Senpai #TeacherAnecdotes

I have been teaching English for 3 years; same schools for 2. Although Japan’s educational system is one of the most organized and uniformed system I know, I understand schools are not the same. They implement differently and why not? They are all headed by different kinds of people after all. That being said, this year is a challenge for me.

You see, I’m currently in 2 schools: Let’s disguise them as School Y and school X (That’s the best codename I have ever thought of hahaha). Last year, School Y was and still so dear to me: nice teachers, staff and even nicer and cute students. School X, on the other hand, was at the middle ground for me. It wasn’t really bad: Students have a fair share of nice and naughty; Although, I had the toughest class with them last year. Teacher in school X were okay; they’re not bad. Staffs were okay, too. This school is the smaller one and I thought at the start of school year last year, this was easier to handle. How wrong I was. Lol.

Just a little background: Here in Japan, we change our Vice Principal and principal every 3 years; they are assigned in a different school. Same for teachers but longer—7 years. And those irregular teachers like me, who change school in 1 year unless the school wants to keep you. So, last year’s staff, teachers and even principals got replaced and from here, it got a bit messy.

School Y stayed as awesome as it is and to be honest, I’m having the time of my life in that school. School X changed so much and I don’t mean it in a nice way.

As if difficult students are not enough, teachers now looks sad, frustrated and stressed; but mostly, I never felt so indifferent. I experienced not having school lunch because they “forgot” about me on the list. They asked if I wanted to go out to get my lunch. With all honesty, I really don’t mind. Shit happens so I said okay. However, the Vice Principal knew and he didn’t want me to go out because I am his responsibility. He gave his lunch to me instead and he scolded the nutritionist. Since then, she never talked to me again. To be honest, I don’t care but it all went down from there.

My Japanese Coordinator (JC) and I were asked to pay 500Yen a month for school tea the following month. It was unusual. In my JC’s 7 years experience and my 3, we were never asked to pay, not even once. We obliged because maybe new principal, new rules. However, after paying, we still can’t get the tea and drinks from school. My JC got frustrated and came up with a plan: she humiliated the lady in charge by asking her in front of the Vice Principal. True to our speculations, the VP didn’t know about the money and he said it’s not a school rule. The office lady gave our money back and said we can’t drink any green tea or coffee anymore. It was okay, we brought our own anyway. But what I didn’t know about work bullies and things like this at school was they fight back. They will get revenge to what my JC did and true enough, they did. Suddenly, the Principal asked me not to use the laptops anymore and even the shared computer. So, my first thought was how will I do my job? Then it hit me that this is how Japanese are—mean and bullies.

The internet always have been creating memes about “Senpai” no knowing how serious and how bad this cultural thing affects everyone. It’s actually “Senpai” and “Kohai” in English “Senior” and “Junior”. It is rampant in Junior High School where you should respect, bow to and obey your “senpai”. What I didn’t know was, this applies at work, too. Those who are the longest in the school are considered the “senpai” thus they have more power and if someone is new and not a regular employee, well… you’ll feel the power of the senior workers because they will let you feel it. They won’t greet you, even if you greet them. They won’t say a word to you, not even one and if you’re unlucky enough to be disliked, you’ll feel indifferent whatever you are—Japanese or not.

I don’t mind them, actually. Even last year, they don’t like us to eat with them and instead let us eat with the students. That’s really a plus and not a minus. But this year, their bullying is more evident. The retaliation my JC did just make it all worst for us, I think. It’s just frustrating how I do my outmost best but people just wanted to be mean for no apparent reason. Bullying is real and it’s funny how it also happens in the adults in schools, too.

Actually, I can always tell my company but I won’t. My contract is only 10 months and I’m only there for 2 days in a week, I won’t bother. I will leave soon anyway… and with me is this story and a lesson that people like this exists: They will pull you down just to show dominance.

I thought we were better from animals but the truth is, we are way worst.


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