April 11, 2009
The Susono city junior high and elementary schools had their entrance ceremonies – 入学式 （にゅうがくしき） (nyu gaku shiki) – last Monday. This was the first day of school for the Susono ALTs.
The entrance ceremony is much more formal than my recollection of starting school in the UK. They decorate the school with flowers and parents come to watch in suits and kimonos!
As part of the ceremony, existing students welcome the new pupils by singing them a song. Children in Japan seem much more into singing than me and my friends when I was a child.
There is also a speech from the headmaster and PTA chairperson as well as a host of VIPs, e.g. community leaders, someone from the Board of Education, police officers, etc. who come to witness the ceremony. My less than perfect Japanese may have contributed to my understanding of the headmaster’s speech at one of my schools. I thought he said that parents should never take their eyes off their children because of the dangerous times we live in, including the scurge of drugs and violence.
Susono is possibly the safest place I have lived in my whole life!
Although possibly he was merely trying to encourage parents to take an active role in their kids lives?
On this first day fo school, the teachers are treated toa luxury Japanese bento. As there were extra, I got one for my dinner too! Just one of the perks of ALT school life!
April 5, 2009
I decided that having smaller posts on individual Susono Parks filled in the Susono adventure category might make things easier to read. Earlier today I went to the park with my son. Here is a brief review.
裾野市運動公園 （すそのし うんどう こうえん） (Susono-shi Undo Koen) or Susono Sports Park is far away from the center of Susono. You really need a car (or someone else to drive you) to get there!
When I first started working as a Susono ALT I hardly ever went to the Undo Koen. Now though, I have a car and a son so have both the means and a good reason to go there!
There are some great sports facilities there. For example an athletics track with football pitch; a baseball ground; tennis courts; and a large grassy park. I take my son to the park area because that’s where the most fun for kids is to be had.
There are two big roller slides. One gentler and shorter than the other. It’s fairly painful on your backside if you ride the slide unprotected. Typically Japanese parents and kids make a sledge type contraption out of thick cardboard. Mr Matsuyama from the Board of Education kindly made one for my son and I the last time I popped into City Hall.
Undo Koen map
April 4, 2009
I just bought a new dual line stunt kite over the internet. It arrived yesterday so I have been out and about in Susono looking for good kite flying locations. As a Susono ALT I’m wondering if I’ll have enough leeway to go out and fly my kite during my free periods.
So far the best places I’ve found are the school grounds as they are wide enough to fly my stunt kite without hitting any power cables. The one challenge I face though is that the playing fields, while wide enough to fly my kite, are often surrounded by either trees or buildings. This makes the wind less reliable and harder to control my kite.
I’ll definitely introduce my son to kite flying as he gets older. In the meantime I will be on the look out for a more open flying location. I’ve also started keeping a stunt kite flying blog.
April 3, 2009
Some of the ALTs in Susono go back to school a day or two before term officially starts. Today was 親任式 （しんにんしき） (shin nin shiki) – the new staff ceremony.
Along with Japanese teachers, office ladies and tea ladies, the Susono ALTs were also in attendance. For those of us at new schools we did a short self introductory speech in front of the 2nd and 3rd grade students. It’s always funny when you visit a “new” school as an ALT because the students get really excited about meeting a new foreigner!
After the ceremony we prepared for the entrance ceremony where we will welcome the new 1st years to school.
The Susono ALTs are back to work.
April 1, 2009
The ALT lifestyle in Susono is fairly easy going. There are three ain holiday periods. Typically graduation is in the latter half of March. After that is the spring holiday which lasts for about two weeks. During this time as an ALT we have most of the time off. This year I had a 1 hour meeting with the Board of Education; went in for the teacher leaving ceremony at school – 離任式（りにんしき）(ri-nin shiki) – for half a day and then went in for a day and a half at my new schools prior to the students coming back to meet the teachers.
The summer holidays last for about four weeks. Pretty much we get the whole of August off. Sometimes we are asked to go to school for things like speech contest practice. The Board of Education also arranges meetings and training days, approximately 3 days. Other than that we have the whole month off.
Compared to back home, the holidays around the Christmas and New Year period seem quite short. Usually the winter vacation is just a bit less than two weeks. The good news is that we aren’t really expected to show up to school at all during this time.
There are about 15 public holidays that fall outside the above school holidays. During “Golden Week”, from the end of April through the beginning of May, there is a series of 4 days off. The rest are spread throughout the year.
On top of the above holidays we have 20 days off to choose at our leisure. The catch, if there is one, is that sick daysa count as a day off and taking omre than 2 days off in a row during term time is frowned upon.
All told though the holiday entitlement of a Susono ALT is pretty good. In total we get about 3 months off a year!
April 1, 2009
Susono is famous for 自然いっぱい（しぜんいっぱい）(shizen ippai) – having a lot of natural beauty. So it’s no surprise there are a number of parks. As long as the weather is reasonable my son and I usually go to at least one of the following parks each weekend.
中央公園 – Chuo Koen – Central Park
This park is just behind Nishi junior high school. It is famous for 五竜の滝（ごりゅうのたき）(Go Ryu no Taki) – Five Dragon Waterfall. There are 3 prominent waterfalls and two others hidden behind some trees.
The Susono ALT working at Nishi junior high school usually has a few chances to visit throughout the year.
Chuo Koen is pretty peaceful although kids sometimes disturb the tranquility. My son chucking stones into the river being one of them. Let’s face it, it’s more fun being noisy.
Each May, Midori festival is held in Central Park. There are a variety of stalls selling all kinds of Japanese foods. The local taiko drumming group also puts on a performance.
One of the highlights of the park is its suspension bridge over the river. From the bridge you can get a perfect view of the waterfalls.
Central Park is closed on Mondays although it’s easy enough to jump the gates although as a responsible ALT I would never do anything like that!
More to follow…
March 31, 2009
I was asked by the Susono Overseas Friendship Association to redesign their website. And had the idea that it might be nice to have an English record of what the ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) get up to in our day to day life in Susono.
ALT Susono is going to record what life is like for ALTs in Susono. See the About page for more details.