Graduation Day Part 1
By the time you see this, gentle readers, the third years will have graduated and the school year will be over. Unless youâ€™re exclusively an ES ALT at which point, the sixth years will have graduated and the school year will be over; also have a drink on me, you must be exhausted.
Iâ€™m trying to figure out how I feel about the school year ending in March, even though I know that it doesnâ€™t matter how I feel because itâ€™s not like anyone important cares. Still, I like airing my opinions, as you might have noticed.
It seems to me strange to have the big school holiday not be immediately after the end of the academic year, although I canâ€™t muster any sound pedagogical arguments against it. I just get the vague sense that somethingâ€™s wrong with it, like a chair thatâ€™s been made into a horcrux or Donald Trumpâ€™s wig. It just doesnâ€™t sit well.
But bad vibes are not admissible in court and, if anything, the Japanese system might hold the advantage. After all, here the students wonâ€™t spend all summer worrying about what their next school year will be likeâ€“ after all, theyâ€™ll already be a third of the way finished with it. Fear of the unknown can be replaced with just a mild sense of dissatisfaction about having to return to what you already know.
I remember that tremulous month of August, terrified of what lay ahead. Wondering if Iâ€™d keep up with my homework, if Iâ€™d ever make any friends at all or if this would finally be the year when I snapped and straight up bitch slapped Mr. Thomas. For seven weeks, these worries would circle in my head, tormenting me, and generally tainting any fun activities involving ice cream or beaches or whatnot. Japanese school children, instead, get a summer of certainty and just a mildly anxious Easter and Easterâ€™s always a bit naff anyway.
Another advantage would be not having to sit end of year Exams in the ovens that are classrooms in summer. And, of course, the vagaries of that season will no longer be able to distract the students from their crucial end of year cram.
Conversely, this does mean there is a big break in between a single syllabusâ€™ lessons and Iâ€™m sure it does make it difficult to keep the thread of a lesson or topic prevalent for an entire fortnight in the minds of both students and teachers (Iâ€™m imagining teachers stopping mid-sentence as the bell rings, packing up and going home silently, sitting throughout the holiday saying nothing and then resuming flawlessly when classes resume).
But then, if weâ€™re honest with ourselves, that happens in English schools over the summer holidays tooâ€“ a lot of time is spent reviewing material from the last year and even just catching up to where classes were previously. The lessons which are interrupted may be technically of a different level, but one would hope that the transition in material between years would be smooth enough that they would dovetail somewhat. The only way to avoid that entirely would be to cancel summer holidays like that dude in the Recess movie and I donâ€™t think any of us want a repeat of that. TJ and friends, you deserved better.
Despite this, it still makes me uneasy and I think itâ€™s largely for reasons of symmetry, which I admit is tubthumpingly stupid. Symmetry can be aesthetically pleasing, yes, but you mustnâ€™t let it rule your life or else, like Da Vinci and his mirror-writing, someone steals your idea for the helicopter. And, of course, the Japanese school year is still pretty symmetricalâ€“ it starts and ends at the same point in the year, thereâ€™s just a chunk missing near the beginning. And, if I ever wanted to go for optimum symmetry as well as lovely thematic resonance regarding endings, beginnings and opportunities, Iâ€™d ascribe to the Antipodean way of doing things, whereby the academic year is split much like the Calendar. But then the big holiday would come when everything was cold and awful AND Iâ€™d have to admit that Australia did something better than England and I donâ€™t think I can live with that.