Thursday, March 08, 2007

Anyone ever hear of Scantron in this place?

I was blessed this week to have two days of classes. And three days next week. And then three whole days the week after. And then none. That's my month in a nutshell. Things are winding down at school and the last two days have involved 240 future ichi-nensei invading their soon-to-be school to take their entrance examinations. From the five tests, they will be put into their respective homerooms that will essentially determine whether they will be college-bound, vocational school-bound, or McDonald's-bound.

I was invited to help grade papers and all of the double and triple checking that is involved in deciding their fates. It was typically Japanese. Precise and time-wasting, but at the same time a bit admirable for the attention to detail. Each test was split into nine question sections. There were three tables and at each table someone took a section to check with a red pen and a system of circles, slashes, and Xs. There were many signatures added to sheets and then after every test was graded at one table, we rotated the tests, double checking with a black pen. Then rotated again and checked with a red pen again. Then there was the counting of correct answers...three times. Plus lots of yelling of numbers that still needed to be checked. "Yon-ban!" "Ni-ban!" I sort of enjoyed that part.

I got the hang of grading although was a bit overwhelmed at first due to this chart:

But thankfully I was given the easiest/non-Japanese needing parts and ripped through my tests.

I was going to write a detailed blog about the "tracking" system of Japan, but think I will give it a miss for now. Essentially there are different levels of high schools (Chatan is in the lower middle tier of schools in Okinawa) and then within each school some students are on different tracks...Liberal Arts, Science/Mathematics, Technology, McDonalds (my 1-3 class). Students are supposed to know whether they want to go to college or not before entering high school, which determines which school they attend (can decide between schools in their area) and then which type of homeroom they will be in. It's all very complicated and based on these exam scores, interview results, etc. the students will soon know if they will be 1-1, 1-4, 1-8, etc. I am really curious where the student who got 1 right on the math section...only answering 1... is going to be put. Some real winning scores! And listening to Bridgit talk about how well her students did on the English test makes it apparent how she is a higher-middle tier school, quickly approaching top school status. My students were great if they wrote, "School clubs should be required because.... sport is happy."

We graded our tests in the shodo (calligraphy) room. I was looking at all of the displayed scrolls and pointed out the one in the middle to Taiko-sensei and made a comment about how shaky it was. She said, "Oh, yes. That one." Her tone made it sound like I had just picked out one done by a student who couldn't help the shaking. But then she said that it was actually a style of calligraphy and is supposed to look like that. Then she pointed out some other differences and all of the teachers said they couldn't read all the kanji/understand the meanings. Interesting.

Most teachers kept saying, "tsukareta" (tired) and this poor guy took advantage of a brief break in the action. He also happens to be the second place finisher in the Naha and Okinawa City marathons. Must be the training.

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