Ah, the Japanese school staffroom. A dimly-lit, beige-brown landscape populated with fellow tracksuit-clad teachers, piles of recycled paper and broken stationery, dusty chalkboards with a whole bunch of kanji on them, and your cheap canned coffee lying in the wrong trash bin.
Or, to put it another way: Paradise.
I love the Japanese school staffroom. It’s a place where the air conditioning is always on, the omiyage is plentiful, the chairs are comfy, and the meetings are long and incomprehensible. The best part is that none of your Japanese students can goad you with their too-personal questions and trolling remarks because they’re not allowed to enter. Ha!
That is, until the 10-minute period between each class where outsiders dare to encroach on us teachers’ little slice of heaven. As you sit there at your desk, the ALT that will probably never be called upon, you’ll get to observe some characters. Some of my favorites include:
- The kid grabbing the keys. A simple task, a simple student; they’re in and out.
- The kid who just walks right in despite the school rules strictly forbidding them from doing so. Brace yourself for the loud cries of GTFO from the teachers.
- The kid who barges in during a meeting, despite the warning signs outside the door. It must be because their super late English homework has them in a blind panic. Like before, the loud GTFOs of the teachers resonate and they’re gone as fast as they came in….until coming back again three seconds later.
Students aren’t the only ones disturbing the peace. You’ll have your fair share of adults as well.
Often you’ll see the guy from some sort of business selling something. Is it insurance? As a product which people seem to neither qualify for, afford or understand, I think it must be. In the same family of unwanted salespersons, there’s also the NHK guy who can have a group of 40 teachers hiding under their desks quicker than an earthquake.
The most terrifying type of visitor though has got to be the PTA moms. They show up to grab some keys and give you a silent but crushing look of disapproval—a big part of the reason why they are not included in the video and also why I’ll be hiding in the copy room from now on.
Is your Japanese school staffroom similar? What kind of characters do you see on the daily? Let us know in the comments and stay tuned for our next video on life as an ALT in Japan.
You can check out Mason’s YouTube channel maydaysan in JAPAN.