The students are absolutely the best part of teaching in a Japanese high school.
Many of my students are very curious about foreign people- and though some are shy, when they
get up the courage to talk to you in English or Japanese, it can be a lot of fun.
I have had a great time getting to know a few students, though I'm sorry to say I don't know many names
because I have so many classes.
At my school, like at all Japanese high schools, all the kids wear uniforms. The boys wear blue and white checkered pants and dress shirts,
with a blue necktie. The girls wear a blue and white checkered skirt, which many of them hike
up by rolling it up at the waist and/or tying it with a belt tucked under their shirt. The girls
also wear dress shirts, with vests and jackets in the winter, and a blue tie. The fashionable
girls wear white legwarmer socks, while the more conservative ones wear straight, boring socks.
At certain times of the year, the teachers are especially strict about dress code and check to
make sure the girls haven't hemmed their skirts or dyed their hair. Of course, the kids pull down
their skirts to the correct length, and then roll it up again after the inspection, so it all seems
a bit silly. Some girls take it to extremes- while the original skirt length is just below the knees,
some hike it up to a rock concert length when they leave school grounds. For many club events, the
kids have to wear their uniforms, even on weekends, so you're always seeing gaggles of uniform
clad high school kids at all days of the week.
Anyway, I remember some students by face, or
voice- one girl from last year I always pictured in Tinkerbell wings because she played Tinkerbell
at the school festival, and wore a cute little fairy costume. And of course, I know the English club
kids best. The leader of our club at my school is a total sweetheart. She loves rock music (some guys
named Hansen?) and thinks that Brad Pitt etc. is really cute. Since she's a third year student,
she has to study all the time and doesn't hae much time for fun anymore, but she is also in track
and has lots of friends through that. Another one of my favorites is named Na-chan, and she's
also a sweetheart. We tease her because she likes to take naps all the time, and she loves to
cook - but she also did martial arts in Junior high school, so I think she's pretty cool.
two other schools as well, and the atmosphere is different at each one. My base school is a high level school so the students tend to be quiet and study hard (with a few exceptions). However, another school I visit has some really rambunctious (but fun students), and their English club is full of really hyper, talkative girls. And the last school I go to has a reputation for its 'wild boys'- and there are some rowdy students there, but I don't mind it. Their English club has four senior students- but there are two boys and two girls, which is unusual as it is the only co-ed English club I visit.
The students really make the job bearable- they're just so darned cute! The only thing is, I really miss the students that I taught last year. I had built some relationships with them, and now they're grown up second year students, and I never see them. Oh well… the new students are great too, it's just that I miss my old kids.
The kids have 6 classes a day, and they stay in a homeroom class for all classes except science and P.E. They have a 40 minute lunch period, and eat in their homeroom with their friends. There is no cafeteria so all the kids bring a bento box lunch prepared by their mother or the convenience store. They have assemblies in the gym sometimes, which are generally very tedious and carefully ritualized events, and occasionally have half days, just like kids anywhere.
They aren't allowed to drive cars, or have part time jobs outside of school, but some of them have them secretly anyway. Most of the advanced students spend hours at juku, or cram school, after school, so I don't know how they have any time for fun. They do seem to enjoy themselves, chatting on the bus or train with their friends. Shopping is something of a national passion, for high school kids and everyone else too.
For an amusing look at Japanese high school life, check out the recent Japanese movie 'Waterboys', all about a group of boys who are in a high school synchronized swimming club. It gives a little insight into popular culture, and it's fun. It was also the movie that they showed in the airplane on our way to Japan.