April is always a little busy because it is the start of the new school year. This year, we have to use Ministry of Education (文部科学省) mandated textbooks for the fifth and sixth grade classes. No special training has been provided for the new system and books and software; also, copies of the books are shown to us occasionally, but rarely given to the teachers. It is crazy, I think I irritated my boss when I phoned him to tell him it was annoying.
One important job discovery has been that my boss works for the City Board of Ed. and the principals at my schools have contracts through the Prefectural Board of Ed.; and neither group wants to cover our expenses. They are constantly putting me in the middle and telling me to directly request things like purchase of textbooks. I am tempted to show up with excerpts from the labor code for them, but don’t want to rock the boat (despite evidence to the contrary).
My first classes are tomorrow and I still feel completely unprepared. Normally I would feel comfortable teaching a first lesson with little preparation, but we are being told to stick to the lesson plans published by the Ministry. If I had a copy to peruse at night, I would be pretty relaxed.
Also, I have to keep my energy level up because I personally don’t like the philosophical approach of the new mandates. Most people agree that the compulsory education in junior high is ineffective. I had the mistaken impression that the Ministry was creating the elementary education system to promote earlier learning (something, I think is proved to be successful); however, their goal is actually to prop up the junior high system, as is, by creating ‘desire’ to study through ‘fun’ classes at elementary school. First, I think they should be working on improving the junior high system. Second, while ‘fun’ classes can increase ‘desire’, they missed the boat by thinking ‘simple’ = ‘fun’. This program is designed to be unchallenging and some of my students have already learned everything that they are going to be ‘taught’ this year. Imagine spending 35 class hours studying stuff you know. My fear is that boredom will generate a distinct lack of interest in studying.
Regardless, this is the new system and we must teach it, so I need to be prepared to highlight it’s strengths for the students. If I go in with a bad attitude, the students will eat me and the system for lunch. Fortunately, most of the schools know me and will let me teach additional materials, so long as we cover the course material and I’m not ‘pushing’ the kids too hard.
Searching for that balance…