Another school year has begun and that means SPRING is here, or is it?! The climate in Japan is now warmer than it was before but itís not THAT warm! In fact, itís still colder than it was this time last year. I thought I was paranoid thinking itís still cold but I checked with my fellow teachers and they all agreed with me. Believe it or not, Iím still wearing thermals underneath my regular clothing when I go out on certain days. Iíve started wearing them probably since November! 6 Months! Half a Year!! As stated before, Iím not a fan of the cold. Nor am I a big fan of Japanís humid summer. Iím not too eager to get to work sweaty and getting back from work sweaty!
ANYWAY, the starting of a new school year (due to how slow I update, this is at least a month ago!) meant blooming of Sakura, cherry blossoms! The Japanese treasure these moments with the Sakura because they are very short lived, not more than 2 weeks. When the wind blows, hundreds of tiny petals of Sakura fall from the trees covering the ground below. On a sunny day with a nice breeze, petals fall and float in air like it is snowing on a bright sunny day! Unlike last year where I went on a ďpicnicĒ per se for the purpose of Sakura viewing, this year, I didnít do any viewing at all. One, I was in Thailand when it first bloomed and two, I fell sick right when I got back from Thai and blew my chances to view them in nice parks in Tokyo. The only glimpse I got was the Sakura trees planted at schools. Believe it or not, the blooming of Sakura is pretty much down to a science. The news on TV will report at least a week in advance what day the Sakura will bloom. This is important because Japanese people will camp under the tree the night before to get the first viewing the next morning. If you think about it, itís no different than camping out the night before to buy concert tickets or waiting to see the next Star Wars movie (Nope, never done it)! Waiting and staying warm in line also usually involves singing and alcohol like peas in a pod!
Nevertheless, starting a new year also means a lot of little surprises in the staff rooms at the schools! Not only are the desks rearranged, the staffs are also, not rearranged, but how should I say it, alternated?! Iíve been at these schools for about a year and a half now yet at the beginning of the new school year, I still get butterflies in my stomach and the feeling of being a newcomer once again.
The Japanese school system is shall we say ďdifferentĒ from the United States! I donít know the details or the exceptions but every 3 years, the school principals are re-located to a different school. Vice Principals are also re-located every 5 years and the teachers are re-located every 5 to 7 years or sometimes even at shorter durations. The changing of location is not a matter of choice but rather pre-determined by the prefectural board of education or the ďMinistry of EducationĒ as they call it. We all know that humans, no matter of what race, have a natural disposition of becoming attached to something or someone once you spend a considerable amount of time with it. However these teachers never express their feelings when they find out they will no longer be at the same school the following school year. In fact, most teachers donít even tell their students that they are leaving or to what school they are transferred to. Students only find out that their most favorite or most disliked teachers are gone once they return to school on the first day of the new school year. According to what Iíve heard through the grapevine, moving teachers, principals and vice principals around allow these educators to have different experiences so they can improve and learn new things and become better educators. I completely agree with this logic. However, what about fellow teachers who are not only co-workers but have become good friends over the years? Itís sad to see your friends leave when you have to stay on or if not, go to a new school yourself. Nevertheless, the teachers are pretty stoic about this and itís generally hush-hush! What if the teacher the school was at were all angels and the next school they go to are all delinquents? Wouldnít that suck?! I guess the teachers remain so calm about it because they know thereís nothing they can do about it. The WHOLE country has the same system, not just our school district. I donít know about private schools, I canít speak for them! Anyway, Iím not arguing whether it is good or bad to have this system but it is always exciting to see who are the new teachers and who are the teachers that are gone. Obviously it is sad to see some teachers youíre fond of gone the next school year but what can you do right?! Sometimes, teachers are moved to different schools within the same town so that doesnít seem like a big change for me because I visit all the schools in my towns (except high school, only 1 in my town). Since I always teach English class with a native Japanese English teacher at junior high schools, having an English teacher leave to a different town/city can be difficult. Of course the teachers you wish would leave did not and the ones you like are the ones being re-located. This also means I would have to learn to adjust to the new Englishís teachers teaching styles. All and all, itís just a strange system but interesting nonetheless. The following new school year in the first semester, they always have a ceremony where they invite all the teachers or principals/vice principals that have left to different schools to come back for a ďThank YouĒ and ďPlease say a few encouraging words to us like how much you missed us and tell us to work hard and continue to do our best.Ē Thatís always heart moving for the students and sometimes many tears are shed by both the teachers and the students! The teachers are humans after all!