Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Still not in the groove.

I'm still trying to get used to blogging again. I have found this winter to be particularly long and have spent a majority of it curled up under a blanket watching TV on the internet...or in the bath. It's a sad existence and I am going a bit stir crazy. Yes, I have managed to escape on the weekends for snowboarding, but the weekdays have been very unproductive.

This is the end of the school year for students in Japan. Graduation ceremonies for High School were a couple of weeks ago -and this year was the last year of students that I taught at Nyuzen High School. And even though I didn't teach them for the full 3 years, they were a very unique and memorable group of kids and it was great to see them again.

The junior high school graduation ceremonies are on Monday and the elementary school ceremonies are on Tuesday. Each and every school in the city celebrates on the same day with the same kind of ceremony, the same speeches, the same performances by the students...I try to explain that in Canada these two events (elementary and jr high 'graduation) are not generally held with the same pomp and circumstance as they are here. Here the celebrations start about a month in advance. All the other grades prepare some kind of performance for the graduating class(es). Either a song, a recital, a short play or a dance -or a combination of all 4 in some cases. They make posters and banners and write letters for each of the students who are leaving. They have a big procession and lots and lots of speeches. And this isn't even the graduation ceremony...

However, the graduating class has the most amount of work. Not only do they have to prepare to leave (i.e. write entrance exams), they also have to perform at their own celebration assembly, and prepare a 'thank you tea' for all the teachers and staff (at which they also perform music and poem recitals). And then when the actual graduation day finally comes they are mentally and physically exhausted -yet they have to sit through another agonizingly long ceremony filled with performances and speeches.

Today is entrance examination day for all junior high school students. Students in Japan can apply to whichever high school they choose within their own prefecture. For some students, the high schools in their own area don't focus on the subject and/or sport that they want to pursue, so they look at schools in other cities and if they are successful at gaining a spot, they will commute, sometimes as much as 90minutes one way in order to attend their school of choice. In order to gain a spot in their chosen school, students must pass the entrance examination for that school. Some students write 2 or 3 exams just in case they don't get into their first choice. Besides the academic/athletic stature of the school, I have also heard of students choosing a school based on the style of uniform the school has - which, quite frankly, is probably how I would decide my future.