Ryo is 37 years old. He has been teaching
science in junior high
school for 14 years. That's 14 years of total dedication. Each of
these 9th graders is close to Ryo.
He knows not only their academic strengths and weaknesses-but
also their personal foibles, and their problem;.
Any teacher would love Tsuyoshi Oikawa. He's bright, Sassy,
and popular; the other kids like him and they follow his example.
But now Ryo is worried about Tsuyoshi. Tsuyoshi has a case of
galloping adolescence. His mind often wanders. And his average
is low. Ryo has been working hard to turn him around.
Tomoko Tsunoda has a different problem. Her grades are high.
but her shyness is monumental. Tomoko's face is a mask, a
seemingly impenetrable wall between her and the outside world.
Ryo feels her pain and is determined to crack that wall.
As 9th graders, these kids are in their last year of junior high
school. So it is Ryo's last chance to work with them.
Ryo arrives to work well before his charges every morning.
American teachers would understand all the things Ryo and his
colleagues have to do to get ready for the day ahead. But much
more than in America , these public school teachers are people of
respect. And in Japan, teaching is known even as "the sacred
profession." And Japanese teachers are somewhat better paid
than ours. Ryo now get 5 million yen a year, or about 35,000
dollars in l986.
And here come the kids several thousand 7th, 8th, and 9th
graders. Okudo Junior High is in a lower middle-class district of
Tokyo. These are not children of the rich though many may
have dreams of going onto college and bigger things later on.
From this strategic vantage point , the principal extends personal
greetings-illustrating a concept some problem schools in
America now seem to be adopting: the more visible the principal ,
the better his students' behavior.
Of course, punctuality is a lesson many people will never learn.
This is a start-up ritual that few American youngsters would
stand for outside of boot camp.
Female teacher: Your bangs are too long. Step out of line and
give me your card.
Male teacher: Get a haircut.
Female teacher: Are you dyeing your hair again?
A few years ago, in a breach of traditional discipline, there was
trouble in Okudo Junior High and other Japanese schools-but
never drugs or alcohol , but vandalism. It took a concerted effort
by teachers, parents, and students to restore order. Now,
Okudo is a model of decorum. Its teachers insist inspections like
this help keep it that way. The students seem to understand.
Clearly, personal inspection fails to dampen their spirits, as the
school day is about to begin.