I've just got back from a very short (but much needed) visit home to the UK. I'd been feeling homesick since Christmas, and decided even if I only went back for a week it would hopefully cheer me up and refresh me for the coming summer months before my contract ends in July. It was great to get home and see all my friends and family, eat roast dinners and fish and chips, even though by the time I'd beat the jet lag it was time to hop back on the plane and endure the 12 hour flight back.
School broke up on 16 March and so it is currently the spring break, so I have no classes but still go into school. The day after I left for the UK the teachers in my school were told whether or not they would have a job with this school after the spring break. The system in Japanese schools is completely different to the UK. Whereas teachers in the UK will largely stay in the same school for the majority of their career, in Japan teachers rarely stay more than 3 years in one place. They have little choice in the matter - the education board decides who it wants to keep and who it wants to move on. I think the main reasoning behind this system is so no school ends up with all the best teachers, so in a way it makes it fairer - but it must be quite an upheaval to start in a new place every two or three years.
Anyway, on Monday I returned to find a list of leavers on my desk and was shocked that seven of the twenty teachers in the school were leaving, including one of the Japanese English teacher (JTEs) I work closely with. I had known our school principal was retiring (which I'm sad about as he is a very kind and helpful man). There are two other teachers who always help me and make an effort to speak to me even though they have limited English, so I'm really sad to see them go. I will also miss my JTE, who of the two I work with, was the one that allowed me the most freedom in class (the other teacher keeps me on a tight leash!). I'm hoping his replacement is of a similar disposition as it will greatly affect the next four months for me at the school. If I get a good teacher to work with it will make such a difference - I have my fingers crossed. I did have a sneaking suspicion this teacher might be on his way out. I half suspected the reason he gave me more freedom in class is he was feeling burnt out with the whole teaching lark and was happy for someone else to do the work. I don't know the whole story, but he told me he is now quitting teaching and won't move on to another school. I hope things work out for him.
With no lessons there is little for me to do at school during the day - not that I'm complaining as I'm getting paid for it, but the hours can drag. Today I helped sweep the corridors for a bit and bound up a few piles of books that were no longer needed, but apart from that my time is my own (as long as I turn up at my desk). I've planned my elementary lessons for next term and today I made a wolf puppet and three little pigs out of socks, so I can tell the younger kids the fairy tale. They loved my hungry caterpillar and incy wincy spider puppets last term, so I'm hoping these will go down well too. Tomorrow I'll take a good book in with me, study Japanese and try to resist the urge to surf the internet!
Before the break we had our official school photo taken. Can you spot the odd one out?! No one told me not to smile! Everyone looks very stern - they aren't all really that grumpy in real life.
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