Thursday, November 12, 2009

School rant

I apologise in advance to anyone who comes to my blog to read about Japanese gardening, raising chickens and other exciting things like that. Today I want to rant about school so anyone not interested please come back again... I promise I will be back to my normal "nice" photos etc. soon!
Two things have happened at school lately that have left me with big question marks. The first is related to an annual event run at school where the children are introduced to people in wheelchairs, with disabilities etc. and are able to experience what it is like for these people to deal with daily life. On Wednesday a blind man came to talk with his guide dog. I went and listened and it was really interesting. Some of the children were blindfolded and led around by the dog and all had a wonderful experience. Last year all the children were able to experience what it is like to be in a wheelchair and how difficult it is to get around. There is a lot of emphasis on not being prejudiced against people who are "different", which finally brings me to my point (sorry, I'm feeling a bit long winded today!). There is one child in my son's class whose grandmother always comes to all the school related events etc. in place of his mother. I have always assumed that the mother is not living in the area or is deceased. It wasn't till I saw her for the first time at the sports day that I realised she is actually in a wheelchair - which makes it impossible for her to attend anything at school. Why? Because despite all the "education" on making everything accessible to everyone the schools in Japan are all at least two, generally three stories high. The only rooms on the ground floor of most of the schools are the staff rooms, the sick room and perhaps a meeting room. All classrooms are at least one floor up with absolutely no access for wheelchairs. Modern schools may be better, but definitely not here! This means that although we all get a chance to see our children in their classrooms doing their daily things, talk as a group of mothers with the teacher about how things are going etc., this one boy's mother will never have the chance. I often wonder if the school has thought about this and offered to do classes downstairs on the "open days", offered to bring the class meetings downstairs to allow her to attend etc. To be honest I don't know enough about the situation to do any stirring yet, but hopefully next time I see the grandmother I will be able to ask a little about the situation and offer to talk to the school about how the mother could become more involved. Perhaps I am way off track and the mother has no interest... I doubt it though.
The second thing that has happened lately that has me shaking my head about "moral education" here is in my daughter's class. There has been some "bullying" going on and my daughter has been led into it a bit by the ringleader. The teacher has gotten on to it and she has been required to write an essay about her behaviour etc. I have no problems with that. Although she didn't really do the majority of it she was involved in excluding two of the five girls in her class from some activities etc. and when I found out about it she got such an earful from me that I doubt she will be doing it again in the near future! I have no problem with them being kept back after school to write essays. What I do have a problem with is the next step the teacher took. The day after it was all discussed at school I got the following message from her teacher (direct translation...) :
"Today I got the students to perform a role play during first period relating to what happened yesterday. There were different roles for everyone in the role play - someone who was a bully, someone being bullied etc. I wanted the children to get the feeling for how it feels in each situation so they would think a little more about their behaviour in the future. However, during the role play I made the rule that when a person lost at janken (rock, paper, scissors) the other person was able to slap them with three fingers (I later discovered that in fact it was only my daughter who was to be slapped if she lost...) and one of the students took it a little too far and really hit your daughter very hard - causing her to cry. I made the children think about why your daughter was crying and what part they played in the incident. I aimed to teach the children how to think about other children, however for your daughter it was perhaps a slightly bad experience. I put a bandage on it and it isn't red anymore, but it does seem to hurt a little. I'm sorry, but could you please keep an eye on her at home."

I have no problem with role plays... in fact I think they are an excellent way to get a point across sometimes. I just have a slight problem with the teacher encouraging children to actually hit each other during them - even if it is with only 3 fingers. I have always thought she is a twit, but this has just confirmed it! Roll on April when hopefully she will move on to another school. Congratulations on anyone who has made it this far. It felt good to have a rant for a change!


  1. This really has shocked me - I'm lost for words! If I were in your shoes I would have to take this matter up with the head, if not the board of education. Gosh...

  2. I'm still thinking you should take this further too. I'm sure a lot of other Japanese teachers wouldn't be shocked by this but is important the school knows this is unacceptable behaviour.

    And if she goes next year who cares if you rock the boat now??

    Ganbare and thanks for coming to visit! I got coughed over by my junior high kids at English tonight so might be down oinking next week. Otherwise will come for cuppa.

  3. The irony of the wheelchair incident (unfortunately) really doesn't surprise me....

    The roleplay sounds like it got quite out of hand.... I'm not really a fan of roleplays in moral education as I've seen too many where it came accross as officially sanctioned bad behaviour.

    What does your daughter want you to do about the slapping incident?

  4. Sadly I'm not all that surprised by the wheelchair incident either.

    Amy came home from school with a bruise on her face from being punched. She was trying to stop the boys (she's bigger than any of them) picking on another girl. This is in addition to the compass-in-the-head episode. At least her teacher isn't TELLING them to hit each other, although she doesn't seem to be doing much else about it. Amy said there are now TWO assistant teachers, but the class is still in chaos.

  5. Anonymous7:36 PM

    For some reason this post reminded me of a documentary called 'Children Full of Life,' about a Japanese elementary school teacher. While it's not directly related to your situation, you might appreciate it, if you haven't seen it already.

  6. Anonymous7:36 PM

    For some reason this post reminded me of a documentary called 'Children Full of Life,' about a Japanese elementary school teacher. While it's not directly related to your situation, you might appreciate it, if you haven't seen it already.

  7. Keiko9:40 PM



  8. Chris9:54 PM

    Absolutely have every right to rant...I would...I feel aggravated with this situation and it hasn't even happened to me. Having children hit eachother in any way does absolutely nothing to "teach" them about bullying. I like the role play idea...but I would love to hear the teacher's rationale for having the students do what they did. As for your other point about accessibility in Japanese schools...I couldn't agree with you more. Perhaps if "moral" education made it off the pages of the curriculum books and into actual practice then more people would start looking out for eachother instead of number one all the time...maybe even electing to park a little further away from the shop instead of in the handicapped spot...but I digress...that's another matter of "moral" education...

  9. oh..boy..they are LUCKY I'm not a parent at that school-I would more than a little ranting about it....

  10. Anonymous5:44 PM

    Ok I live in the US and admite things are a bit different here. But...WOW the teacher told the kids to hit one another?!? I hate to think the type of s**t storm that would start here.