The First Term

April marks the start of a new school year in Japan. The teachers have been shuffled around, the desks moved, and new books purchased.

I have never been through an experience like the start of the new academic year in Japan. Teachers in Japan at the end of May learn of the fate: have they been moved to a new school or will they get to stay with their current one? Teachers can be given as little as one week to pack up and move, sometimes including needing to move house!

Coming from the UK this process is more than a little unusual. It can mean that students each year have to start again with a new teacher that doesn’t know their level and capabilities. It means there is very little in terms of holistic teaching, and the curriculum has to reflect this potential sudden change of teaching staff.

It also means lots of emotional and hasty goodbyes, with colleagues of years will be separated against their wishes. For classes, it means new textbooks and a new style of teaching to get used to.

I have spoken to teachers to ask why it happens. The best they can give me it that it keeps it ‘fresh’ and promotes building relationships with new colleagues. I understand this is important, but I am confident that natural staff turnover in the UK usually provides this. However, in Japan, once in a role and company, you are usually there for life. Therefore, perhaps this natural turnover would not happen, and so, for teachers, it is forced upon them.

It has been a very un unusual April for me as I try to get back into a routine after timetable, textbook, and teacher changes….

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