June 11, 2000
8:27 pm
Right now I'm feeling: Not too bad, thanks

Right now I'm listening to: assorted J-Pop stuff, but here's 'Glay'

Glay: Hello My Life

Technically, not J-Pop... Glay is J-Rock, or maybe J-Punk? Who knows? Anyway, they're not too bad.
These guys look like some of the kids at some of our schools.


Nissin Junior High School

Ironically, the worst school in Wakayama is right next to a shrine

This is for anyone who thought I was joking about the apple bit the other day... Today, I got the cheap package of apples, 398 yen, which is about four dollars US. You see!?! I wasn't joking about the plastic wrap or the styrofoam, either!
Today's cool link is: Heap's Homepage. He's another JET here in Japan and his homepage really kicks ass. If you visit his page, drop him a note and say hi or sign his guestbook. Everyone loves email!

  Quote of the Day:
"If you do not believe in yourself, do not blame others for lacking faith in you."
-- Brendan Francis

Sharks in the Water

It's not all daisies and sunshine in this job... my neighbor's school, Nissin, is proof of that. Today I'm going to take some time to illustrate just how bad it gets on the job. So if you want some daisies or sunshine, tune in tomorrow..
I'll have some daisies up, then.. I promise.

Before I begin this tirade, I just want to say how brave my neighbor is for putting up with all of this for so long. For two years in a row, I asked him to trade to one of my tamer schools, but he refused. Probably because the kids would have such a field day with me that I'd be crying home to momma within a week (Glen's a large and rather imposing figure and I'm.. well.. not. Not that there's anything wrong with that...)

Nissin JHS is indisputably the worst school in Wakayama City. No one tells you that when you get to Japan on the JET program you might have a school like this or have to bear the things which my neighbor and friend, Glen, has. Glen's a real trooper... but last week was a bit too much...


The kids are at it again. Glen's trying to teach his lesson over the shouting of the kids. Trying to contain pandemonium. Other students who were wandering the halls stop at the windows to chat with their friends in the class. One or two students are trying to sleep at their desks. There are several students standing outside the classroom shouting, "Fuck You! Fuck You!" at the teacher and Glen. One student who was trying to get the foreigner's attention with a mix of "Fuck you!" and "Harro!" becomes angry at Glen's refusal to acknowledge him and shouts a stream of Japanese curses which makes many students go wide-eyed with shock, the teacher drops her head.

Then it happens.

One student streaks by the door and throws a water balloon inside the classroom. It misses Glen, but makes a dazzling explosion on the Japanese teacher's foot. She glances down, perhaps pauses for a moment, then continues with the lesson. By the end of class a few more water balloons have made small pools on the floor. One last balloon at the bell, which narrowly misses Glen, is the last straw. He bounds out of the door and the students who were shouting "Fuck you!" take off down the hall. The student who threw the water balloon is wide-eyed, exclaiming he didn't throw it, he didn't throw it. But Glen had seen him. The teacher offers no assistance... she has no idea who threw the water balloons...

Earlier in the day, a group of boys and girls had been playing outside with water. They entered the teachers' room laughing and smiling, completely soaked. Yes.. they thought that they were sooo cool, especially the girls.. because their tops were white and.. well, you get the picture. They wrung their clothes out inside the teachers' room making pools of water on the floor. Then someone pulls out the water balloons. After they leave, trailing water all down the hallway, a few teachers mop up the mess.

Maybe the fact that I absolutely thrive on conflict made me badger Glen to take some action, to do something about these terrible working conditions. He refused and said that perhaps it'd get better... it didn't. On Friday he walked out in the middle of class, while one student held his desk over his head playfully threatening to throw it at another and many other students shouting irrepressibly. The teacher begged him to come back to class. He marched back to the teachers' room. called our supervisor, and refused to go back to any third grade classes at that school ever again (that's 9th grade, North American).

The teachers never really understood his reaction. After all, don't they have to endure this all the time? Isn't this their lot in life? For some reason, they never truly understand when ALTs tell them that it shouldn't be like this. That it doesn't have to be like this.

In some schools it is nothing like this. Some are run with militaristic-like discipline, where if your shoes are not standard or do not have your name on them you are slapped across the top of your head and scolded to tears. But at schools like Nissin it's a different story.

My four schools range somewhere in between. And the morale and students of the school change every year. My favorite schools when I first came are now my least favorite. And my least favorite when I came is now my favorite.

The problems at schools here are as diverse as the students: violence, prejudice, prostitution (believe it or not, at both junior and senior high schools), and the complete breakdown of classroom discipline.

The elegance of their philosophy of the 'Wa' (the Harmony), the non-confrontationalist philosophy which has sustained their beautiful culture for centuries, has become a vice, strangling their children and their future. The problems they face now they try to ignore, hide and bury. And they are ashamed by having foreigners witness to the turmoil.

If the problems are to be resolved, a dramatic change in The System needs to take place. I hope the people in power come to their senses sooner rather than later.

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