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I Should Tell You…Part IV January 10, 2008

Posted by Mitch in Life in Japan.

1. Schools don’t hire cleaners. They expect their kids to do it for them. And so every day at a certain time (it differs depending on the school), kids are handed brooms, brushes and a whole assortment of cleaning utensils and told to get to work. It’s not enough that they have to sit through 6 classes a day, diligently paying attention and making notes in classrooms that the schools refuse to heat. No. They then have to get down on bended knee and scrub. Most of the kids can’t be bothered with it and so, as a result, the schools are never really clean, thus proving that if Japanese schools want to look good, they’d be better off getting actual cleaners to do the job.

2. Students aren’t the only ones who are expected the clean. Teachers who plan lessons and quite often have about 10 minutes a day spare because they have to take on a multitude of miscellaneous tasks are also put to work, hacking back bushes or, in one case, plucking grass just because someone once said it looked unsightly. Julie, an English teacher, not only has to plan classes for the week, but has to maintain all the plants in the school, look after the lunchroom, help the students clean, organise things for the second years, run the art club and deal with sex education for the entire school. Why an English teacher has to be in charge of this last one, I’m yet to find out. Oh, for the record, Julie then has to go home and be a mother. I think it’s a bit rich for a school to employ someone as a teacher only to dump a whole lot of crap on them afterwards.

3. As you may have guessed where this is going, the third point in this edition of I Should Tell You is : I am expected to clean. Luckily, until now, only one school has asked me and I did it twice and have never done it since. However, my base school has now taken it upon themselves to volunteer my services. There is a new teacher here, Maria, who spoke to me this morning and asked me to join her for ‘cleaning’ outside in the school courtyard after school. I mean, I helped once before when the whole school was doing some kind of gardening thing – I did my bit. But my school have now taken to not giving me a timetable and instead asking me just before the lesson to join them. Today, off the cuff, I’ve had to be in 5 out of 6 lessons and will then be asked to go outside in the freezing cold and ‘clean’. Now some other people in Japan tell me that it’s a good way to bond with their kids. I laugh at these people – I speak very little Japanese. In many cases, they speak less English. How on earth will communication ever be a possibility. Also, if I take a look at my job title, I read “Assistant Language Teacher”. For starters there is no use for linguistics when one is put to work like a scullery maid and second of all – see that word at the end. Does it say cleaner? Does it say skivvy? Does it say Hilda Ogden? No. It says teacher. Someone who imparts knowledge. Someone who is supposed to provide these kids with an education. Not Cinderella.

Rant over…till next time!



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