Twice a week I travel 30 minutes by bus to Yakami High School, an academic high school (students are college-bound) located in Ohnan-Town.
I teach four classes there on Tuesday, and two classes on Thursday. The rest of the time I wander the school grounds, intentionally bumping into students to initiate conversation, or poking my head into any classroom that seems interesting.
The school itself is beautiful – surrounded by the gently sloping Chugoku mountains, and situated on a hill which overlooks the city.
Yakami High School has an agricultural program available to students, with classes occurring in a connecting building. There is a series of gardens and greenhouses on the school grounds, which the students tend to as part of the program. There are plant sales throughout the year, and the students sell other products from their lessons as well, such as homemade miso.
There are a handful of students who travel to school every morning by bus from surrounding towns, though most students arrive by bike.
Students throughout Shimane Prefecture are disallowed from holding a part time job while enrolled in High School. Student free time is therefore consumed with study, club meetings, sports practices, and school events. Most students are involved in some sort of school activity from 7:00am until 7:00pm everyday.
Yakami High School used to have its own ALT (Assistant Language Teacher), but due to the declining student population (as a result of rural depopulation), the school now shares an ALT with Shimane Chuo High School (my base school).
Most high school students in Japan wear a uniform, and Yakami students are no exception. In the summertime their outfits are pretty casual – blue-collared t-shirts and skirts / pants, but as the weather has gotten colder the uniforms have become quite serious – including full jackets with neckties for the boys and sweaters with neckties for the girls.
They are the most dedicated students I have encountered – maintaining focus and energy for 7 periods of classes everyday, as well as playing sports, preparing for college, and pursuing their own interests.
I happened upon Yakami’s school motto the other day – written beautifully in calligraphy, and had one of the English teachers translate it for me:
Be confident in your skills.
Be honest and direct.
Be kind to others.
My office at Yakami High School is separate from the main teachers’ office, which I enjoy as it allows me some quiet from the hustle and bustle of a typical school day.
Last week was midterm testing time – and the teachers (including myself) were busy with grading. It was my first time grading tests, and I really enjoyed it. I added personal notes to all of the essay portions of the test, as the topic was “Japanese Culture.” Some students wrote about holidays, others about food, and some about music. My favorite was an essay in which it was obvious the student was using irrelevant words just to reach the minimum (50 words) – he finished his essay with “I love you.” I think I’ve spoken to him once…