Tuesday, June 12, 2007


On the first day of Orientation camp we had an hour long talk by 3 lecturers on what is expected of students, followed by 2 hours of self-study in a big room, where people were assigned seats according to their room number (I studied Hazard Modelling, i.e. I took an hour to read what I would have read in 3 minutes in an english text and wasted time on a proof which can be done in 5 minutes using induction). Then, after dinner and bath we had a 30 minute talk by Mr. Watanabe about joining NOVA. Almost everyone slept in these lectures, for this is the nature of the Japanese student – they sleep through everything. Professor Miwa, who is retiring this year, gave a long and suitably rambling talk on his own history and on peace, and when I looked back from my position near the front fully two thirds of the room were sleeping.

On the second day of the Orientation Camp we had more lectures; 2 on the life of a high school and primary school teacher, and then a question and answer session with the same two people, which I skipped because I ain’t graduating to become a teacher. This was interesting because of the difference in attitude towards teachers in this country. Many students want to become teachers, and they earnestly strive to this end, which is not easy. Primary school teachers, for example, have to be able to swim a certain distance in a certain time, play the piano, and do basic acrobatics. High school teachers attend a special test which is notoriously hard to pass, and many honours students in every field strive to do this test, taking it multiple times before they pass. So no-one slept through this presentation, which involved details about teachers’ schedules, their teaching materials, and their work conditions, which are abominable. The male teacher, a high school teacher, told the students in no uncertain terms, that he works from 8am to 8pm 5 days a week, with no rest, and is paid shit (about $3000 a month). He said to them “I’m sure that you are wondering why I decided to become a teacher?” and proceeded to explain to them that he did so thinking that it would be an easy, enjoyable job with good pay. No such thing, he revealed. And why does he keep doing it? “Because the job has great importance, and the reward of seeing my students understand something, or thank me when they graduate, makes it all worthwhile.” The Japanese value honesty in their dealings, and he wasn’t sparing the lash! The result? Takuma told me he “will try harder to become a teacher, because that man reinforced my desire to do it”. (There is more of this in the drinking).


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