Taiken Japan

Autumn Leaves 2016

An Insight from an Elementary School

Photo: scarletgreen on Flickr

An Insight from an Elementary School


Part-time job as an assistant to language teacher is very common for the English-speaking foreigners in Japan. English language class is usually once per week, so it is a convenient job for students. And one can do this kind of work in several different places each day. The extra bonus is to have a well-balanced meal at least once a week.


I have spent 5 years working in two elementary schools. At that time the school administration wanted to grow kids interest in a foreign language and culture. The required classes are for the 5th and 6th grades, but some schools may arrange various kinds of English classes for younger children. My duties were to play games and share my country’s culture. And one of the key parts of the experience was the graduation ceremony. So let me give you a brief details and some of my impressions.

This is a very important event that brings all the school and PTA together. For me it was a little of a shock to see all students, parents, teachers, staff all together in school’s gym… all wearing black suits. First time I could hardly recognize any of them! On a regular basis teachers never dress formal for the classes and most prefer jumpers and sport clothes. But not for the graduation. The female classroom teachers of the seniors are to wear hakama. Interesting, in school where I’ve worked students never had any uniform and even at the graduation wore all different: from hakama to casual. Boys often come in white shirts and black suits.


The ceremony starts with the speeches of the head of the PTA, principle, and the vice principle. I noticed that they usually give some advices to children. Students receive their certifies on stage. Sometimes each of them has to make a short speech. One time seniors each was telling about their desired profession in the future.

Every teacher also makes a short speech. Mines usually lasted for about 10 minutes. I talked in Japanese but always input some English phrases and jokes from our classes, kids enjoyed them so much.


One cannot pay attention to how many songs are sung at the graduation ceremonies. Both graduates and seniors prepare a few songs, and many play instruments. Music teacher plays the piano throughout the whole event.

The less fun but still very symbolic part is seeing the graduates off. They leave the gym in a slow walk after signing school hymn and are followed by their teacher. This is actually the culmination of all the endless crying. Everybody cries: students, teachers, parents… It might be a little shocking at first, but merely understandable keeping in mind 6 long years side-by-side that such young ages spend together.

The day ends with 30 minutes photographs taken by professionally hired photographer and parents. By the way, photographer comes in a black suit as well. At the end teachers all go to the teachers room and thank the classroom teachers of the graduates. Meals are special lunch-boxes.