I’ve said before that I love Japanese schools. It’s easier to identify the bad things and write about them, because the good things are often to do with atmosphere and the little jokes between teachers and students that are hard to explain. Consequently I think I’ve made more negative posts than good, despite liking more than I dislike of what I experience at school. I’m going to try to redress that.
Teachers spend a lot of their time doing non-academic support for students, including helping them with emotional and social skills. Where ever possible teachers try to have students help other students. I was reminded of this today when I overheard the teachers discussing a boy who has recently stopped coming to school. They were browsing the student records, trying to figure out who they should send over to the boy’s house to try and persuade him to come tomorrow. They know that a teacher calling and trying to get him to come wouldn’t help, especially as he is feeling left out by his classmates and this is a factor in his school refusal. A much better technique is to find a kind, friendly student who could make a persona entreaty: “We miss you, please come back!”… All the better is the student happened to be a cute girl, of course. Whoever they entrust this job to will take it seriously, understanding that she has been trusted by the teachers to help them help him. She will be proud to have been asked, and she won’t just say empty platitudes: she will talk to her classmates about being more welcoming of the boy, and include him in her social circle until he is comfortable enough to make his own friends. Even after several years it still amazes me how well the students take care of one another when entrusted with the role (especially when asked to assist students with disabilities).
A more extreme example happened at the start of the school year last year. One first grade boy had a lot of trouble adjusting to junior high. His home room teacher called the elementary school the boy had graduation from to talk to the teacher who had been his HRT the previous year. He asked who the student’s best friend had been in elementary school. It turned out that the boy’s friend had gone to a different JHS. Our school called the friend’s school and explained the situation to the friend’s HRT. Both schools organised a schedule for the boys to meet regularly, so that our student’ friend could help him through the transition period. Our student cheered up enormously after being reunited with his friend, and he soon came out of his shell and began participating more fully in his new school life.
Another teacher, who had a boy from a troubled background in his home room, regularly takes the student out for dinner both to make sure he is fed and to give him the chance to talk through his problems.
This level of intimate, almost pastoral care, is one of the reasons teaches work so much overtime.