Schools

I don’t know if I’ve actually written a post just about schools before and the difference between those of Australia in Japan. Having just finished up my ALT career, it seems like a good time while at least one is fresh in my mind.

The information in this post is much more up-to-date for Japan than Australia, because I haven’t been involved with an Australian primary school for 18 years, and for secondary schools only sporadically or through family over the last 12 years or so. And unlike in Japan, I’ve never been a regular teacher in an Australian school (but was a choir teacher in a secondary school for a few months while their usual one was away). So if you can correct me, readers who work or have kids in schools (Blossomkitty, お願いします!), please do!

And with that, onwards we go.

Greater-known (or at least published) things about Japanese schools:

School lunch

Read about Japanese school lunch here, here  or here.
I am a big fan of school lunch in general. A lot of kids like it, but others would rather bring their own, which they can and have to do in high school. This usually means their mothers making it. Otherwise they can buy bread or rice balls from people that come to school to sell them, and some high schools have vending machines.

A Japanese school lunch. Image: 2 BBolloms

Australia doesn’t have school lunch. It’s BYO or buy it at the canteen. And a school canteen, by the way, is not a bottle. It’s a place where you can buy food. It’s not a cafeteria: in most cases, you don’t eat at the canteen. You take the food away and eat it somewhere else. In Australia most schools let you eat anywhere except the library or computer room. Lunch time is free time. Some schools try to get you to finish your lunch in the classroom before you go out to play. But I think some schools don’t let kids eat inside unless it’s raining.

A school canteen in South Australia. Image: school’s website

My school canteen used to sell flavoured popcorn for 50c, which was great. At recess (morning play time, 11-11:30) they sold cinnamon toast which was a really popular snack (intended for kids who hadn’t had breakfast, I eventually learned) and in summer they had what we called slurpees – like those frozen ‘slushie’ drinks you can get at 7-11. The food there wasn’t especially nutritious. I wasn’t concerned much with nutrition in those days, but I think that’s the main reason my parents preferred us to take lunch from home.

Cleaning

Cleaning is one of the duties that are part of school life in Japan, from kindergarten to high school. Everyone is in designated groups with a designated leader. Each group has an area they are assigned to cleaning for a month or so, and then they get shuffled around. Some schools play music during cleaning time (those were my favourites). Some schools have a great time cleaning, like the ones you see on the video. Some schools have a no-talking policy during cleaning, about which I learned when I got myself and some kids into trouble by talking to them during cleaning. Some kids clean to get the school clean. Some kids run around with brooms that never touch the floor. Some kids stand in one place sweeping the same clean area, leaving the large dirty section of floor next to them at the top of the stairs because it’s not their assigned area and is therefore irrelevant to them.
As I have just been reminded by this good article in the Japan Times, Japanese schools do have a ‘janitor’ but their job is really more like school maintenance in cases that I’ve seen, as opposed to cleaning floors or emptying bins.
In Australia, students don’t clean the floors – that’s done by paid cleaners who come at night. At my primary school we put our chairs up on the tables – was it every day or just on Fridays? – so the cleaners could get the vacuum cleaner under the tables. We also had bin duty where two of us took the classroom bin out to the skip where the cleaner dude would empty it, and took turns to bang the blackboard dusters together out the window. I don’t remember what else there was, but there was probably other stuff.

Possibly lesser-known points about school in Japan (and how they compare with Australia 20 years ago, which is actually not as unnatural a comparison as you might think)

Term dates

Japan has three terms, or ‘semesters’ as some like to translate it (but they never translate it to ‘trimesters’?). They are:

April – July (this year, 6th April to 20th July)

September – December (this year, 1st September to 25th Dec, yes inclusive) and

January – March (in 2018, 9th January to 23rd March).

In that order. Like Europe and North America, the longest break is the summer holidays, which fall over August. The spring and winter breaks are both around 2 weeks, during which kids are largely hanging out at school playing sports together anyway. Most Japanese kids (and adults, in my experience) assume that Australia, like most of the Western countries in the Northern Hemisphere, starts the school year after summer, in September.

Except, of course, that summer in Australia is from December to February. For specifics, you can see here, but basically Australia has 4 school terms:

Term 1: late January – early April, followed by ‘Easter holidays’: 2 weeks

Term 2: late April – late June –>winter holidays: 2 weeks

Term 3: mid-July – late September –> spring holidays: 2 weeks or 3 if you’re lucky

Term 4: mid-October – mid-late December. The latest you could expect term 4 to finish is the 23rd of December.

Summer holidays, aka Christmas holidays: January is off.

They’re probably trying to stop people using terms like ‘Easter holidays’ and ‘Christmas holidays’ now that assuming Christianity is less PC. Speaking of which…

Religious Education/Instruction vs Moral Education

It’s probably always been a bit controversial, but I’ve only become aware of this since finishing school. In Australia there are church volunteers who go around telling kids about stuff from the Bible in half-hour sessions. These used to be opt-out, meaning that unless a parent specifically requested that their child not be instructed about the goodness of Christianity, the child had to sit there and be instructed. I remember wishing I could have had a note to opt me out so I could play computer games like the other 1 or 2 kids who weren’t participating. It was changed to opt-in in 2011 and the numbers dropped a fair bit. I think educators are leaning more towards views that education should be secular and that kids should be taught about religions (comparatively) rather than what you might call indoctrinated into one religion. According to this article about it, they’re also trying to focus on respecting people and treating each other well, to reduce the significant problems Australia is having with domestic violence.

Japan doesn’t have religious education as far as I know, other than what students might learn in Social Studies. What they have is dōtoku 道徳, ‘Moral Education.’ This is where they basically get taught how to behave in Japan, as far as I could make out from the teacher I asked about it the other day. How to be polite and respectful. Read more about it here.

Gardening

Japanese primary school kids grow flowers, tomatoes and other plants at school! Each kid has their own little plastic pot and a plastic bottle with a little sprinkling shower head they attach to it to water their plants. At some schools they grow rice, sweet potatoes and other vegetables. I think this is great, especially these days with the increasing availability of pre-made food. I don’t think many Japanese kids would get to be like those kids on Jamie’s School Dinners who didn’t recognise celery.

I don’t think gardening is as widely spread in Australian schools. I don’t recall doing it at school myself. However, I’m pretty sure my mum did some at her school way out in the sticks about a hundred years ago. My high school introduced optional horticulture and viticulture subjects during my last couple of years there, but it wasn’t the same.

School camp

JAPAN DOESN’T HAVE SCHOOL CAMP よ!

School camp was probably my favourite thing about primary school. My favourite book at primary school was Don’t Pat the Wombat! by Elizabeth Honey and I remember waiting impatiently to go on camp in grade 4. It was 2 nights or maybe 3 down at Point Nepean/Portsea where Harold Holt didn’t come back from. It was called school camp, but actually we didn’t sleep in tents, but cabins. We saw a canon, listened to (sea!)shells and took turns sitting in a helicopter. It was very exciting. I think I was keeping a diary at the time and some of the girls in my room or another room found it and read it, much to my dismay.

Grade 5 and 6 camp was longer, maybe 4 or 5 days. We went to adventure-y type places with high and low ropes courses and a great big flying fox, and did horse riding and went on a 15-metre swing. It was the Best Thing Ever.

Tents were for Year 7 onwards, when we started cooking our own food, doing more hiking, cycling, surfing, rock climbing and stuff. At my school it was called Outdoor Education. By Year 10, when it was no longer compulsory, we had to plan our menu and route and carry everything we’d need for a 6-day hike, and take turns to navigate with compasses. It was the best. My partner and I took us in the wrong direction for the first half hour of the first morning. Then we figured out something was wrong. Camp was the only time I felt alive (I wasn’t a very active teenager), and you could get along with people you otherwise wouldn’t, and you could cut each other’s hair or talk about poo and nobody cared so much.

In Japan, they have a ‘school trip’ which starts out as an overnight trip to some tourist destination in grade 5 or 6 and builds up to 2 or 3 nights by the time they get to year 9. It’s usually to some sort of tourist destination. My schools went to Tokyo, Okinawa, Kyoto, and places like that. Most of the kids love it, but many of them have never been camping, and often not for more than one night if they have.

The school ground

In Australia, school grounds usually have some bitumen areas, a hall/gym, classrooms, common areas and an oval (or more than one). The oval is a large area of grass that may or not actually be in the shape of an oval. It might be square or circular. There is usually a cricket pitch of packed dirt or some harder surface in the middle.

Primary schools have play equipment (monkey bars, slide etc) over a surface of what’s known as tanbark. Some schools have tennis courts, outdoor basketball/netball courts, pools, and/or soccer ovals. Then there are specialty classrooms like art rooms, music rooms, and in secondary schools, science rooms, home economics rooms, drama rooms, and maybe woodwork/ceramics rooms, and usually some sort of auditorium or performance centre. I think music usually has more than one room in secondary schools. Some schools have media/multimedia study areas… oh and of course, every school has a library.

Playground over tanbark. Image: an ACT school website

Most schools in Australia are quite sprawly, taking up a large area of land and not extending upwards for many storeys – it would be rare that you’d see a school building as tall as three storeys, I think. And of course, there is a first aid room/nurse’s room, staff room, and principal’s office. I think all schools also have a reception desk, usually near the principal’s office.

As far as I am aware, most schools in Japan don’t have grass – or common areas. The ‘ground’ is a coarse sandy dirt, sort of like tiny tiny gravel. That’s where kids run around, play soccer, baseball and dodgeball, and what play equipment is on.

The guraundo (ground) at a school in Tochigi. Image: Tochigi Film & TV Commission

Everywhere else outdoors is either concrete/asphalt or dedicated garden bed. Inside, there is the genkan 玄関 (shoe locker area for changing between indoor and outdoor shoes), classrooms, radio room,  staff room, library, office worker’s room (not sure what goes on there – accounting? General admin?), specialty rooms like music, science, art, home economics. I’ve never heard of a drama room or media room in a Japanese school, but they have computer labs. Some schools have kitchens where lunch is made on campus, if the school is big enough – others get it delivered from a local school lunch centre. All Japanese primary schools seem to have pools. Even my school last year that had a total of 36 students had its own pool. Some junior high schools have them, too. The pool gets emptied at some point after summer and by the time the next summer rolls around, it can be pretty gross. Cleaning it out is a school activity.

Uniforms

Most schools in Australia have uniforms. If schools have uniforms, they are compulsory. Some primary schools just have polo shirts and shorts or tracksuit pants and a windcheater, but some have sport and non-sport uniforms. Secondary schools with uniforms usually seem to have both.

I think all Japanese schools have uniforms, but primary school kids don’t seem to wear them a lot of the time. I’m not really sure how it works. I think they have sport uniforms and other uniforms too, but sometimes they don’t wear either. They have some pretty random English on their clothes sometimes.

The red and white hat you can find in any Japanese elementary school. It’s white underneath. Image: Amazon

Hats are mandatory for children in both Japanese and Australian primary schools. In Australia they may or may not be uniform, but in Japan, they’re standardised. All kids have an aka-shiro boushi, 赤白帽子, a red and white reversible cap with an elastic chin strap. They use them to mark out teams when playing tag, for instance – if you’re ‘it’ you wear the red side and everyone else is white. Most schools also have another hat, whose colour varies from school to school. Yellow is a common colour. So is blue, but I’ve seen purple, green and more.

Marking

Australia (and the West, yes?): Correct = tick. Incorrect = cross. Or underline or circle, if students/teachers feel that X are too aggressive – just something to draw attention to it.

Image: marcofolio via boredpanda

Japan: Correct = circle. Incorrect = cross – or tick if you can’t be bothered lifting the pen another time.

This was so confusing for me when I first came. Eventually it was OK in the classroom, but now I confuse myself all the time by forgetting which system I’m using when studying Japanese.

There are more oddities about schools in both Australia and Japan. If you’re made it to the bottom of this post, well done! お疲れ様でした。 It took me a while to write and as long to find the photos.

ところで、日本人の読んでくれている人へ:日本語で全然書かなくてすみません!また書きます!

Teach the Target Language! (TTTL) Not the one you already know.

This is a very specific aspect of language education in the Japanese public school system that I want to write about tonight. That is to say, teaching by translation.
Usual disclaimers: I haven’t studied education, I just have a CELTA and a few years’ experience teaching English in various guises, including in a multicultural language school, but mostly as an ALT in public schools in various parts of Japan.
I kind of wish I could write more about how it’s done in Australia, but I can’t remember that much, whereas my Japan experience is current as of now.

In my experience of second/foreign language education in Japan, it’s pretty translation-heavy. Of course this depends on the school and teacher and stuff, but the general approach for English lessons is teaching from Japanese: explaining things in Japanese and learning words by their Japanese equivalents, as in, learn a list of words by rote with the Japanese translations next to them. Copy them out many times to remember how to spell them.
In many ways it makes sense to do this: it saves time if you’ve already got the concept and all you need is the new set of sounds for it; you can sort out misunderstandings using words you know in your native language; and let’s not forget it’s easy, familiar and feels safe for teachers and students alike to be able to communicate in a language they all understand.

On the other hand, almost all genuine interaction that takes place in the language classroom is not in the target language. This means that students have little confidence using the words they’re supposedly learning – the more confident ones can understand them when reading or maybe even listening, but there’s no way they’re going to use them in speaking. They’ve never even tried to use them in an original sentence in writing, unless you call it original to plug everything into the formula you’re dictated. Heck, the only chance they’d have at using the words they supposedly learn is probably in the speaking tests they have about three times a year, and that’s only for words that become relevant – and remember they’ve had no practice using them in conversation so it’s pretty dangerous to use them in a test. Nah, these kids are much more comfortable doing what they’re used to, copying passages from one book to another and looking up the correct answer when they don’t know it. Or when they didn’t get around to doing their homework so they just copy the answers out of the back of the book. But I digress.
There are other limitations to teaching by translation. You know the phrase lost in translation, well, it really is a thing. It’s hard to convey the fear/angst/confusion that is felt by kids all over Japan on a daily or weekly basis when an ALT or foreigner greets them and they don’t know if it was OK to say ‘hello’ just now because it’s morning and surely you should say ‘good morning’ and what the flip is this ‘hi’ thing that the foreigner just said?
And how do you say いただきます [I humbly receive] in English? (You don’t.)

I don’t mean to claim that studying through translation all the time is purely a Japanese phenomenon: it definitely isn’t. I had a French teacher at school who very seldom spoke French, and never that I heard for more than a phrase or two at a time. We didn’t speak a lot of French in that class. Her lessons of translating entire articles into English never left me feeling like I’d learned a lot, which was a stark contrast to this one teacher I had in year 11 (bonjour Madame Wright, si vous lisez! Je ne le crois pas, tant pis). That year 11 class was my first experience of what it’s like to interact in a language where you don’t necessarily understand all the words and sounds your interlocutor is using. It was great, it was like we were expected to use our brains or something, in the biggest linguistic mental challenge I’d personally had since I first tried to string together a sentence of my own in French after all the ‘Comment t’appelles-tu?’ ‘J’ai treize ans’ and ‘J’habite à Melbourne.’

Sometimes it really gets in the way trying to teach by translation. If you never engage in the target language and you don’t know how people phrase things in that language, you end up writing weird stuff out of your dictionary or school textbook, like ‘You are a sweetheart’ to a middle-aged couple who visit your school. Or ‘let’s go to the toilet!’ to another kid who allegedly has a stomachache, or ‘let’s enjoy Miyajima’ to a stranger who has asked for directions, when you’re not intending to go to Miyajima.
Or you end up trying to explain in your limited English to the Nepalese lady in your Japanese language class and nobody understands what’s going on, when she would have understood your Japanese if you just said it clearly a couple more times.

Visual material, as in pictures, diagrams, body language and videos, is pretty underestimated in mainstream English education in Japan for conveying concepts. More use of the visual and interactive would really help change the environment in English classrooms in Japan, especially at secondary school levels, away from such heavy reliance on translation and more towards actually doing things in your target language – increasing both your competence and confidence in said language, one would think. The Ministry of Education knows this stuff. They’re just really slow to change, and many of the teachers relying on their translation system are reluctant, if not downright scared, to change the way they do things.

I guess my point is, go target language. It’s not impossible, despite what some people (you people are like climate sceptics and ‘marriage traditionalists’) say, but it does mean more mental effort on the parts of both teacher and student, and hey, while we’re at it, the textbook and curriculum, so it’s not likely to come about too quickly in public schools in Japan. I’ll just dream, be frustrated, and do what I can on a small scale while I’m here in this job.

Blergh. Next time, let’s write about something I like in Japan! It will probably have to be food or hospitality, in that case.
See you then 🙂

Things kids say

The aim of this post is to illuminate a bit of what is accepted behaviour in schools in Japan, and to debunk the myth that all Japanese kids are well behaved. This is a myth that I believed before I came to Japan, and while these things are all relative, if you have this impression, you haven’t worked in a Japanese school. I’ve worked in a few. Some of my ALT friends have had schools where students vomited in class because they were drunk, or where all the staff hid in the staff room when one of the cars in the carpark was blown up. We’ve all had kids we’ve seen smoking. One of my Japanese friends reckons everyone he knows has been a student in a class where the teacher has had enough, said something like 「じゃ、勝手にやってください」(Fine, just do whatever) and basically thrown their hands up and gone back to the staff room.

These things are probably true of schools in many countries. Anyway, here are some things some of my students have said to me or about me, without being rebuked, in my presence. I think they’re remarkable mostly because I think these are things most students wouldn’t say to most teachers in Australia. There may also be a bit of subconscious (??) ‘well it’s a foreigner, so it doesn’t matter’ idea, but I think it’s largely that teachers put up with a lot.

‘かわいい〜!(Cuuuuute!)’

‘How old are you?’

‘妊娠しとる?’ (Are you pregnant?)

‘Very slim.’

‘Nice body!’

「ゴミ箱」’It’s in the bin.’ (when asked ‘where is your worksheet?’)

‘Are you married?’

‘How many children do you have?’ (Was quite impressed with the English on that one)

‘Do you like me?’

‘Do you play sex?’

‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ (Also ‘Are you boyfriend?,’ ‘Are you have boyfriend?’)

‘I’m オッパイ oppai!‘ (boobs) – when asked  ‘how are you?’

‘I’m デブ debu!‘ (fat) – when asked ‘how are you?’ When I failed to react, he did a big belly gesture in case I wasn’t getting it.

‘先生、ピアスはゴルドボール!’ (Your earrings are gold balls! – lit. the word for balls, yep as in testicles.)

‘あ、アメリカ来た.’ (Oh, here comes America.) – This one was about me, not to me.

Kids’ parents have said about me in my presence:

‘かわいいですね!’ (She’s cute, isn’t she!)

Teachers have said:

‘Wow, you can use chopsticks well!’ (All foreigners know this phrase well.)

‘You’re prettier than you look in the photo your company gave us!’ (From a school principal at my initial introduction to the school, with my supervisor.)

‘Don’t they drink milk in America?’ (this was not said to me, but was one teacher asking another after I took my milkless lunch tray from the staff room)

‘So, are you going home to America for the holidays?’ (By a teacher who had helped me teach an Australia lesson about myself)

Hope this post hasn’t been too whingey. Sometimes it gets a bit frustrating, but can be quite funny, this job.

Conversation

It’s midsummer: school holidays. You drive past school at 7pm. How many cars are there in the staff car park? In Australia: 0. In Japan:5+, when I drove yesterday past a middle school where I work.

Japan has 3 school terms: April to July, September to December, and January to March. The summer holiday is the longest, which is similar to most countries I think, but it’s different in that a lot of kids still come to school every day for club activities. Like basketball practice or matches every day for 5 or 6 weeks. Teachers also come to school every day except when it’s a public holiday.

In Hiroshima Prefecture, in the city where I work, school was cancelled on three separate occasions in Term 1 due to rain and flood/landslide warnings. By the way, school being cancelled means students not coming, but all the teachers hanging out in the (air conditioned!) staff room all day, unless they have meetings or stuff to do in their empty home rooms. What follows in this post is, as close as I was able to recall/translate when I got home that night, a conversation that took place on the last of these days between the two Grade 4 teachers and me as most of the staff were tucking into their ordered-at-the-last-minute bentos, and I my Family Mart rice balls (had been at a different school in the morning and missed out on the bento ordering).

seachicken

The very popular onigiri (rice ball) flavour ‘sea chicken,’ a.k.a tuna. Image: Myunti

Note: BJ=BijinJapan, T1 and T2: Grade 4, Class 1 and Class 2 home room teachers

BJ: Oh! Sensei, you brought a bento!?

T1: Yeah, I was making one for my daughter so it was easy to make one for myself too.

T2: Ah, she takes a bento?

BJ: How old is your daughter?

T1: She’s in grade 3. She’ll be at your middle school in three years. My son is in kindergarten, so he only needs to take rice.

T2: He has to take rice?

T1: Yeah. They have the おかず okazu (mains/sides to go alongside rice) there, but the kids have to bring their own rice. With no nori or seasoning – they reckon there’s too much salt in it.

BJ: Huh! I didn’t know they had school lunch at kindergarten.

T1: I’m glad we have school lunch here.

T2: Me too.

BJ: Me too! We don’t have it in Australia.

T1: Really!? Everyone brings a bento?

BJ: Yeah…

T1: Oh wait, they don’t have bentos there do they? Do they just wrap their lunch in a cloth and bring it?

balwynPS uniform

 This was printed out sitting on my desk to show an example of the kinds of uniforms primary school kids wear in Australia. Image: Balwyn Primary School website via Google

BJ: Oh, most kids do have a lunchbox, but it is a different kind (shows picture that is conveniently lying around on nearby desk ready for a poster). Kids often take a sandwich, some fruit, maybe a little packet of chips or biscuits. The one in this picture looks like it has yoghurt and grapes.

T1: Wow. So there’s no food hall or cafeteria?

BJ: Well, most schools have a canteen for if you can’t bring lunch, but usually the food’s not that healthy.

T1: So did you take lunch every day?

BJ: Yeah, I did. Sandwiches every day, pretty boring huh!

T1: No rice balls?

onigiri

Mmm, sea chicken. Image: here 

BJ: No, nobody really eats rice balls in Australia.

T1: But you’ve got them today! Do you like Japanese food?

BJ: Yes, very much.

T1: Do you cook at home?

BJ: Yes, well, of course?

T1: That’s great! What do you make?

BJ: Um… food? I make a lot of pasta and sometimes curries like Indian or Thai curry.

T2: Yum, that sounds nice.

T1: Wow, you can make that? Is it difficult? Do you make it from scratch with the spices and stuff?

BJ: With Indian food sometimes I use spices, but for Thai I just use a curry paste from the shops, so it’s really easy.

T1: Nice, I’ve never tried to make Thai curry. What about Japanese food, do you cook anything?

BJ: Sometimes I make okonomiyaki, Osaka style. I like to make it because it’s simple, but Hiroshima style is tricky to eat, let alone make.

T1 & T2: Yeah, Hiroshima style is not for home, too hard!

T1: So are you going home for summer?

BJ: Yes, looking forward to seeing my family… we’re going skiing 🙂

T1: Oh right, it’s winter there! It snows?

BJ: Only in the mountains usually. But today was supposed to be quite cold, Canberra was forecast to maybe get some snow, I think the maximum temperature was going to be 7 degrees (Centigrade).

T2: Does it get into the minuses?

BJ: Overnight, yes, but not during the day.

T2: Sounds comfortable.

BJ: Yeah, it’s good. So I’m looking forward to feeling cold! But it almost feels like the closer it gets, the more homesick I get, because I can feel that it’s soon, it’s soon, it’s coming…

T1: It’s the same for us with Obon! (a holiday of a few days where everyone goes to their hometown and visits their parents, and their ancestors’ graves)

BJ: Ah, yes! Are you going to visit your parents?

T1: Yeah, but it’s not far for me, how about you, T2?

T2: I’m the same, but my husband’s family lives in Yamaguchi, so he’ll be away.

T1: So when are you going to Australia?

BJ: August.

T2: Oh, only for August?

BJ: I’ll be there for 3 weeks. Isn’t that a long time in Japanese terms?

T2: Yeah, it is.

T1: Yeah! If someone was away from work for 3 weeks, everyone wouldn’t get it, it would be like, “What? What are they doing?”*

T2: Yes, it doesn’t really happen here.

T1: What’s it like in Australia for 社会人 shakaijin (full-time workers/members of society)?

BJ: I think most people get about 3 weeks off a year, and you can decide when you take them.

T1: Wow, that’s nice! We get 5 to maybe 10 days over Obon and New Year.

BJ: There’s also this thing we call ‘long service leave’ where if you stay at one company for 10 years, you get 3 months off.

T1: WHAAAAAAT No way! What do you even do with that time?

BJ: Anything you like.

T1: Travel?

BJ: Sure.

T1: We are workaholics, we work too much. It’s nice during the summer break though; usually we leave school at 7 or 7:30 but in the summer we can go home at 5, so I can go to the pool with my daughter.

BJ: …In Australia that’s normal, the normal working day is 8 or 9 to 5 or 6.

T1: Ah, work-life balance, right? So you can spend time with your family every day!

BJ: It’s important, I think, and good for your health.

T1: Yes, good for mental health.

T2: Is it only Japan that keeps hours like ours?

BJ: I’m not sure, but I think in Europe it’s similar to Australia.

T2: Yeah, I wonder if it’s only Asian countries…

BJ: Korea might be similar?

T2: I think Korea is similar. But you know, it used to be more easygoing around here, 10, 20, maybe 30 years ago. You could come into the teachers’ room in the summer and there would be nobody here.

BJ: What happened?

T2: There’s just all this work to do…

BJ: I wonder how/why it changed from the past?

T2: There are more things we have to write these days, we have to write documents, reports, and submit them to the Board of Education.

T1: It’s been that way since I started teaching, we have to write a lot of stuff. But you have to write reports and things too, don’t you?

BJ: The only thing I usually have to write is lesson plans, unless there’s some special event happening…

*this happens not uncommonly however, when teachers get so stressed/sick that they take a month or year off to recover

And that’s how that conversation went. Here’s to summer holidays.