Friday, March 21, 2008

the rules

I remember in high school being jealous of public school friends who did not have to worry about their out-of-school behavior getting them in trouble in school, as was the case at my Catholic school. But my school's policy was kind of vague, probably just to instill a "big brother is watching" type of general feeling. Of course, at the city public high school near mine the principal used to drive in circles around the school for about an hour after school with a megaphone out his open window so that he could yell "Go home!" periodically, as the school's method of discouraging students from loitering on school grounds. Not sure what kind of trade-off that was.

Anyway, today I found evidence of the Japanese education system taking controlling out-of-school behavior to the extreme. I just attended my school's year-end closing ceremony, and was happily surprised when I actually understood some of the guidance counselor's remarks, but asked my JTE to clarify for me afterwards, as I did not see the significance of "konbini" (convenience store), "pan" (bread), and some verb in "do not" form. Turns out, my students are expressly forbidden from visiting convenience stores, specifically from buying bread, snacks, and drinks (although this may be limited to weekdays). They were just reminding the students that this rule would be in effect during spring vacation as well. They ended on a happy note, though, announcing that starting tommorrow the students would be able to ride their bikes around town (up until now the potential for snowfall had made it too dangerous) to visit friends, etc. I guess hearing this struck me as pretty ordinary-seeming, having been in the school environment here for a while, but it is strange to think how strictly the school controls the students here.

A couple nights ago I went to a fellow ALT's eikaiwa (english conversation group) for adults. There I met a woman who proclaimed "My job is DIE!" meaning, her craft, really, is dying silk used to make kimonos using flowers, tree bark, and other natural methods. There was also an older man there who had a pen pal from Texas for 50 years, from the time when he was a boy, and when his pen pal died, he continued to exchange letters with the man's wife and children. Man, I want one of these classes!

Also, as I write this, a few fellow teachers are smoothing out the used plastic bags that our bento lunches came in and are perfectly folding them into perfect squares with perfect creases for re-use. The one I tried to tie in a knot in an attempt to emulate one of the other teacher's method was promptly undone and properly folded for efficent storage. I tried!

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