The Teacher Shuffle

While this might well be the subject of a previous post - or perhaps common knowledge - I only recently managed to learn about how the teachers are moved around here. So before my rant, a quick lesson...

While public school teachers may have a somewhat secure job, it turns out they are subject to the whims of the Board of Education just as much as we are. One of my teachers told me that a teacher can only stay at a school for a maximum of 6 years, after which they HAVE to move to another school within the same system (pending some special circumstances, like pregnancy, marriage, etc). This doesn't just mean "teachers in Saga-shi will be moved to other Saga-shi schools", it means "The teacher in Saga-shi might be moved out to Karatsu, or visa versa, and the teacher must then either face the commute or move." If this sounds like crap, my teacher told me about a school in the Nagasaki prefecture that's located on a little island. If you get moved to that school (which you have no power over), you HAVE to move into a ready-made house that is adjacent to all the other teacher's houses, and more or less isolate yourself for 2 years in order to teach at this school. Yikes. That is the weaksauce.

I was debating the pros/cons of this system with my teacher. She more or less ardently supported it while I thought it was ridiculous. In defense of the system, she said (and with some points I agree) that this enables the school system to move teachers where they are needed. Our examples usually centered around Jyoto, or as Jay will tell you, the shittiest junior high school of Saga-shi. The school is supposedly flooded with punks who often pick fights with eachother and sometimes even with the teachers. Point in case, yesterday Jay had his bike stolen, by a student no doubt. Fun times for all.

Her argument was that if a teacher ended up at a crappy place like Jyoto, at least then they could relocate to another school after a year or two, and not have their spirit totally rent asunder. Also, teachers who are known for being excellent disciplinarians with strong dispositions - which one of my Shoei teachers fits to a "t" - could be moved to Jyoto to try and make things better there. Beyond that, it keeps a teacher on their toes and prevents them from getting lazy, as you essentially have to get used to a slightly different curriculum every few years.

My argument was that this is exactly one of the reasons that teachers are staying so damn late at their schools - being forced to set up camp all over again every few years. I also thought it was difficult to establish a really unified front or any kind of community as a group of teachers when your coworkers would be changing constantly. After all, even if you didn't leave, somebody else in your school will be changing. There's not a lot of incentive to get to know the other teachers outside of your department when you probably won't have to deal with them after a year or two.

I also thought it was unreasonable to demand so much from teachers in the terms of a commute and accommodations. I even ended up teaching her the word "pissed" as my feeling of choice for how I would react if I worked in Nagasaki and somebody decided it would be grand for me to move to an island for 2 years. As a side note to Elisabeth, I then said another way to say "pissed" would be "mukamuka" ;)

Anyway, I guess this goes a long way in explaining why the JETs are shuffled around, too - it's actually treating us more like the other teachers than we'd think. Not to mention the students stand more to gain (culturally, anyway) from a diverse set of foreigners than they might from a diverse set of math teachers.

The conversation ended up steering towards the situation of teachers in general, in that they have VERY little vacation time. They have nenkyu, yes, but I was told that some teachers are in the position where they cannot possibly use all of their nenkyu without being powerfully disruptive to the school schedule, which no doubt behooves them to be the loyal workbots Japanese society intended. All of this just makes me even more wary of our new man Prime Minster Abe...

Coming from America, I only really know one system, and that's teachers staying where they like as long as they like..unless they're fired. How are things elsewhere? Your input is welcome!