Tuesday, September 13, 2005

School in America

This is a handout I made for my Japanese students when I was teaching in Japan.  It describes my school experience in America.
I didn't talk a lot about Japanese schools, because my Japanese students were already very familiar with their own system.  But perhaps a lot can be inferred by reading this.  Whenever I highlight something about my American school experience, it is because it was different in Japan.

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School in America

In Japan, schools are the same all over the country.  In America, each city has a different school system.  For example, in America some schools have school lunch, other schools have a cafeteria, and in other schools students bring a boxed lunch.  Some schools in America have the “junior high school system”, other schools have the “middle school system”.

I will introduce my school to you.

In America, kindergarten is part of mandatory education, and is part of the elementary school.  Elementary school starts at kindergarten and goes until 5th grade.

Unlike Japan, the numbers do not start over when you change school.  Middle school starts from 6th grade.

Middle school is from 6th grade to 8th grade.  High school is from 9th grade to 12th grade.

All students must go to school until they become 16.  Since students usually turn 16 during 10th grade, all students must go to at least one or two years of high school.  Then, if they wish, they can “drop out” halfway through high school.

Students in America do not get to choose a high school like in Japan.  Everyone from middle school goes to the same high school.

In my Middle School:

In Japan, students walk or ride their bikes to school.  In America, students ride a yellow school bus every morning and afternoon.  In America, students are always careful to be on time so they do not miss the bus.  If the bus leaves without you, you must call your parents, or stay at school until they can pick you up.

There is no school lunch.  Everyone brought his or her own lunch in a brown paper bag.  In elementary school, our mother’s made our lunch for us, but in middle school we were expected to make our own lunch in the morning.  I usually made a sandwich, and then took an apple and some kind of candy.

Between 2nd and 3rd period, we have a snack break.  Everyone eats a little snack from his or her lunch, usually some kind of candy.  In America it is okay to bring candy to school.

Students have no homeroom class.  The teachers stay in the same room, and the students change rooms after every period.  The members of each class period are different.  Each student has a different schedule, so the members of my science class were different than the members of my math class.

Because the students have no homeroom, we keep our books, coats, and bags in a locker.  We all have a locker in the hallway.  Usually we have our own locker, but sometimes if the class size is big, we have to share a locker.  I had to share a locker for one year in middle school.

Sports are seasonal.  For example, soccer is only in the fall, basketball is only in the winter, and baseball is only in the spring.  Students can do 3 sports in a year.  Also, in Middle School practice is not everyday, but usually only 3 times a week.  (In high school it is everyday).  Because many Americans are Christians, there are never any school events or sports club events on Sundays.

In Japan, English education starts from Junior High School.  In America, foreign language education usually starts in high school, and even then it is an optional class and many students don’t study a foreign language.  The students in America choose which language they want to study.  In my high school, I could choose from Latin, French, Spanish, or German.  Because Mexico is close to America, most students study Spanish.

There are no school uniforms in America, but there is often a dress code.  For instance, in my school we were not allowed to wear clothes with holes in them, and girls could not wear short skirts.  We could also not wear any clothing that advertised tobacco or alcohol

In Japan every class starts with a greeting or “Aisatsu”.  In America we do not have this.  Students do not stand up to say greetings at the beginning and end of class.

Usually there is only five minutes between classes.  During this time, students have to leave one class, go to their locker to get their books, and then go to another class.  So students do not have a lot of time in between classes to talk to their friends, but they do have a short break between second and third period, and a longer break after lunch.

In Japan students usually study for the test, and they do not have a lot of daily homework.  In America, the test is only one part of the students’ grades, and the students do daily assignments.  This is often done as homework, which the students do in their free time after school.  Also the students do many reports and projects.  Tests are often only a small part of the grade.

Students must receive a passing grade in each class.   If they do not do their homework, or if they can’t pass the test, then they must retake the class next year.  If they fail most of their classes, then they are “held back” and can’t move onto the next grade with their friends.  They stay behind and become part of the lower grade.

Because students have to move from class to class, sometimes they are late.  If they come into class after the bell has already rung, they get a “tardy mark”.  If they receive three “tardy marks”, then they must come to school an hour early on the next day to write a letter of apology.

If students talk without raising their hand, they get one “demerit mark.”  If they get three demerit marks, they must come to school an hour early to write a letter of apology.

If students are disruptive or noisy during the class, they are sent to the principle’s office, and they get a “zero mark” for the day.  If this happens often, they will be suspended from school.  “Suspended” means they cannot come to school for a while.

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