Home > Pre-Japan > “I hate spring.”

“I hate spring.”

April here in Japan means a few things: First and foremost in the eyes of Japanese people, it’s cherry blossom season. Yet for a select number of Japanese people it’s also one of the most stressful times of the year. April is the beginning of a new school year here, and for teachers it begins a series of week in which they have to deal with first the possibility of getting transferred, second the possibility of having to teach an entirely different grade, and finally having to deal with new, unknown students.

Every year on the last Friday in March, transfer orders come in from the Board of Education (BoE). No teacher is safe from these orders, and it’s really just pure chance, at least in the eyes of the teachers. I’m sure the BoE has a certain set of rules and guidelines it uses to pick and choose the transferees, but it does seem quite random. Generally the limit to how long one teacher can stay at one school is six years. Yet there have been teachers who have stayed seven, and teachers who have only stayed at one school for one year, or two years. Then, to top that all off, they have to clean out their desks and move to the new school by the 1st of April. They won’t find out which grade they are teaching until about April 5th, and by April 9th the new year has begun. Many teachers get only four days to prepare for the new school year, and they are doing all of this while putting everything into place on their desks, figuring out where everything is in their new school, and getting to know their new colleagues. It’s a bizarre system that even the teachers themselves don’t seem to understand.

I attended a goodbye party at one of my schools last night at which a few of my favorite teachers were being transferred. One of them is going to another one of my schools, but others I probably won’t see ever again. I had a chance to talk to one of them at the party following dinner (incidentally he had been at the school for seven years, one more than technically allowed.) and he expressed to me that he hated spring. HATED. I put it in caps because that’s how he said it. 「大嫌い」. It’s not often you hear a Japanese person get so adamant about disliking something, but he was quite passionate. He said while other people looked forward to spring, and cherry blossoms, because of its beauty, he dreaded it unlike any other time of the year exactly because of this week and a half of complete transition and confusion. We then spoke to some other teachers who entered the conversation who, while perhaps not going along with quite his sentiment, did agree that they preferred the Western system of starting in August, after a long summer break. The fact that the students’ longest break occurs between the first and second trimesters doesn’t help either. They forget everything they’ve learned in the early months.

There certainly are good points to the system they have in place too, one being that as a teacher you get to know just about every other teacher in the city you work in, you never get bored with your job, and you gain a lot of varied skills teaching a range of different subjects and students. Still, you are never really able to develop such close personal bonds with other teachers because you are constantly moving away, and the way it is implemented seems rushed. If they are committed to beginning the school year in April, which they probably are because they’ve done it for six billion years, they should expand the break students get even if it’s just to three weeks to give the teachers an extra week to prepare which would be a massive help.

It has been very interesting from my perspective to see this transition period. My schools and schedule stay exactly the same so I don’t have to deal with this transferring, yet my daily life is affected as well, because with new teachers coming in there will be a warming up period, and I have no idea what kind of teachers they’ll be, whether they’ll have interest in English, etc. I guess I have no choice but to take it one day at a time!

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Categories: Pre-Japan
  1. dotbearman
    April 6, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    YOUR TAKE ON THIS IS SO SENSIBLE, DASHIELL..ONE CAN ONLY HOPE THAT THERE MIGHT BE AN ‘ALUMNI’ GROUP OF TEACHERS WHO MEET UP AGAIN IN THEIR CAREERS….LOVE FROM US IN SUNNY LAJOLLA….

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