I would be remiss if I didn’t describe the students at the schools. I think the junior high schools are where you will find a true cross section of Japanese society. Most people who don’t live or have lived in Japan are unaware that high school is not compulsory. If a student doesn’t want to go, they aren’t legally bound to go. There are no truancy laws here either, so it’s possible to just never go to school in the first place. I remember when I was a high school student, when politicians used to try to shame the student body into performing better after showing us how far we were behind compared to Japanese students. In hindsight those numbers are tainted because of the involuntary nature of schools…
But I digress…
Let me talk about my students… And I will talk about the students at this school… Shomaru chu. This school is in the industrial part of the city, and like any school around the world, industrial sector school have the lowest performing students and Shomaru chu is no exception. 25% are on task, 25% are actively off task and 50% are just coasting by. Among the ones who are off task! a third of them actively disrupt the class or are so disengaged that school is just a babysitting service. Because students automatically pass, it’s all carrot and no stick… And some students just don’t care for carrots. For me, I am not in charge of classroom behavior, so it doesn’t effect my bottom line and I would say that at this school, 80% of the students enjoy my company. Even if they can’t be bothered with learning English, many still are comfortable with me being around and I enjoy being around them as well. There are 3 particular students who have gone quite far off the deep end though… By US standards, they would have been removed from the normal classroom all together long ago, of course I will use fake names here:
Jiro- 2nd year student- He is actually a decent English speaker (considering the rather low English ability at this school), but has so little self control it’s a full time job just chasing the kid down. He is cool with me though, so he will do what I ask, but I am rarely in that situation anyways. He is an absolute dick with his regular teachers though. This sometimes happens with my position as this spectrum of kid is drawn to the fact that I am definitely outside the box and constraints of the culture.
Sayuri- 3rd year- one thing about the Japanese is that how they style themselves is who they are to a stereotypical extent. Imagine that anyone dressing in hip hop attire was a criminal, or anyone that dressed as a metal head was a devil worshiper. Fashion isn’t style here, it’s a uniform declaring an allegiance and affiliation. For students, they are usually happy with their uniform as it is, but some kids adopt a different allegiance early, and this girl has adopted the hostess. She may or may not go to highschool, and if she does it will be for the uniform. She mainly can be seen coasting through the halls while texting and the teachers desperately trying to ignore her. She might walk into class halfway through, but she won’t do anything. She has had this image since I first saw her as an Elementary school student. At least her make up doesn’t look like it was applied to a corpse anymore. At first she really didn’t like me, but her friend likes me a lot, so now she is just ambivalent. She is not a bad kid and I have had a few short conversations with her in the hall (in Japanese), but it breaks my heart that she will likely take a turn into the realm of Joshi Kosei rifure (JK).
Kaz- 2nd year- the boxing kid. Like Jiro, but runs really hot and cold. He is a huge disruption in class when he is in. Usually he is trying to get out though and he keeps any teacher in the halls busy. The thing is that this kid actually has real life fighting techniques and no self control, which is a dangerous combo. When he is running hot, is loud, obnoxious and pushy. When he is running cold, he is just loud but I can still make a connection with him. Last time was when we found a mutual liking of Bob Marley, to which he was very eager to show me all his Bob Marley memorabilia and weed patches, although I don’t think he knows what it is.
As far as the actual grades go, the first year kids (US equivalent to 7th graders) are a pretty nice group of kids, but the toxic culture of the school is starting to sap their exuberance. The second year (US 8th graders) are the most out of control group in the city. Their education level as a whole is about 3 years behind their peers. I’m pretty sure their teachers drink a lot. The third year (US 9th graders) have mostly learned to coast. Friendly batch but in an archetypical blonde way.
One last thing about the Shomaru chu teachers though… They are an awesome batch and have the best grasp of English as a whole. The teachers are kind, determined, wonderful people, but they are in a war….and they are losing.