on monday i found out that today, thursday, was going to be special. the 3rd graders are almost done with school and so the other two graders are throwing something of a going away party for them. the party involves playing games that are meant to build cooperation and communication among students. good idea, ne? oh, and i also found out that i was written into one of the teams.
so today, i am told to go to the gym around 1:50. mind you, i had no idea what kind of games these were meant to be, but i was prepared, i brought gym clothes; i lacked foresight and did not bring gym shoes (outside shoes are not permitted). so in my white socks, with my feet freezing, i stand on the periferee of a student body mess. the teachers don't seem to know what's going on. two guys are at the front, explaining something; i think they are meant to be leaders. the students split off into four groups, arranged not by classes, but randomly, it seems with all the grades intermixed. i am in the green group and i sit down and "chat" with some of the first grade girls.
we play two games: we pass the basketball in two different ways, and then some sort of a tag game. kids seem to be engaged, some are sitting by the wall and staring at their peers. but a handful are fully involved.
the main guy is upset. why? don't know. he gives a speeche. i can tell the kids are subdued by it, somewhat deflated even. all of a sudden, the 3rd grader girls decide to talk, they call all the 3rd graders over to the side (mind you the guy from Professional Adventures is still talking). all 3rd graders stand up and walk over to the side, sit in a cirlcle and start talking. well, the girls are talking, the boys in that class are just for show.
so, what's going on, i ponder. it's obvious that 3rd graders decided to disengage from the activities. why? all of a sudden i see 2nd graders attempting to break away, and 1st graders have formed two disjointed circles.
i walk over to the JTE, sometimes he's helpful. He tells me that the organizer/speaker/leader/PA dude was not happy that not all the students were engaged in the activities. He said that they should be having fun and they weren't. He didn't like that some students were not following his explicit directions not step outside certain lines. So he said that if students don't want to continue with the activity, they should have their leaders speak with the group and then tell him how to proceed. Brilliant! My JTE tells me that obviously 3rd graders have great "human relations" judging by the way they all got together so quickly. and then points to his own class (he is a homeroom teacher of 2-2) and tells me to notice how the girls have their own circle and boys are separate from them on the other side. His class, admittingly, does not have good "human relations." At this point most grades have somehow organized into circles, but kids are goofing around and obviously are not discussing whether they want to proceed with the Adventures exercise.
The teachers are everywhere but not anywhere near the students. Like my JTE, they are just standing around, observing the situation.
after 20 minutes of this, 3rd graders are obviously fed up. This is meant to be their going away present, and it's not hapenning. the other grades are being childlish and so they go over to talk with the dude about the situation. at this point the head teacher is involved and 2nd graders have chatted with some 3rd graders and are getting nearer a decision (the girls even invited the boys to be in their circle).
another 10 minutes go by. the students have been told to sit according to class. third graders are standing in line at the front. one of them speaks, to what effect, i know not. the dude walks in front of the lines of students sitting down and asks them (i think) whether they want to participate. guess what? all the students raise their hands. surprised?!? ha!
they split off back into the color teams. a couple of the 3rd grade girls are crying. they play games.
i had to leave after a while because too much Japanese speak in one day makes my brain hurt.
so. i'm a bit confused here. these students are taught via the teacher centered method. it's not just from being in English classes. I've seen it happen in other classes as well. The teacher talks, the students passively receive information. lecture after lecture after lecture and sometimes they make a salad.
so why is it that within the classroom the kids are not expected to engeneer their own education; but outside of it, the teachers are nowhere near what happens within the student body?
students lead their own activities; they decide on clubs, they create their own projects...yes, of course there is always a teacher to guide them, but just like it happened today, the students are first allowed to organize their own chaos.
and inevitably, there are only two or three students who show leadership qualities and are going to answer for the whole group...so not everyone is ever fully involved in the process.
i'm so confused. i will continue to observe this strange behavior. i know the group is what matters in this society--little is done in solitude and individually.
but why aren't students allowed then to guide their own education as well?
and i'm not saying that they will get to choose their subjects, or whether to study or not. no. i'm talking about student centered learning; it doesn't exist here--or at least i haven't seen it....