Saturday, September 03, 2005

learning my kids' names

Chugoku region JH brass band competition - 2
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

OK - so I started my 2nd year of teaching here on Thursday when school resumed at my basr Jr. High.

Notice I didn't say "classes" resumed becuase there weren't any the first two days - the students are all busy preparing for Sports Day, which is next Friday, the 9th. (Which happens to be my parent's wedding anniversary - Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad!)

I don't think there will be many classes all next week either, as Sports Day takes precedent over education apparently. I'll discuss Sports Day more when I have pics of the event and give you the low down on what goes on.

It's funny that right now there is a lot of moaning about the amount of time Japanese kids spend in school, as their performance on international tests in math and science has suffered in the past few years and Japan is no longer in the top 5 nations in each category.
In 1999, they shortened the school week to five days, so no more Saturday school. Which means the number of hours given to any one subject, like English for instance, was cut back. For example, my JH kids are required to attend 4 hours of English instruction per week - so that means 4 one-hour classes a week with one day of no English. Some schools only require 3 hours per week.

The ironic thing about all this to anyone that has worked at a Japanese Junior High is twofold:
1) the students are at school ALL THE TIME! I see more of my students than some of their parents do I'm sure. They come in at the weekend anyway to participate in club activities and school functions - my kendo kids, for instance, practiced EVERY DAY during SUMMER VACATION. That includes Sundays. But the kids are not in classes, so it's technically not the same.
2) My school, like almost all in Japan, takes time out from education to do activities with the students for whole days or even multiple days. We had one day where the kids just drew all day - a field trip to some scenic spot, draw, eat a picnic, draw some more, go home (or more accurately - go to club activity). We have a day where all the classes in the school sing for all the other classes. We have a cultural festival, various ceremonies in the gym that take up half or whole days, and the aforementioned Sports Day, which is eating up like 7 days of classes. I could go on, but I think you get the point - the Japanese whine about test scores, but don't bat an eye about letting the kids get out of classes for other activities.

Now, I'm not saying that the kids shouldn't have their fun - I'm all for field trips and cultural actvities. But in America, these would be prepared for by the students who elected to participate and those preparations would take place AFTER school. But it seems that it's more OK to eliminate classes than it is to eliminate judo practice or baseball practice or chorus practice. Different ways of doing things, I know, but that doesn't mean that the Japanese way is the most efficient way.

But, I digress...

I meant to post here about learning my kids' names. I have lots of spare time right now, since there are no classes to teach, so I decided I would try and study Japanese and attempt to learn my students' names in my down time. This week I'm getting a "face" book of all my JH students - with their picture and name. I'll have to have help translating - but it's a start.
I've taken so many pictures of my kids and I started to label them on my laptop with their names so I can start putting a name with the face.
You should see the way my kids light up if instead of saying "Hello" as we pass in the halls, I say "Hello, Yuki" and use their individual first name.

But its a daunting process as my kids tend to have very similar sounding names or simply the same name - which is no differnt than the many Johns, Matts, James, Brittanys, Jennifers, etc I would have in an American school. But it's harder somehow.
Partly because they rarely use their first names in school, except with their close friends. But wanting to instill a Western practice I've been determined to have them address me as Jason and me in turn address them by their first name.

Anyway - this brings me to the picture above. If it wasn't hard enough all ready, my JH has a number of twins and even a set of triplets, the three sisters pictured above. They are 8th graders, which means I'll be seeing them for the rest of my time here, even if I stay a third year. So not only do I have to learn their names - Shiho, Saki & Risa - i have to learn to tell them apart. :)
My band teacher tells them apart because they each play a different instrument. Now if I can just them to carry their instrument around with them to English class... :)

L to R - front row:
Ayaka Y., Nahoko M., Shiho T., Saki T.
back row:
Kanaka, Risa T., Yuki O., Hiromi F.

More pics soon.



Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I thought japanese school gals will wearing short mini skirt...