Kids’ Korner: Going to School - First Grade
In Japan the school year begins in April and ends in March. Imagine going to school for the first time on a cool spring day, the warm sun on your face, surrounded by cherry blossoms and comforted by a soft breeze. This is what first graders experience in Japan as they meet their new classmates. There are many other differences between school in the U.S. and Japan as well. Here are some examples:
1. Elementary school students go to school by themselves.
Young students wear colorful hats that show what school they go to. These hats also make children easier for drivers to see. Students will often meet up in groups on their way to school. These groups are usually led by older students who hold flags to keep the younger children from getting lost. Adults also wait in places that have heavy traffic to help students get to school safely. When they get to school everyone is greeted by the principle or another teacher at the school entrance.
2. Every student has a randoseru.
Randoseru are a kind of backpack. The word randoseru came into the Japanese vocabulary through the Dutch word ransel, which means backpack or rucksack. All randoseru have the same design. Traditionally they only came in two colors, red and black, but today there are many more options available. Some even have popular cartoon characters on them. For first graders, getting a randoseru is a very important event that they look forward to. Students will often use the same bag all the way through sixth grade. Randoseru can be very heavy because students are expected to bring all of their books home with them every night and back to school again the next day.
3. Students wear different shoes inside and outside.
After arriving at school, everyone places their shoes in their cubbyhole at the student entranceway and changes into their school shoes. Students must change back into their outdoor shoes if they are going outside.
4. There are no janitors.
Ok, so there are some janitors to do the things children cannot do, but students are responsible for cleaning their classrooms, hallways, the student entranceway, and the student bathrooms every day after classes are over. Teachers supervise and split students into groups that each have their own area of responsibility, and groups of older students are assigned to help younger students.
5. Most Japanese schools do not have a cafeteria.
Lunch is usually served in the classroom, and groups of students take turns doing lunch duty. When it is their turn, they go to the kitchen to pick up their class’s meal, set up the lunch line in their classroom, and serve their classmates.