Monday, June 11, 2012

Seeing is Believing

Since I have never seen the formal job contract myself (did I just forget?) while working in Japan, I was curious about how many school days are in a year.  It seemed like the school days would never end because I was too grouchy?  I found the answer from the internet; it was 243 days.  That number is just for students.  Teachers work way more than that.  That is a lot of days compare to 180 days.  Even if only teacher work days are added, that is a significant difference between the U.S. and Japan.  Among 243 days, there are many different ceremonies, sports activities, plus practices for those school wide events.  So more days don't necessarily mean all academic lessons like we do here in our classrooms.  But still, 243 is an amazing number to compare.

As a teacher, I didn't pay much attention to the number of school days, though.  Instead, I was stressed about the hours of each subject I taught.  In the planning book, there is a section which you fill in the number of hours you plan for a week.  Some administrators check teachers (mostly young new ones) planning book weekly so these hours were well spent.  Luckily, I had only one of these for only one torturing year.  The Elementary School schedule is blocked as one 45 minutes session at a time.  Monday through Friday, usually there are 5 or 6 sessions a day  depending on the grade level.  Under the government guideline, throughout a school year, 1st grade must have; literacy 272 blocks, math 114 blocks, social studies/science 102 blocks, music 68 blocks, arts and craft 28 blocks, P.E. 90 blocks, moral education 34 blocks, special activities 34 blocks, and tallied 782 blocks in all.  What you have to do is simply divided these numbers by 49 weeks so you can see how many blocks you have to plan in each week.  Isn't it "WOW!"?  I see this system useful and I wish some administrator would be interested in.  One block = 45 minutes.  Make a schedule just like building a block tower.

It is easier for teachers to be accountable for teaching time.  Students, too, would appreciate it because they know what exact time each class ends besides lunch time and recesses.   Someone argued about its difficulties because of lunch schedule, specialist's time, and other factors.  But I really wish I could try in my school for a month.  I am also frustrated that I cannot explain this system well enough to my staff because it is a kind of a thing that you would have to  fully understand when you experience it.  Changing is a challenge even if you already know what it is.  If it is something you haven't done, it is hard to jump in.  But here is one thing I would like to mention.  Adopting the schedule is not as hard as adopting the whole curriculum from the different country because it doesn't have too much connection to the culture or the life styles.  Thus, its tweaking is minor and adoptable.  If you are the administrator and interested in the block schedule, I would love to help you scheduling in your school.  I would not want to go to school for 243 days, but I would love to try unique schedule that might impact students' learning.