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The Worst Thing to Teach in Japan

I was recently reminded of a part of Japanese teaching that makes every teacher - big or small, Japanese or no - want to run for the hills. A ex-coworker of mine had posted about this on her stories and it literally brought forth some tainted memories of my time in Japan.

Yes, it is worse than teaching Science when you cannot even Science yourself.

It is even worse than bringing all the kids on a field trip to god-knows-where Japan so they can run amok and tire themselves out.

That's right, there is something much worse.


Teaching elementary school kids swimming.

I would say most if not all private schools have a swimming unit as a part of gym classes. For public school, it varies. I've always worked at schools that didn't have this tacted on, as they often didn't have an on-site pool to go to. If any, they would need to go to a nearby community pool which is most likely already reserved for their older cousins in Junior High or the general public. Because private schools are ballers, there are often on-site pools and therefore - swimming must happen.

Now, let me first tell you why this is such nightmare fuel from the administrative side:

Pools in Japan are mostly outdoors. Mostly. Like 99% outdoors. That means any on campus pool is more than likely outdoors. I only know of one school who has an indoor pool at their school and even our students wanted to become students over there instead, just for the pool.

Look, maybe you're used to swimming in an outdoor pool. But... have you CLEANED one? More like, maintained one so the kids won't freak out of dead bugs and debris?

As a teacher, I basically had to volunteer my time on the days my grade has swimming lessons so clear out the bugs 30 minutes before my daily work time started. Yes, I know - this is probably a "this school just sucks for asking you to do that" thing and not really that bad of a task (like, if you'd ask me to scoop out bugs DURING my work hours, it would be acceptable). But still. Point is, there are these random tasks that as a teacher, you'd have to do for the good of the school that is truly BS.

We also need to decide what we need to teach and... teach them.

It doesn't matter if you can swim or not, this class is completely all hands on deck.

I happen to like water and swimming so it's not the end of the world, but if you had a fear of water...... well, you better get over it quickly. Or pretend you don't have one. Luckily, the pools don't have too much of a deep end at the school I taught at, so adults can stand on tippy toes even at the deepest. But remember, you aren't in this pool alone.

You have to make sure 30 kids in your class don't drown. Multiply that by the other classes you're sharing this pool with so you can just combine the classes together (have more eyes and less chances you'd actually have to teach). I don't know about you, but a normal swimming lesson in Canada dumps you into a pool with only 6-8 other kids. This is almost 3 or 4 times more kids.

And heck, there's no lifeguards on site. YOU are the lifeguard.

So not only are you trying to teach the kids SOMETHING - you need to make sure they don't drown nor fool around.

And if you're teaching the youngest grades, you'd hope they keep their fecal matters in and not end up in the pool......

Now, I don't know if you've ever tried to dress your kids after a day at the pool, but I hope you'll agree with me that it's a chore. Thankfully(?), we don't have shower rooms so we don't need to wait for 90+ kids to fully shower, but getting the kids to get themselves out of wet swimsuits is... a task. It usually takes upwards of 30 minutes each time to get the kids dressed, and another 30 minutes to round up the kids again so they can change back into uniforms. That's an hour lost.

And of course, you also have to get yourself dry and out of your wet clothes. But you also need to supervise the kids so they aren't fooling around while changing.

So if I had gotten anything out of this, I'd say I am probably a gold medalist for changing out of my swimsuit into dry clothes if there ever was an Olympic event.

I don't know a single teacher who enjoys teaching these lessons.

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