For my CIP this past semester I volunteered at Kyoto Bunkyo School as an English assistant. While initially I thought I would be helping in the classroom as an assistant teacher, my actual job was to meet with high school students after school and help them practice their English speaking skills. The two high school girls that I met with had both studied abroad in Australia for seven months, so their English speaking was better than I expected. We talked mostly about Japanese schools, their study abroad experience in Australia, boys, and life in America. The students were very eager to teach me about their life as students in Japan. I learned that private schools in Japan have many strict rules that students must follow. For example, students are not allowed to dye their hair and girls with long hair must wear their hair tied back. Students are also not allowed to use their cellphones at any time, even after school. In terms of the way school is structured, unlike American students, Japanese students stay in the same classroom for all their classes with the same group of peers. As a result, the students were very close to their classmates and there was a sense of class bonding that one doesn’t see in America.
At first I was disappointed that I wasn’t teaching, but talking to Japanese high school students was a very fulfilling experience. I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk to and learn from Japanese students, while at the same time teaching them about America in an informal setting. After this experience I definitely feel that I have gained a better understanding of Japanese schools and student life.