Education · Elementary School Education · Living in Japan · Teaching · Wedding Plans

Only Slightly Broken Hearted

I have by no means forgiven the Board of Education for what they are doing to the schools and how they are treating the ALTs. It really upsets me that they are making us the last people to officially know that we are changing schools when we are the ones working at them. If my two schools had not flat out asked me about the change, I would still not know. Both my changing schools (favorite elementary school and Jr. high school) were in shock that I did not know. My boss came to observe my elementary school classes yesterday and, while I did not have the chance to talk with him directly, apparently raved about how well I taught the kids, my good team-teaching relationship with the teachers, how well I got along with the kids, and how much the kids appeared to love me. My school’s principal and vice-principal told me that they went on and on about how much of an impact I had made on the school and how much they enjoyed having me there as a member of their teaching staff. I am still holding out that between my phone call from the other day about how I just want to keep this elementary school and the class observation today that maybe just maybe I will get to keep this school…but I am not getting my hopes up. The Board of Education takes the opinions of the ALTs with a grain of salt, if even that.

Last night, some of the non-teaching elementary school staff had a mini-going away party for me at a very fancy French restaurant. I was given flowers by the principal, who was pretty tipsy from the wine by that point, who said some really sweet things, but got side tracked by trying to figure out what type of flowers he was giving me because he wanted to be sure to tell me the meaning behind giving me this particular bouquet of flowers. It was kind of cute to be honest and I was really touched that they put that much effort into just giving me flowers. The vice principal gave me a box of Japanese sweets and also said very kind things about me. This all brought me to tears. We ate great food, had some delicious wine, and talked for about 2 and a half hours before the restaurant told us that they were closing and needed us to leave. I have two more visits to this elementary school before summer vacation and I am going to cry at the end of each of my classes – I am sure. The vice principal seems to be planning some sort of HUGE going away ceremony for me in the gym with all the students and teachers.

During dinner, and this is something I had decided a while ago, I made a very important and formal request of my elementary school’s vice principal. At wedding ceremonies in Japan, it is customary for a respected member from work or school to do a speech about the bride and groom during the party section of wedding. Technically, it is supposed to be your boss, but after talking to Jun about the whole traditional aspect, he explained that in a Japanese company the boss or supervisor usually knows the person the best, so that is why they are selected. In my case, my boss almost knows nothing about me as they see me once a month during the school year and hardly interact with me at all during the summer when I go to the Board of Education everyday to sit for three hours. Jun told me that I should pick someone who I felt had gotten to know me the most and the person I respected a lot. I could think of no one else more fitting than this elementary school’s vice principal. Mom, Dad…you would really like him and he said he is going to try to translate his speech into English and say both. Apparently, the mini speech I gave him asking him to do me this honor brought him to tears. I was really happy that he accepted.

All in all, after last night, I feel like I kind of at peace with these school changes. While the thought of going to another Jr. high school frightens me as it has a reputation for being a bad school, I am looking forward to getting to know another group of elementary school students. Who knows, maybe I will be able to form as strong a bond at this school as I did at my favorite. Doubtful, but I suppose it could happen.

10 thoughts on “Only Slightly Broken Hearted

    1. March 27 ♥ Keep the date open and don’t forget to send me your address in Japan!

      I am hoping that the school switch doesn’t end in disaster as well. But…I now have to commute to Kasumigaseki 4 times a week to be a CD player’s replacement. Not looking forward to this in the slightest.

      1. I will! I just got my address from my BOE, actually and I’ll send it your way.

        That sounds… interesting. Your apartment to Kasumigaseki isn’t exactly convenient. I’ll still hope for the best, though.

  1. It’s so nice that he’s going to speak at your wedding! And it’s even nicer that he got emotional about your requesting it. That’s really a lovely thought, because like imaging some principal who is like oh yes I’m honored is great but he clearly was touched by the request.

    1. He is a very kind and (at least I consider him) adorable. He has wanted to teach a math class with me ever since I got to the school to show the students that math is a universal language.

  2. I am finally back to visiting some of my favorite sites, and I find you have to switch schools again. It certainly seems as though there are communication/control issues in these school districts. However, I am happy that your teaching experiences have been pleasant overall. Just think, if the day-to-day had been bad, that would be much worse than the upheaval of suddenly being transferred. Best wishes on the new school.

    1. The problem with this particular school district/city is that it is really low on funding, so they are cutting back on the number of ALTs. It is all kind of ridiculous, but it is their choice if they want to screw with the education.

      1. We have serious funding problems here in the States as well. Michigan in particular is struggling with finding funding for schools. Makes one wonder where the money that should have been there has gone. School districts across the state are laying off teachers and some, by a recently passed law, are being forced into early retirement. Not a pretty picture in the world of education. I’m just glad your actual classroom experience was enjoyable.

  3. There are a number of ways of looking at this transfer business. I don’t know what the “truth” might be, but here are some ideas to think about.

    The school board has limited resources and vast needs. They must allocate their resources in an even-handed way across all schools with only a limited budget. Their focus is on solving problems not maintaining the status quo. Since you have proven yourself as a constructive asset in a variety of situations, they would be foolish not to assign you to where problem solving is needed most rather than to situations where things are going well. They may feel that the “new” schools and students have a far greater need of your assistance than your current ones. That poses a greater teaching challenge for you of course.

    If I were a school board with limited resources an had an “expensive” asset that was, in some regards, an “optional” choice (I can buy an “equivalent” at a lower price), to keep that asset around I will have to justify it based upon special need. Assigning that asset to deal with problem situations not easily handled by a cheaper replacement may be one means of doing that.

    As a school board I must plan for the system’s future. If I see a possibly valuable but non traditional teacher candidate (a foreigner) that might be a part of the district’s future, I would want to thoroughly test the usefulness of that asset before making any kind of commitment to its longer term support. I would do that by making assignments to a variety of situations so I could make a complete examination of the performance of the asset.

    Bottom line. If you are truly interested in teaching, at a minimum the reassignments you are getting will accumulate valuable experience for you. Try to accept them with grace and do your best to help the schools and kids you have to deal with. It may be difficult and frustrating at times but, as you have already done, try to make a positive impact – even when it seems like you are not being appreciated.

    Try not to complain and argue with you boss(es). Make your inputs on situations in no uncertain terms, then say something like, “Now you know how I feel and if you don’t, lets go over it again”, then agree to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

    If you maintain a constructive attitude, who knows, maybe Kawagoe will decide to encourage you continue your education to get a Japanese teaching certificate and make you a permanent part of their organization. Worst case, the experience you gain (even if it turns out to be painful) will look good on your resume and will make you a better teacher in the long run.

  4. Thanks, Dad.

    While what you said would seem reasonable, I am afraid it is not the case with Kawagoe. The truth is, the Board of Education knows very little about our strengths and weaknesses. We have all tried to help them with the decision making, but they refuse to listen to our input. 2 (maybe 3) of my co-workers hate working at elementary schools, and would rather not work there at all. I, personally, do not like working at Jr. high schools because I merely replace the CD. One of my co-workers and I presented them with a potential school assignment list where the ALTs were getting more of what they wanted/were good at – but they ignore that and hardly gave it a second look.

    The first time the boss has ever seen me teach was Friday (after the school assignments had already been handed out) and the school board has very little interaction with the ALTs. They never give us reasons for the things they do nor do they ask us for our opinion.

    It can be a very frustrating working environment.

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