Everyday I’m shufflin’

5 Apr

I have to admit that I know next to nothing about what it’s like to be a teacher at public school in America.  While I went to public school and know from experience what sort of things my teachers did and taught, I don’t know anything about the rules and regulations they faced on an everyday basis, or what sort of outlines they followed in order to prepare their lessons and test their students’ knowledge.  But I’m fairly certain of one thing: that the system is different from Japan.  

The end of the school year in Japan is a big deal for Japanese teachers.  The end of the school year (around the end of March) means that not only students will face changes, but the teachers as well, because in the Japanese system, teachers are sometimes– often, even– transferred to different schools at the end of the school year.  In Japan, the break between the end of one year and the beginning of the next is a whopping two weeks (unlike the three months between the end of school in June and the beginning of the new term in September in America), which leaves these teachers with a very brief period to adjust to a new environment, a new school, new coworkers, and new problems and challenges.  

On top of this, I was informed recently by a coworker that in Japan, the license to teach elementary school is the same as that to teach middle school is the same as that to teach special education.  In other words, a first grade teacher could suddenly, over the course of two weeks, be switched to teaching geometry to fifteen year olds, and a middle school music teacher could be forced to quickly become accustomed to teaching every subject to elementary kids with special needs.  I can’t possibly imagine mastering so many subjects to the point that I could teach them at all comprehensively, and the whole system is admittedly rather mind-boggling to me.  

As someone who’s hired outside this system, I stay at the same school for my duration as an ALT.  But the spring shuffle (as we call it) means that every year, I have to learn to team teach with new teachers and develop new relationships with new coworkers.  I’m sure some of the changes this year will be for the better, and that I can put my best foot forward, but since it’s my first year, this sudden change in staff is very disorienting to me.  I guess there’s nothing to do but try my best!  

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