I’ve been at my new school for about a month and a half now. I’ve gotten used to certain things, such as commuting to work by train, having different work hours, having to convince people that OMG I know what hiragana is, and having the beginning of class taken up by tests on the bane of every person who wants Japanese youth to actually learn English: the English vocabulary books.

If the makers of the JLPT realized that giving out word lists was a bad idea, when will English educators in Japan realize the same thing? @_@ I don’t get it.

Ahem…anyway…

Sometimes things still throw me for a loop. Just when I think we’re all on the same page, I see that we’re not. It can be very frustrating, and sometimes I don’t handle it very well. Read: I state my opinions directly.  I wish we’d hold the meetings in Japanese so that my ability to express myself would be crippled and I don’t end up saying things like “All humans are born creative, they just lose the ability if they’re put in an environment that doesn’t nurture their creativity.” Whoops.

My plan stands though. I’m gonna work as hard at the new school as I did at the old school. Every time ALTs rattle off all the things that are wrong with English education in Japan, I always think, “if we know the problem, why don’t we try to fix it?” There are of course things we can’t change, but anyone who believes they received a “superior” education in the West because it was focused on critical thinking rather than rote memorization should put their critical thinking to the test and find the loopholes that will allow them to teach the kids something more useful than a list of words with no relation to each other.

Sidenote: I don’t believe critical thinking trumps rote memorization. You need to memorize some things before you can think critically about them. Do we need to think critically about the ABCs in order to learn them? No. But once you have learned them, you may discover many wonderful things about them when you do know them enough to think critically about them.

On a slightly different topic, one thing that surprised me about my new school is how much older the building looks relative to my previous workplace. My current school is less than 10 years older than my previous one, so why is the paint all chipped and faded, the lockers so rusty? I also had assumed that the new school would be in better condition because it’s supposedly so much higher level academically speaking, but I guess they don’t take that into account when figuring out the building budgets. That would be a bit cruel, and it’s the sort of thinking that makes ghettoes, but since I was used to it, I was surprised by its absence.

Another thing that I found interesting was during the Sports Day festival. During rehearsals for said event, the teachers all have to go outside and watch the kids practice. Myself and so many other ALTs are always left surprised and somewhat worried about the kids’ apparent total lack of both body fat and muscle mass. This is particularly obvious on the boys, who are running around in just their gym shorts half the time. I’ve seen boys who were count-the-vertebrae skinny. And I do mean all their vertebrae.  However, it seemed that at my new school, there were hardly any such students. I thought to myself, “No wonder they get better grades, they actually eat enough calories to support all their bodily functions!” ^_^;

This, in turn, made me wonder how many of the dangerously thin students were thin by choice, and how many were thin due to circumstances. Countless studies in the US say that the lower a student’s social background, the lower their grades are likely to be. But in a country were supposedly every one thinks of themselves as middle class, does this play a role, and to what extent?

Well well, I’ve no slick way to end this post, so I’ll just end suddenly like a piece of traditional Japanese music. Saku–

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