On my trip to Japan with LYSCO, and LYSCO’s Japanese counterpart YOCCA, we got the experience of going to school for three days. Which was an extraordinary opportunity.
For starters its nothing (okay, well a little bit) like middle schools in the US or Canada. They do have school five days a week, and a short day on Wednesday, although they observe different holidays. In the US and Canada students move from classroom to classroom allowing the teachers to stay in one place. In a Japanese junior high school, that’s not the case. In my class, there were about 20 students and they spend most of the day in one room while the teachers move around. I think this is to allow students to be more acquainted with a smaller group of people and it lets them keep all their belongings in handy cubbies instead of having to lug a huge backpack.
I attended most of the classes with my host student, Shimpeisan. Some of these classes were in his ‘home’ room and a few were in different rooms. He had a woodshop class where he was making a reading light, and in his tech class, he and some classmates were working with resistors. For PE we went outside and played baseball. I enjoyed woodworking, tech, and PE because they were more hands on and I got to do something even though I couldn’t speak Japanese.
I couldn’t go to all of my host student’s lessons because my fellow Livermore students and I (there were eight of us) were asked to make a poster about our home town. We also prepared a speech and presented it on our second day of school in the gym, in front of around 600 students and staff. My friends thought it was nerve-wracking, but I thought it was pretty fun.
My favorite lesson was English. Different classes from 7, 8, and 9th grade came to meet us and they gave presentations, or taught us Japanese games. The catch was that all of it was in English, which was really hard for them.
Another cool thing is that schools have no janitors. Instead, the students clean their class and a bit of the hallway. It might seem like a big job, but when you have 600 people, it’s a lot easier. After we were done, all the chairs in the room were reorganized into groups for lunch.
There was no central cafeteria at our school, which was like the Montessori school I went to, where I brought my own lunch and ate it in the class. However, instead of the Japanese students bringing lunches, pots of food were wheeled into each classroom by students. Some of the students dressed up in hats, masks, and aprons to serve the food. I enjoyed the lunches, they were good compared to my friends’ opinions of US school lunch and my limited experience, because I usually brought my own. Lunch in Japan was also an entertaining part of the day. Since all of the food came in big pots, there was usually leftovers and almost everyone wanted seconds, which they made into a big game. Everyone that wanted more of something would group up in a big circle and play Rock Paper Scissors until there was only one person left.
If I could speak Japanese fluently, I think that I would rather go to school in Japan because I find it much more interesting, but the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.