I wanted to make a quick blog update on what’s going on in my school in the midst of the coronavirus. I wrote about the strategies my school took to prevent the spread of the virus and for our students’ safety earlier last month, so if you’re curious please go back and read that.
For those who don’t know already: schools in Japan are mostly back to normal.
Over the last month or two, a few pictures of Japanese classrooms with "preventative measures" have been posted up such as this classroom in Funabashi, Chiba and images such as these:
So I took to my twitter, and ask those who were ALTs if such images exists at their school.
(Keep in mind I'm no twitter famous and I have a small following, so it's not like this is conclusive or anything, but I imagine if I asked more people, the "yes" will still not outweigh the "no".)
I had received some feedback from other ALTs about my earlier post as well and was told that honestly, not much preventative measures have been taken. Most schools only dawn the masks and face shields, but otherwise everything remains relatively the same. To which I’m honestly not surprised about. Japanese schools are often under budget, so it’s not like they have money to invest in sanitizer and extra cleaning supplies for everyone. Space is also pretty limited, and most classes have about 40 students each. There’s really not a lot of breathing room for change.
Unfortunately for me, I am in a similar situation.
Sanitizing and Cleaning
In my previous post, I had posted that my school had provided us with alcohol and spray bottles for the classrooms. At the end of the day, homeroom teachers are responsible for spraying the surfaces of the desks. Luckily, I believe most teachers still have a habit of doing this. To what degree, I'm not sure. My co-homeroom teacher and I make sure to spray down the surfaces every day after school while our kids conduct other normal cleaning duties.
A few non-homeroom teachers have taken on the task to spray other commonly used classrooms (such as English room, computer room, etc). Again, to what degree and frequency, I'm not so sure. But the positive in this whole thing is that more and more people in my school are using hand sanitizer on the regular. I hope this becomes more of a habit for people in the future.
In the Classroom...
At first, we were highly encouraged not to do activities where students have to speak aloud and do pair/group work - but as time went on, this became only up to the discretion of the teacher. I would say 2 weeks after the return of classes, a co-teacher of mine was already running group activities like debates.
Like I said before, classrooms with around 40 students are the norm here in Japan. Previously, my school had separated the class into 2 and did half days for both groups of students. However, we are running full day schedules once again with ALL STUDENTS, which means we are back to cramping into the classrooms with 39 other classmates. There's honestly not much wiggle room for social distancing.
Classes with more than 45 students (usually electives that mix 2 or more classes together) at my school, which happens to be one of my high school classes are moved into large board rooms and other huge spaces. Though a class with more than 45 students are rare. Not to mention, not many schools have extra multi-purpose rooms bigger than a normal classroom available.
Thankfully, the semester is coming to a close really soon. We are just approaching exam time, and after that, there will be no more classes.
Unfortunately, this is still Japan we are talking about, which means teachers will still have to go into school for "work". Students with club activities will still have to attend every 3 or 4 times a week. Extra events and extra classes will still be held for students in special program, or need extra help.
I don't really know what's next. I suppose I will still have to go to work as usual unless the government demands for another "state of emergency", effectively calling for voluntarily shut down once again.
Do I feel safe? Not really. But I imagine I wouldn't be the only one in this camp.