Monday, May 07, 2007
7th period of the day...and all day I've been hearing the kids marching in their PE classes out on the field here at Kanko. "Ich'ni! Ich'ni!" ("One, Two...") I've got to say, when I first saw them doing it at the Sports Festival last year, it freaked me out a little. Very "militaristic" - but it didn't fill me with the same pride that seeing our American ROTC students marching does.
However, as with most things here, I wait. I'm patient. I bite my tongue, because most of the time there is a perfectly good explanation for things, and I just have to get a better look at the big picture before making judgements. One of the things I've marveled at here is the distinct lack of discipline issues. Sure I've gone from one extreme to the other (some might even give the apples and oranges excuse), but are kids really THAT different? Of course they have to test into this school, but teens are teens...ne? One thing I think might make part of this well disciplined behavior possible is the intense training that is done in the ichinensei "boot camp" that is then reinforced in PE classes and assemblies afterwards. As I mentioned before, the first year students and their teachers ALL go to a 3 day "boot camp" (I originally thought it was "camping" - with campfires and marshmellows...imagine my disappointment!). We stayed in dorms, and basically the kids marched, hiked, and sang the school song. One night we had a class jump rope competition - 38 students jumping rope (the same rope) at once! I'll put those shots up next.
Frankly it was a little tedious for me to sit and watch the marching and the singing, so as often as I could, I joined in when it wasn't too much of a distraction. The amazing thing I noticed, though, was I NEVER saw a behaviour problem (maybe it's the language barrier?), and all the students, despite the long hours of hiking and marching in the sun, keep a sunny disposition themselves. And the team spirit - was amazing. I guess a result of doing repetitive things together over and over again (and finally being judged on the group's performance) is falling in together as a team. And acting as a disciplined team (who even knows the school song!) isn't such a terrible thing. (It's sad that even after 12 years at Ely, I could probably sing the Kanko song - in Japanese - better than Ely's)
So - the whole marching bit still freaks me out a little, but when I look at the big picture, it seems to work in this system. Sure, they might want to be playing games rather then marching around in the hot sun, but it certainly doesn't seem to bother them much, and already I can hear them chanting and laughing outside at all their sports club activities now.