From: Peter Rivard
Subject: My school
Just a quick note--I found the homepage of my monthly elementary school (with its student body of 28 and all of four teachers--plus the lunch lady). It's a bit on the old side. While my two junior high schools are the newest and most beautiful in town--everybody who visits them, even other ALTs, remarks on how beautiful they are--my elementary school is the most, um, charming (if that's the right word for a firetrap with 5'9" clearance through all the doorways, classrooms where you can look through cracks in the floor and see dirt, and rickety free-standing kerosene heaters in every room for heat). You can see it on their homepage. The classroom section is the derelict shack in the back. The lovely sheet-metal shed in the foreground is the library/music room, the most recent addition. Hidden from view in an ell between the classrooms and the library are the gym, kitchen, and teachers' room. The playground equipment (not so old, but would never pass safety regs in a country that had safety regs) is largely made from worn-out truck tires, plus whatever the teachers could put together from plywood and donated scrap (it's pretty typical that a school that just got $50,000 worth of top-end computers has to make do with donated scrap for other things--and can't find $4000 bucks for top-end, safe heaters for all four classrooms). The school sweet potato patch is just behind the classroom building. In reality, it is pretty charming, simply because it's old and simple in a Japan where not much else is either anymore, and because the rickety buildings mirror the friendly but rambunctious chaos of 28 country children with their mix of energy and old-fashioned togetherness and manners.