The Trouble With Teaching At a Shogakko

By Donnie | Articles

Ah, teaching in Japan, one of the most fulfilling experiences you could ask for. The sun shines everyday, even on rainy days the sun shines just on my school. Birds chirps in English, the children are always 200% genki and merry, parents of your students greet you with fresh fruits in the morning, and you never have a difficult work day…

RIININNNGGGGGGGGG!!! Hey, everybody, why are you guys in my apart…huh? Is this a article? Oh no, I must have been dream-blogging again. Please forgive me. Let me just read what I wrote…hmm…umm…ok.

A typical kerosene heater used in the Japanese elementary school classrooms.

Quite a bit of that isn’t exactly true. No, teaching at a shogakko (Japanese public school isn’t perfect), but it’s one of the closest to ideal teaching situations that I’ve ever come across. Are the kids really that good? Honestly…yes, they are. I won’t say 200% genki, and I won’t lie and say that you’ll never have a bad day, because odds are that you will. Parents and staff are incredibly friendly, and it’s just a positive place to be.

There is however one major gripe that I do have with the elementary school. Most of the school DOESN’T have air conditioning. Well, not in the traditional sense anyway. I thought this may have just been a special case with my school, but it’s not. I hear that much of Japan is the same way. With very little air-conditioning I’m sure you can guess just how cold the school can be in the winter, or how hot it can be in the summer. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I got lucky because the English room is one of the few rooms with any type of air conditioning.
When I walk around the school, though, being bald and all, I usually have on some kind of knit cap in the hallways. I was just talking with another ALT the other day, and we came to the consensus that it’s a bit of a problem when you can see your own breath inside the building. During the winter months, most teachers have some type of oil heater or something like it to warm away some of the classroom’s winter chill.

It’s so interesting though, I would imagine that if the conditions were the same in one my U.S. school buildings, there would be so many complaints from parents, from students, and teachers. Aside from hearing the occasional “Samui desu ne?,” the students and the staff handle the cold like champions. If they’re able to deal with the chill without complaining, there’s no excuse for me to complain either.

Every school system is a little different, but I hear most Japanese public, elementary schools do something similar. If you’re teaching in a different area of Japan (outside of Ibaraki) do your schools have air conditioning?

Donald Ash
P.S.-I hear that very soon, possibly as soon as next year, the board of education in my city will start installing A/C units in the school classrooms. This is not at all a common thing in Japan. I consider myself lucky.

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  • I was lucky with my three Elementary schools all having air-con, but the JHS was another story and really uncomfortable during summer 🙁

    • Donald Ash says:

      That’s cool. You are lucky. I did hear that my board of education is going to star installing air-conditioning in all of the elementary schools starting next year.

  • Alana says:

    Same here in Iwate. They have set dates for turn on the heaters or putting out fans so you have to just deal until then. The classrooms have no fans but have installed kerosene wall heaters that the custodian goes around and lights every morning (The 3rd floor only requires a flip of a switch.) The teachers room has 3 floor fans for 90 teachers. I unstacked my books as not to disrupt the brief breeze when it swings my way. What drives me nuts is that the doors to the school are left open in winter…no wonder it’s freezing!!

    • Donald Ash says:

      HAHAHA! That’s pretty funny, Alana! They leave the front door open at your school, too?? WHAT IS UP WITH THAT? I thought the same thing! Students and staff will walk the hallways saying, “Samui” but won’t close the front door. I always want to run over (with the super mad face) and SLAM it shut!

  • SammyJo says:

    In high school we got sent home early because the aircon broke…mom did not believe me either and called the school. (it was 105F outside)

    How do the kids stay warm with the really short shorts the boys wear?

  • Paul Rowland says:

    Same in China for the most part. Although we have about a two month summer break(July/August). And one month for Spring Festival. Can’t wait to get to some A/C or heat after class : )

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