Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Preparations for Graduation Day

Tomorrow is graduation day for the sannensei (third years) at Nyu High School. It's a real shame that they're going - I feel like I'm only just getting to know them, and now they're off. I guess that's something you have to get used to when you're a teacher.

We had a rehearsal for the graduation ceremony today - I'm amazed at just how much effort goes into it. We spent a good couple of hours in the freezing cold gym, practicing how to bow and rehearsing the school song, followed by the national anthem. One of the teachers asked me if we sing the national anthem on graduation day at schools in England, and I had to tell her that not only do we not sing the national anthem, but we don't have a graduation ceremony either. She was a little surprised.

"When do you sing the national anthem then?", she countered.

"Errrrrrrmmmmm....... at football matches?", I replied.

I think it's safe to say that most Japanese people have a lot more national pride than British people. Partly because most British people aren't even sure if they're from a country. Do I come from England? Or the United Kingdom? Or both? If so, are they both countries? The debate goes on...

It's interesting seeing everyone get ready for graduation day - there's a real buzz about the whole thing. The whole school's been decorated, and local VIPs have been invited. Most of the teachers I've talked to have been shocked that we don't celebrate such an important event in British schools, but I'm in two minds as to whether having a graduation ceremony is important or not. I certainly didn't miss it when I was at school - we had enough long, boring assemblies as it was. And besides, we had the leavers' disco, for what it was worth. Actually, I can't remember a single thing about my leavers' disco. Did I even go?

Anyway, I think the graduation ceremony in Japanese schools is a lot more important, simply because school is a lot more important here. The students spend most of their life here, many of them coming in at weekends, studying late at night, and doing club activities like kyudo (Japanese archery) every single day - even in the holidays. By the time they leave this place I guess it's like a second home to them. In fact, I bet most of them spend more time here than they do at home.

One of the teachers asked me if British students do club activities after school. I replied that some students have sports clubs, but they don't go every day, and most students just go home after school. Then she asked me what they do if they don't do club activities. I couldn't think of an answer that didn't sound absolutely pathetic: "Ermmm...mostly they watch TV I suppose. I used to play a lot of videogames...".

But when I think about it, I wasn't just playing video games, I was spending time with my family too. Perhaps that's why graduation is so important in Japan - the students aren't just saying goodbye to their friends and their teachers; they're saying goodbye to a family.


Blogger lemaiz said...

We all just went home and played with friends, out in the park playing footy, climbing trees, vandalising play areas. Y'know, if we were encouraged to do club activities after school there would probably be a lot less graffiti on park benches. Take that to Blair.

BTW, confirmed by the foreign office (or at least this girl I met on holiday who worked for the British Embassy in Stockholm): England, Scotland and Wales are not countries. Great Britain is the country. That's why you would go to the British Embassy abroad, rather than the English, Scotish or Welsh Embassy. The best we could figure out between us as to what they actually are were "regions". Best not confront Daily Mail readers with that one. That way danger lies.

9:56 pm  
Blogger Lewis said...

That's interesting Tim... Maybe I should write to the British embassy in Japan to see what their take is on the whole region vs country thing.

9:24 am  
Blogger lemaiz said...

Maybe you should!

10:38 pm  
Blogger Lewis said...

I wrote to the British Consulate-General in Osaka last Friday (4th March), so hopefully they'll get back to me with the official line as to whether England is or isn't a country...

9:11 am  

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