Teacher Transfers

I’ve been a little sad lately, but at least I know that it’s not just on accident.

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Cherry blossoms blooming at a station on the way back from seeing my parents off at Hiroshima Station. It rained here today, and the blossoms are starting to fall off. Good timing, Mom & Dad!

My parents left on Monday morning, which was sad, and then I checked my phone and found a message from a teacher I really like informing me that she’d transferred to a new workplace. I took a nap, but my dreams weren’t very happy (T_T) Then that night, there was a dinner/drinking gathering at a (the?) expensive nice restaurant in Waki, which served as both a welcoming party for new people and a goodbye party for departing people. When I got there, I learned that a teacher I had started to get to know and like from the kindergarten was leaving, and that not just my supervisor (I knew about that from him already) but two more members of the Board of Education were leaving. (T____T)

Teachers in Japan (at the preschool, kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high schools) are transferred around to other schools and districts at this time every year. A teacher at an elementary or middle school can (theoretically) stay at the same school for a maximum of seven years (here, anyway) before being transferred somewhere else. It’s hard to find a straight-up explanation for this without opinions attached, but I think this page explains it succinctly. I have not interviewed a lot of teachers about why the transfers happen, but I did ask one teacher, “isn’t it hard?” and she just said, “That’s just the way it is.” I find this an acceptable answer, actually. When you grow up around something, you find it normal–like how Japanese kids don’t think twice about eating natto or octopus, and American kids look at those things and raise their eyebrows; or how American kids can eat super bright-colored food (like Lucky Charms) and Japanese kids think it looks gross (but would probably still try it if I brought some…haha.)

The Japanese school year starts (here at least) on April 8th. Until then, I work at the board of education office. I visited the middle school today for an orientation-type meeting, and also to help move all my stuff to my new desk (the desks in the teachers’ room move according to the changes, too). The teachers who stay at this school could also get moved to a different grade level or subject (I think)–but sometimes that could mean that the teachers move up with the students they taught the year before, and I don’t find that bad. The atmosphere feels a little awkward to me in both these offices, even after the big welcoming party on Monday, because people are new and not comfortable there yet. It seemed like the “old” teachers would be cracking jokes here and there, and the “old” teachers would laugh with them, and the “new” ones would stay a little quiet. I think I was a little quiet, because I was realizing that I need to learn to teach with two new teachers starting next week–and since my job isn’t super clearly defined or written down somewhere, I’m afraid of the expectations people might have of me as an English teacher without knowing where I came from or how much I do/don’t know. However, even though I am nervous about that, I’m really excited to work with the new English teachers at the middle school that I got to meet today. I think it’s going to be a really fun year.

I’d thought that it’d only be like one or two teachers transferring here and there, but it was a lot, and I’m sort of afraid to visit the elementary school and find other people I like missing…I know for sure that my friend at the school office is still here for another year, because she came to the BOE office today while I was there, and I know the vice principal is safe because he lives nearby and I see him too. Every time I see someone and learn that they’re staying, in my heart I feel like I can heave a sigh of relief, like we just got spared from being selected for the Hunger Games. Obviously, it’s not that bad, but it’s a lot of adjustment, and with my parents having just left too, it’s just a little much all at once. But it all happens at once–I didn’t even get my schedule for the new school quarter until today, and I don’t think anyone else had a schedule either.

I want to be able to accept it perfectly and say it’s just a difference in culture and roll with it. Maybe someday I’ll be able to do that well, but right now, there are some people I’ll really miss.

Song of the Day: Funky Monkey Babys [sic], “Chippoke na yuuki”

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