Cherry blossoms have finally come to Otobe, over a month and a half after Tokyo was celebrating the season. In Japan, cherry blossoms are often associated with the start of the new school/work/fiscal year in April, whereas in Hokkaido you’re more likely to see them for Golden Week at the beginning of May or school sports days near the end of the month.
Tag Archives: otobe
Since nothing interesting continues to happen, we proceed with the breakdown of the four (five? six?) schools that I teach at. This one is currently my smallest school, in terms of the number of students. It and the other small elementary school seem to spend the year trading that title back and forth as students transfer in and others move away. At the moment it has two first graders, two second graders, four third graders, three fourth graders, one very lonely fifth grade girl, and four sixth grade boys. The classes double up – first and second in one room, third and fourth, etc.
This building was formerly the junior high school for the area, but was turned into the elementary school about ten years ago when the town closed three junior highs and consolidated them at one central location. The original elementary school is about two blocks away – sometimes it’s used for “ghost” sleepovers by the students during the summer.
Because the population of the area has never been large, the school is small, with only three regular classrooms, plus a music room, science classroom, and home economics space. It’s nice because the students and staff rattle around less than at the other two elementary schools.
Of course, because of this, they don’t have a dedicated English room. I go from classroom to classroom, carrying my materials. Because there are only 4-7 students in each class, the desks can be easily moved to the sides for games.
As you can see, the fourth grade desks at the back of the room are turned towards the whiteboard. In the previous class, the teacher had set the third graders to reading while teaching the fourth graders math. The vice-principal and principal are also qualified to teach, so they also help take some of the load off the main teachers.
Which also doubles as a classroom at times. 🙂
I’d best hope so, one of the elementary school principals is my new neighbor.
All of the schools in Japan that I’ve been too (so, like, 15-20), have a display like this – portraits of all of the previous school principals, with their names and dates of service. Some of the schools in my area are old enough that the first few portraits are paintings, rather than photographs.
This week, I’m going to show you one of the schools where I teach. This is the one I call the ‘big elementary school’. With six classes of 20-35 students each, it is by far the biggest of the three elementary schools I teach at. Since it covers from first grade (age 6) to sixth grade (age 12), it’s even bigger than the junior high school. Here it is seen from the window of my classroom:
In some ways, this is the easiest school to teach at. It had an English curriculum in place long before the Japanese ministry of education mandated a certain number of ‘Foreign Language Activity’ hours per year for fifth and sixth graders in April 2012.
It has it’s own dedicated English classroom that I have all to myself. This has it’s pluses and minuses – sometimes I wish all of my students were confined to desks, rather than free to easily kick each other in the head. I have to teach in my socks and those blue carpets get rumpled up, despite the best efforts of distracted students to reorder them. But I can relax between classes, without having to move my materials all over the school. And the lack of desks makes games easier.
I have all the laminated cards an English teacher could ever want. Someone was kind enough over spring break to tackle last year’s mess, so now the cards are all neatly arranged in labelled envelopes, rather than scattered hither and yon. There are also broken cellphones for demonstrations, stickers, and picture books for when we have extra time. Plus my beloved stereo, which they will take back to the math classroom over my dead body. A sixth grader accidentally kicked a hole in my last one.
The view from the window isn’t half bad either.
In other ways, however, it is the hardest school to teach at. I always have to teach four classes in a row, which is a lot to ask when the students are jaded fifth and sixth graders, or hyperactive first and second graders. Trying to get thirty first graders to do anything is exhausting. After teaching four classes and eating lunch, I almost always head to 7-11 for a coke and chocolate. The rest of the afternoon is usually shot, because all I can manage is to stare at the ceiling.
I’ve been taking a picture of the sky every day after work since the first of April. I’ve been aiming for between 4:30PM and 5PM, with the thought in the back of my mind that 4PM-6PM was fine (had to take advantage of that this past Saturday…oops). These pictures are from the first eight days of April, all taken in Otobe.
Sorry about the lack of post on Friday. I had literally nothing to make a post out of. If I could sum up the last two weeks in a photo, it would be me sleeping at my desk. Thankfully, school is back in session and I’m on the lookout for new material for this week.
Okay, I kind of dropped off the radar there. My apologies. I never liked March and this one was harder than most. I expect to be back on my regular schedule from now on.