A New School Year! And once more the strange large foreign man with the orange hair is sentenced to sitting at his desk for a month with (if you'll pardon my french) sweet fuck tous to do. The main points of interest for any budding JET surrounding the month of April are as follows:
1. You will have even less than usual to do. Occupying your time effectively is vital for one's sanity, and as such I would recommend either getting really good at online computer games (I've scored 556 on this!!) or applying your imagination to more relevant world problems. You may have heard that the Japanese navy was recently deployed to the seas neighbouring my prefecture to defend Japan by shooting down any debris/rockets from the North Korean "satellite launch". What actually happened was they realised I wasn't doing anything at work, so they sent me down to the beach with a tennis ball and a good throwing arm, and let's just say that the next day I had a slightly sore arm but you may have noticed World War III did not happen. You're all welcome.
2. Whilst having very little to do, it is very easy to miss the various end of year/start of year ceremonies at which your attendance is most certainly required. Be careful with dress code in this case; I was surprised with the timing of one such ceremony, and in front of 150 uniformed students, with some female teachers in kimonos and male teachers in their smartest suits, I somewhat stood out from the crowd in my eyecatching combo of adidas tracksuit trousers and ketchup stained Manchester City shirt.
3. One of the more unusual aspects of the Japanese education system takes place in April, whereby around a third of the school staff will be sent to different schools in the district, the idea being that teachers (over the length of their careers) will have a fair share of good/bad schools, and that by chopping and changing on an annual basis students will have a fair share of good/bad teachers. On a more personal note, this educational merry go round means you can lose some of your best/friendliest colleagues (as happened to me in my first year here), or equally it can result in the pruning of individuals who you may think less of (as happened this year, RESULT!)
The various ceremonies surrounding the leaving of new teachers (the ceremony I was wearing a man city shirt at) the arrival of new teachers, and finally the arrival of new students, are the very height of tedium. Speeches in a language I don't understand, (and the bits I do understand seem to be 5 minute discussions about the weather) followed by lots of bowing, the singing of various anthems, bowing at local city officials on the way in and out, and trying not to fall asleep because snoring would look bad.
The one ceremony that is entirely worth attending is the Primary School "Entrance Ceremony" at which all the new six year old pupils are welcomed to their new life, with plenty of fuss and much ado. Now I don't want to get excessively girly about this, but this is simply the cutest ceremony in the history of civilisation. They're just so SMALL! And the boys wear suits and the girls wear dresses and they look like big people like OMG it's sooooooooooo cute!!!!
It won't last obviously. Children have a tendency to grow up, and 7 years from now the wonderfully energetic 6 and 7 year olds I have taught this year will be quiet teenagers desperate not to stand out from the group. Equally while the little suits and dresses were undoubtedly adorable, it was very strange as someone who has taught this age group for nearly 18 months, to see pupils this age so well mannered, so perfectly quiet and behaved. No doubt though within a few weeks, this shyness will be overcome, and Cooke Sensei will once again become the human climbing frame we all know and love, and the little boys in suits who were so well behaved in front of parents and other teachers, will be trying to stick their fingers up my bottom. The circle of life continues.