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Monday was technically a holiday for me, since I didn’t have to come in on that day, but I elected to go in for at least part of the day to get back into the swing of things and to meet the new teachers. Teachers in Japan don’t stay at the same school for all their teaching lives. Instead, each prefecture rotates their teachers around every few years for reasons unknown but probably has to do with meshing personalities. It doesn’t make sense to me since it would seem that you’d perform better if you were comfortable around the rest of the staff instead of it always changing every year. Moreover, I haven’t yet met a teacher who enjoys being given two weeks notice that they’ll move to a completely different school, sometimes in a different city. But that’s the system, and even if it makes no sense, it isn’t likely to change anytime soon!

Anyway, so I knew that both my Principal and Vice-principal, plus two out of three of my JTE’s will be replaces. Kyoto-sensei (my VP) and my sannensei JTE, Kishi-sensei both retired. The other two moved to different schools. Along with them, about a third of the teachers moved around. So I was a bit nervous to meet and work with new JTE’s. Luckily, I like all the new teachers and especially my new Principal is really nice and cool! So that was nice. Also, they move the desks, so I had to find and clean out my desk for the new year.

Even though I didn’t have to, I was glad I had gone in Monday morning to get things done and meet new people. It made Tuesday that much easier!

Tuesday was the official opening ceremony, which was actually three ceremonies sort of rolled into one. The first was the general school opening ceremony and new teacher ceremony with just the teachers and students attending. Homeroom teachers were announced, then we had a break for the kids to have their first homeroom and meetings. After that, parents of the new ichinensei started trickling in, and we had the second ceremony welcoming the ichinensei. They had their names called by their homeroom teachers and speeches, etc. then we had a break for lunch after that. I think they spent the rest of that day cleaning and/or left early, I don’t remember. I do remember that at some point, the school was empty so I could walk around and take pictures and videos of everything!


Opening ceremony signage


The first part with just the returning students. Nothing much changes except the name.


Parents arriving for the second ceremony.

This year is nice because I know several of the incoming ichinensei through Kenji and Chiyoko-sensei, so I was more interested in listening to the names and grades so I knew who was in which class.

Now, more general school pictures, since I don’t think I’ve ever really described the Japanese style schools before!


My new desk space in the teacher’s room. I’m at a pretty awkward place, actually… I rather prefer the old, but I’m getting used to the new one.


The sakura outside was in full bloom at this point!


Hallway postings, detailing the different club activities for the ichinensei to pick. Some of the kids are AMAZING artists! The girl is wearing Nishi’s gym uniform, by the way!


Stained glass above the student entrance. That is new this year!


Welcome to Nishi!


Sannensei floor

The majority of Japanese schools are three stories. In Junior High School, the youngest kids, the ichinensei, get the third floor classrooms, ninensei second, and sannensei the bottom floors. The higher you go, the less you have to walk I guess! In elementary schools, it is the opposite, as the younger kids would have trouble walking up and down three flights of stairs every period. I’m not sure about high school, but I would bet it follows the JHS plans.

Anyway, that was sannensei’s floor. Each floor at Nishi has the 4 classrooms for each class, a teacher’s room, bathrooms, a girl’s changing room (boys change in the classrooms), and usually an extra room for advanced/lower level classes. Nurses room is on the first floor with the sannensei. Walkways connect two three-story buildings, the teacher’s room, science and music rooms, library etc. are all in the other building. The gym is connected to that, with outlaying buildings for the art room, kendo room, and other club rooms.


Tennis courts and corner of the two-story art building. When I first came to Nishi they were doing heavy construction, so many of my classes were out there.


Water fountains/hand washing sinks for the kids. They eat in their individual classrooms, so it’d be a hassle to make them all wash their hands in the bathrooms at the same time!


Ichinensei rooms have their class colors in the form of paper flowers over their doors. The transition between elementary and junior high school is a pretty difficult one, so the teacher’s are really careful about things like this.


View from third floor classrooms over the giant field and club rooms.

On clear days you can see Mt. Haruna and Mt. Akagi, and on the other side you can see Mt. Myogi, and Mt. Asama in Nagano. I love being able to see all the Gunma mountains from school!

Here are a few more pictures from the following week of school:


Looking up suddenly to see an empty teacher’s room; I explore and discover the entire school seems to have relocated for a meeting out on the gravel field in front. No one told me anything. This is a pretty often occurrence. The ALT is pretty much out of the loop on most things!


A giant Sakura outside another school on my way home.

Starting this April, I begin teaching at two different elementary schools in Fujioka on Fridays. I will rotate each week to teach at one or the other, so that week was my first introduction and classes at Kanna Shogakkou, or Kanna Elementary School.


The teacher’s room at Kanna


Kids going out to play


More views of Kanna.

My first classes were a learning experience to be sure, but I thought they went pretty well! Since then I’ve talked more with Hikaru and Brandt, the elementary ALT’s, and will continue learning how to teach elementary kids! The next week I was scheduled to go to Midori Shogakkou to teach, but they were having a parent visit day, so the classes were cancelled. However, I still went to meet the principal (my retired JTE’s husband!), get my schedule, and talk with Brandt. That Friday then, instead of going to Midori, or back to Nishi, I watched Brandt’s classes at Daini Shogakkou to see how they were. It was interesting to watch, and I learned a LOT, so that was good. I wish I’d been able to do that for Nishichuu way back and the beginning!


Biking to Midori on a beautiful clear day


Midori Sho… all the schools pretty much look alike!


Brandt-sensei at Daini Sho. Elementary school kids have gym uniforms but wear regular clothes otherwise.

It seemed like in that first week of school we moved into Spring for certain. Flowers bloomed all at once, the weather got warmer, and after two days of rain trees once bare completely burst into green. I rode my bike on Thursday in awe of the changes JUST from that one day! Amazing…

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