Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Japanese teachers: the revolving door

It's that time of year again, and I always find it a bit sad. The way schools (at least high schools) are administered in Japan, teachers are assigned to a school by the Board of Education for a usually undetermined length of time. Depending on a teacher's age, a guess can be made - for example new teachers generally stick around at their first school for 3-5 years, and teachers a few years away from retirement usually won't get moved around very much. Aside from that, though, it seems pretty arbitrary.

Teachers don't find out until mid to late March whether or not they're going to be transferred, and where they're going. So the teachers who are leaving have known for week or two now. Until right before they leave, it's supposed to be a secret - I guess so students and other teacher don't feel obligated to give gifts or throw parties or whatever, but all the teachers always seem to know who's outbound.

Last year we lost an English teacher I was really fond of - she was very mother-like and really pushed her students, in a good way. By some strange twist of fate (and this almost never happens), she's coming back this year. On the flip side of the coin, we're losing the vice-principal, who is a pretty nice guy. Last year he invited me and Joe and another ALT (who he happened to have worked with) to his house to make udon. I think I may have blogged about that occasion. While I was a bit turned off by the political discourse, it was really kind of him to invite us to his home, and he's always been very patient at work with my Japanese limitations.

As well, one of the history teachers who I've been friendly with since coming to work here is transferring. As he was in charge of the Judo club, I used to drop in to watch practice now and then and chat a little bit with him about this and that. He once lent me a video (a real, VHS video) of this movie he likes. I didn't understand most of it and actually fell asleep, but I appreciated the gesture. He also invited my family over to his house when they visited last year, and as my sister was sick and we had to decline, he dropped off some fruit at my house for her! Unfortunately I haven't talked to him that much recently, but I'm sad to see him go.

Also leaving is a member of the office staff (事務員), who is probably the sweetest woman I've known here.

Today is the day all the teachers clear out their desks, some of them for good. Those who are staying will relocate later today or tomorrow (except me - my real estate is permanent, it seems). Tomorrow it will be nice to see the new teachers, but for today it's sad to watch the out-going crew.

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