What I found interesting is how the school structure works in an elementary school, Ainosato Nishi, I volunteered at. What stood out to me was how the teachers structured their classes in managing the students and other teachers. Each classroom, for each grade, has one homeroom teacher, the same as our classroom structure in Canada, however, each grade with the homeroom teachers are managed by two different teacher leaders. They are practically like managers for teachers. If anything happens to students, or things that need to be changed in the classroom, the teacher leaders from each grade will come together and collaborate suggestions, new ideas, and solutions. Once this has been completed, they will share their findings with the teachers of the same grade they manage to implement these solutions. In addition, these teacher leaders also have their own homeroom classes that they teach in. But it is common as well for them to teach a combined class of one specific grade. For example, I witnessed a group of three classes of grade 3’s, led by a teacher leader who specializes in music. He was teaching the students music with another teacher leader. In this lesson, the homeroom teachers of the grade 3’s, were not present. I inserted an image below of a teacher leader leading a group of grades 3 students:
Another classroom culture I found interesting are the student’s behaviors. Students in this school are calmer and very organized, more than what I have experienced in Canadian classrooms in my practicum. Students understand when to be quiet, especially if they are told to be. Teachers do allow students to be loud and noisy in the classroom during activities or when they are working on their assignments. It encourages students to communicate with each other. On another note, I find that the students have better listening skills, are punctual, independent, and very respectful of others. It is part of the school culture to act accordingly, since it is emphasized to follow specific routines on a daily basis in the classroom. It is also including the family cultural structure at home on how students behave. Additionally, looking at the classroom, they all have strong values in supporting community. The classroom values and respects every individual student to enforce that sense of belonging. I can see this when one student speaks in the class, they do not get interrupted. Immediately, all the attention is put towards the one student speaking, even if it’s a asking a question or to answer a question.
Regarding seating arrangements, I asked a teacher how it is organized. They prefer to have male and female students sit together in rows of two, so they can feel comfortable conversating with the other gender. I find this interesting because I think it helps to build that cohesion in male/female relationships. Every student in the classroom i noticed are friends with one another and are always interacting with everyone. Even during break time (recess), the male and female students play together. I had the opportunity to witness this and also participate in their activities (tag). In Canada, we don't often arrange our students to sit in pairs like this. In my own practicum experiences, I have noticed students being paired based on their learning needs, not so often with different genders.
Another interesting point that stood out to me is the teacher rotation period. I have thought about this concept before, but I did not think that it was something being implemented in this school. One of the teachers we had told me that every teacher stays in each school for only five years. After this time period, they get rotated and begin their new year at a different school. So, each teacher has the same time limit of five years before they get moved to another school. It is a way for every teacher to experience learning and teaching in different schools. I thought this was interesting because looking at Canada, teachers don’t often move out of their positions and do not get rotated. The teacher we had partnered with at this Elementary school has taught for fourteen years and has been a teacher at three different schools. She is very knowledgeable because from observing how she handles students and interacts with them and including teaching classes. She has a good reputation at the school and is admired by many students.
Overall, it has been a great experience to observe the school culture and the student behaviors in these two elementary schools. I look forward to learning more and hope to implement Japanese school cultures I have learned into my own future classroom!