Thursday 28 June 2012

and now I understand why....

Yesterday was school observation day, we had to go in for the last lesson of the day and watch the maths class. Ebi-kun doesn't like his maths class, don't get me wrong, he loves doing maths he just doesn't like the lesson, he says it is boring and after watching yesterdays class I have to agree.

At any given time there appeared to be only 3 or 4 kids actually paying attention to what sensei was talking about and very few were engaged with their work. I stood there just thinking to myself that Maria Montessori was so right and this method of teacher focused learning is so wrong. Instead of enjoying the class and actually learning, most of the kids were bored silly and shuffling around whatever was on their desk. When sensei asked questions he had to do so twice to get a decent response. 

Now, admittedly, this was just one lesson so after I quizzed Ebi-kun and it sounds like all the core subjects are taught in the same manner, not surprising really. I find it really disheartening that these kids can't reach their full potential because of the teaching methods applied, but what can I do? If there was a Montessori school or one of the other alternative methods of teaching schools near here, I would send Ebi-kun there in a shot. The alternative is home-schooling, which I would be happy to do BUT... although the elementary schools methods suck I can't teach him the things he needs to learn about living in a Japanese community. Obviously the language would be an issue and there are the cultural aspects of living in Japan that I can't teach his simple because I didn't grow up here, I don't know!

For example, each day 2 kids take charge of the class, they stand up at the start and end of every lesson and say something on the lines of we will study well and thank you for your lesson sensei. It happened to be Ebi-kuns turn, you can see him closing the day below. They also work together in small groups and have certain responsibilities that they have for the day.

Once class was dismissed, the kids were then sent off to watch a film whilst the parents attending a meeting, let's say, it was about as interesting as the maths lesson. THREE moms were sleeping as the sensei droned on, if I had been him, I would have given them detention, so rude of them. There were long drawn out explanations of the pieces of paper we were given and a details explanation about the summer holidays.

from an online dictionary
natsu yasumi:: summer vacation, rest, recess, respite, holiday, absence.
and here we have the schools definition

natsu yasumi:: shitloads of bloody homework and 5 days to go into school for swimming lessons
Unlike some places in the world, the kids here only get 5 weeks off, the last week of July and the whole of August. I don't remember the full details of the homework but it included, writing a full exercise book of writing practice, keeping a (drawn) picture diary each day, studying a morning glory plant for the whole holiday, maths and Japanese reading practice everyday and to do some kind of project which is presented in September at a fair.

And so he will have time for actual rest when? So, what they are actually saying is you have a shit load of work to do but you have to do it at home, not at school because the teachers are on their jolly holidays (see dictionary definition).

Sorry this has turned into a small rant! All this doesn't sit right with me, I am not convinced it is the best thing for Ebi-kun and right now I feel frustrated because I can't actually change anything. Please excuse me whilst I go to bang my head on the wall for a while....

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  1. Don't worry Jo, I will accompany you banging my head on that wall!
    I agree with everything you said above. I don't get those natsuyasumi homework either! I know it is supposed to make the students remember their lesson, but why so many? Where's the yasumi part?
    And about math. Well, Sidra often complained that he didn't understand math lesson, but when my husband or I explained to him (in our own way with examples, little drawings etc), he usually understood rightaway! I tried telling him to pay attention in class, but even I got bored after five minutes listening to the math teacher....

    1. maybe we should start head banger society in Japan!
      Ebi-kun always complains that it is too easy and they go at the pace of the slowest kid, great if you are that slow kid not so great if you are bright!

  2. I have struggled with a lot of these same issues over the last 6 years... I asked a teacher if there was any way they could give some extension work to the students who were sitting for half the lesson totally bored because they had already finished the work and were waiting for the others to finish. The teacher's response... that would be discrimination! She said they had to teach to the bottom children in the class... which in my mind meant you were discriminating against the children who were not at the bottom of the class because they were unable to reach their full potential. Fortunately that teacher is gone and we now have some great teachers and a wonderful principal who is trying to really work hard to extend each student individually. It shouldn't be too hard to do in our school where the maximum class size is 12 and most of the classes only have about 4 students!
    Sorry... this has turned into a bit of a rant of my own - just wanted you to know that you are not alone... and that the kids do sometimes survive the system as long as their opportunities at home outweigh their school input!

    1. sound great that your classes are so small. no such luck here!
      thank you for the words of support!

  3. I'm sorry you are feeling so frustrated! My son goes to a part-time private school because I feel some of the same ways about general education available here as you do about what your son is in. I guess I feel worst that they steal so much of his time with unproductive activities when he could be learning in a fun and/or satisfying way. I still think that what happens at home makes the most difference, but you will have to work to keep him from zoning out too much and not learning what he needs.

    1. I think that is what annoys me the most all the wasted time in class and then to make up for it they get shiploads of homework...aghhh... off to bang my head some more!

  4. Our open classes are very similar. I am always amazed that parents and fellow teachers answer their phones during class/ presentations here.

    In Korea teachers go to additional training during vacation and each Korean teacher is assigned a day of desk duty in the office.

    Native English teachers have to teach "camp."

    I hope Ebi-kun is enjoying the cultural aspects of his day.

    1. I have had moms chatting at the back of class when I was doing observation day, i asked them to shut up or take it outside! My class, my rules!
      I doubt very much that the teachers here have any type of decent holiday, they will probably be shuffling papers and attending boring meetings.
      good luck with your summer camp :o)

  5. I agree with you. By the way, yesterday was my youngest son's observation class too. It was math, and like you said, it was boring. Another thing about how the teach math here is that they want the kids to remember all the answers and I think is more important to understand the concept( I don't know if I explained correct what I want to say).
    Last monday I told his teacher that we are planning to go to Spain and he will miss one day(last day, so only 3 hours), I asked if she could give us the homework before we leave. She told me that she will do it. But she needs the information about when we are coming back and a phone number in Spain, also she needed to ask the principle about it. she said: you know he may get influencia and then he cannot come back to Japan.
    She is crazy, I'm not asking for permission to go to Spain, I only ask for the homework.
    I have another son in 5th grade and they never said anything like that, even though he missed a lot of days.
    one year we even left in June.
    About the meetings, I never attend since everything is on the paper(papers, too many)

    Have a nice summer,


    1. I would accidentally forget to tell the teacher anything, phone number in Spain! whatever for?
      I have no intention of asking permission to take Ebi-kun out of school, I will be telling them he is taking time off - ridiculous!

  6. First time commenter here. I have never had children go through the Japanese system, but have spent a little time working in it. I totally understand your frustrations.

    Have you considered an international school? I realise they are very expensive, but I have found them to be great at extending kids and teaching a global outlook. They are also awesome in getting kids to analyse and give their opinions! The IB system for one, is great. Ebi-kun could slide into the PYP - Primary Years Programme. Anyway, just an idea! Ganbare ne!

    1. Sadly we don't have an international school near here, it is the local elementary or nothing!

      thank you for leaving leaving a comment xx

  7. I feel for you! It is very frustrating when you don't have options. It is the same where I live. It is the local public school or nothing. I hope you figure something out that works for your family!

  8. There are currently 48 children in my kid's class, one teacher. The teaching methods are old, unimaginative and boring and need to be supplemented at home. I am a product of this system, and as a child I did not realize I was missing anything at all. Only now I know just how much fun could have been had learning, how the deep thirst for knowledge could have been roused, how much more could understanding a concept mean... Yet, home schooling is not really an option. I don't consider it, because that social interaction is essential. Learning to get along, to see how people differ, to know the discipline of a system, to respond to external deadlines, to feel the dynamics of a society, to make friends: that is not something I can teach from books. So I don't let the schooling interfere with education and carry on as best as I can otherwise.

    1. blimey! 48 kids in one class, that is crazy.
      I suppose we just have to do the best we can with whatever situation we end up in!


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