Friday, August 30, 2013

The Office

The reason I applied to be a CIR (coordinator of international relations) instead of an ALT was because I wanted to get some office experience. What I failed to remember is that Japanese teachers work in an office  too. In the States every teacher has their own room and sometimes departments have their own small offices. In Japan, there is one huge office where all teachers have their own desk. At the beginning of the year (typically April), students are assigned a classroom where they stay the whole day for their non-elective classes. Teachers go to the classrooms when it's time to teach or direct club activities.

The atmosphere (at least during summer vacation) is very relaxed and low-key. Besides helping children with work and coaching clubs there's not much to do. Speaking of which, yeah, kids go to school during summer vacation. That is, the serious ones do. Which is a good deal of them. However, it's important to note that summer vacation for them is mid-school year. The first two days of this semesters consists of tests to make them study over the break.

At the beginning of each semester, there is an opening ceremony. As far as ceremonies go, it's pretty strict. Almost military strict. Don't get me wrong, the teachers are very open and friendly to their students and the kids come and go freely from the teacher's room. But when it comes to ceremony and tradition, they know when to show a lot of decorum. Teachers eat lunch with the students in the cafeteria which is fun since I can get to know everyone better.

One of the nice things about the office is that it's not a cubicle farm and one of the walls (the one directly behind me is the front wall of the building with wall-length window looking out onto the front lawn and parking lot. We do have fluorescent lighting, the the natural sunlight is a great boon. I have a feeling it'll help naturally warm up the office when the infamous frigid winter gets here.

Like most non-public buildings, there is a genkan to take off your shoes and put on indoor-wear. Because of the Fukushima accident, Japan has been promoting energy conservation. As a result, buildings are no longer as warmed or cooled as they used to be. To compensate for the decreased climate control, the government has instigated "cool biz"- that is, a slackening of the dress code to allow for cooler clothing such as button-down polos, lack of suit jackets, sandals, and short pants. Many teachers that coach sports clubs will even wear their track suits in the office.

The atmosphere in the office is very positive and surprisingly relaxed. Coworkers are extremely friendly to each other all the way up to the vice principal (the principal's nice too, but nobody ever really sees him). Like I said before, students walk in and out at will looking for help from teachers and they're never ignored. The structure of the school adds to this since the hallways are large and spacious and rooms are usually never closed (most are sliding doors) and are lit by natural sunlight. The feeling created is one of openness. Most teachers get to school extremely early and stay ridiculously late, but the overall atmosphere creates a sense of comradery and you don't feel the need to bolt out of there as soon as possible.

It's nice to finally work in a place where people seem to genuinely care and you can do your work at your own pace.

No comments:

Post a Comment