Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Why teaching at tech high can be better than academic high

Mrs Underwood and I were chatting yesterday about how good the first years have been so far this year, and I asked her how she would compare the experience of teaching here to teaching at Johoku High, the academic school she was at before. I was quite surprised by one of the things she said. She told me that in academic schools, you can't severely punish students who exhibit bad behaviour because the principal will blame you, the teacher, for not doing a good job instructing them. She told me of a case where an academic school boy attacked another boy and hit him so hard (presumably with an object of some kind) that it left a dent in his skull. The attacker wasn't expelled.

Apparently, expectations at technical high are different to the extent that teachers aren't blamed so much for their students' behaviour. I'm not sure how I feel about that. It suggests that students who aren't as smart as others are naturally bad seeds, and if an academic student misbehaves it's a "nurture" problem.

Another thing Mrs Underwood said was that she could never get activities to work at Johoku because the students were sleeping all the time. To some extent this is understandable; many students, in addition to club activities and after-school supplementary lessons, attend "juku" (cram schools) to try to give themselves the best chance they can to get into university. This leaves them understandably exhausted. It's by no means unacceptable to sleep in class in Japan. Particular teachers may stop students from doing it in their own classes, but it's so common as to not be a thing to get angry about. In technical schools, however, because it's easier to fail students in a subject for their behaviour and attendance, they are often more willing to participate, especially if they are motivated to pass the course but their test marks are low.

I used to complain about not being placed at any academic schools, but I think I've probably been blessed with my position. It hasn't always been a barrel of monkeys, but it's been a generally worthwhile and rewarding experience.

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