Apr 10, 2011

A New School Year.. How Different is it?

Spring is here! Sakura is blooming... It is the start of of a new school year. :)

Official day of work for teachers starts with a day of meetings. Following that are ceremomonies: Opening Ceremony 始業式, Welcoming New Staff Ceremony 新人式, School Entrance Ceremony 入学式, etc.

Mmm... that is quite expected though. I have gotten used to the formal ceremonies in Japan. In fact, I have grown a little fond of them. I think I will miss the chorus bowing of 30-45 degrees in assemblies. Sights we will never see in Singapore schools.

The things that surprised me are the amount of changes that comes with a new school year though.

The first thing I noticed when I enter the staff room was... my seat has changed! Someone had kindly helped to move my clutter to my new seat, as I was away for the entire 2-week spring vacation.

What's different from Singapore...

When the Japanese teachers shift, they shift their entire desk, with their mini cabinets underneath. Unlike Singapore's, which is not so portable. They do not have partitions, too, so it is very easy for moving.

And of course, with a change of seat, my neighbours have changed. I have a new colleague seated next to me this round, and lots of teachers whom I have not spoken to, yet. But, I miss my buddy teacher dearly...


Usually teachers who taught Year 1s last year will teach Year 2s this year. And Year 2 teachers will teach Year 3s; Year 3 teachers will teach Year 1s. But for ALTs, we are kinda of shared across the different grades.

Just that, my situation was special (we had more Year 1 homerooms) last year, I only taught Year 1s then. This year I will teach Year 3s as well.

How school starts for Japanese students is pretty different, too.

For the School Entrance Ceremony, parents accompany their children to attend this ceremony. This is a special ceremony to induct the new Year 1s. Usually in Singapore, only parents with young children, like those attending kindergarten and primary schools, will accompany their children on first day of school.

Year 2s and 3s would have attended the Opening ceremony the day before, and that will be the first day of school for them.

First day of school in Japan, is not exactly the first day of school in Singapore. In Singapore, we plunge straight in classes, whereby students will first meet their form teacher and other subject teachers, learn about rules, prepare exercise books etc.

For the Year 1s, first day of school after the School Entrance Ceremony equates to buying school supplies. That is very surprising to me. In Singapore, all supplies- uniforms, books, equipment, etc are all bought way before school starts. During the last day of school, students would be given a list of things to buy. I still remember the days when I trotted along to help carry bags of books and uniforms for my brother's new school year. I probably would never forget the boring long queues at the bookstores or checking of uniform sizes. Buying of school supplies are very systematically conducted in Japanese schools. For my school, supplies are already packed in bags. They are probably all identical. Different classrooms houses different sets of supplies, and the external staff selling them will be stationed in these classrooms, too.

I found it particularly intriguing about their introduction of form teachers, too , otherwise known as homeroom teachers in Japanese schools. They are announced in the assembly hall, after the Opening Ceremony, though before the ceremony, they had a short homeroom period before (usually homeroom teachers will conduct classes for this period). Once teachers' names are announced for the respective homerooms, cheers and claps follow. It's easy to tell who are more popular among students. :P

What I like about Japanese Schools...

Their SHR and LHR lessons. SHR: Short homeroom period and LHR: long homeroom period are periods put aside for form teachers to settle administrative stuff with their students. LHR are typically used for pastoral care or preparation for special school events. This is a great idea, as form teachers in Singapore usually have to use their own lesson hours to conduct such administrative duities. We do have pastoral care periods put aside though, for certain schools.

And finally of course, with a new school year, timetables will be different, teachers we team-teach with will change, and we will meet new students. Sometimes, there are changes in subjects we teach too. We, ALTs, still teach English, but there are different English subjects: Oral Communication, English, even Writing, Reading classes for some schools.

Well, I am looking forward to the new school year, armed with a new and busier timetable, and new opportunities to interact with other teachers and students. Let the remaining 4 months be a blast! :D


Hope I am still in time for submission! Today's the last day! :O This time, the theme for April is "Education". If you have a blog post to share on the theme, do find out more from this month's host, NihongoUp's blog or FAQ page.

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