting after school. Then one girl looks right at me, so I wave. Instead of waving back right away, she first tugs on a friend’s shirt and says something to the rest of her friends, points at me, and then her and her friends ALL wave back to me together. That’s kind of the level of shyness I’m dealing with here, and an example of the group mentality!
Here’s another story that sort of puts things into perspective. The kids are super shy to participate in class – they don’t like being put on the spot. I mean, they’re at that age where self-consciousness starts to become a thing, but even then, the classroom is like crickets when I or one of the other teachers ask for volunteers. Even though they all know each other and see each other everyday, and have 6 classes together everyday (kids don’t move classes in Japan).
I had to give an introduction presentation to all of the classes, which I did using a powerpoint. I just went through things like where I’m from, some Canadian attractions, differences between Canada / Japan, things I like, et cetera. I managed to get the kids to gawk a few times at some things, like they couldn’t believe that it took me 2 days to drive from Toronto to Vancouver. The sheer distance of it surprised them.
After my presentations, we’d (me and the Japanese English teacher) try to get the kids to ask questions. We’d get maybe 1 question from each class, if even that (although some classes were actually pretty good with questions). Where I’m from, a lack of questions would lead you to believe that the students just weren’t interested.
But then the teachers showed me some journal entries the kids had to submit, and they painted a complete different picture! One girl wrote like I was a rockstar, writing things like “Chris was so interesting. He’s from Canada. He likes rock music. I want to visit Canada one day.”, or another one I was shown said like “Canada is very dangerous. There are many dangerous animals in Canada.” (Haha! I mentioned bears, wolves, watching for moose while driving and whatnot, and how “if you see a polar bear, it’s already too late”).
Anyways reading some of their assignments like that was really cool, because it painted such a different picture. They appeared disinterested in class, but that’s not necessarily the case. Again, it’s just that shyness.
Overall, it’s been a fun experience so far. It’s been a little tough to get close to the students, because the girls get so flustered and a lot of the guys are at that phase where it’s cool to act disinterested at school. From what I’ve seen so far, more girls seem interested in learning English, or maybe they’re just more studious?
Pretty much all of the students, with a couple exceptions, are shy to speak English aside from saying “hello”. I can’t entirely blame them, because I felt shy to speak Japanese when I first got here. When you know you might be making mistakes while speaking in a foreign language, you have to adapt the mindset that it’s okay to make mistakes.
Anyways, that’s about all I’ve got for now.
I hope you enjoyed my stories, I’ll likely be sharing more in the future!
Next up on the Japan life side I’ll share a list of Japan school life tidbits that you may not have known! So you can expect that maybe next week assuming I remember to publish it.
Until next time,
Thanks for reading.