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Recently, I saw a story about a female teacher who took a day off work to attend her son’s entrance ceremony at a different school.

The problem was that it was on the same day as her own school’s ceremony, so she was not able to attend that one.

Some people have criticised the teacher for putting her family before her work. Other people, particularly non-Japanese people, have said that it is good to see a Japanese teacher putting her own family first.

As you may know, many Westerners find it hard to believe how much responsibility Japanese teachers have towards their students. In many cases, it seems to us that the teachers have more responsibility towards the children than the parents do!

Anyway, I thought this would be a nice topic for us to discuss. Do you think the woman did the right thing, or should she have attended her own school’s ceremony instead?

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

このブログは英語学習者のためのものです。レベルの高い人もいれば、初心者もいますので、自分のレベルや学習経験を気にする必要はありません。「いつもコメントを書いている人は仲間みたいだから参加しにくい」と思う方もいるかもしれませんが、勇気を出してコメントを書いてみてください。必ず温かく迎えてもらえます。多くのコメントは英語で書かれていますが、もちろん日本語もOKですし、英語と日本語を混ぜて書いても大丈夫です。言いたいことが言えないときは、How do you say 「~」in English? と聞けば、きっとだれかが教えてくれると思います。私のエントリー、または他のメンバーのコメントの中に分からないところがあったら、「”…”はどういう意味ですか?」と遠慮なく聞いてください。このブログで使われているフレーズや表現をたくさん吸収すると、より自然な英語に近づけることができますよ!

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  1. Biwa on Tuesday April 22nd, 2014 at 09:58 AM

    Hi everyone,

    Well, I think it depends. If she were in charge of the second-graders or older, there is probably no problem with her being absent from her own school’s ceremony. The children all know her, and they can probably understand the situation. There is nothing wrong with her putting her family before her work.

    However, if she were in charge of the first-graders, I think she should never be absent! The children and their parents are there to see her for the first time, feeling a bit nervous. They will probably be glad to know that she looks like a good teacher. If she weren’t there, it would be hard for her to make a good start. It’s easy if you think the other way round. She would probably feel very worried if her son’s new teacher didn’t attend the entrance ceremony.

  2. YU on Tuesday April 22nd, 2014 at 02:37 PM

    Hi everyone,

    I agree with Biwa. I heard that she is in charge of first-graders. I know exactly what Westerners say, but I wonder a teacher should be categorized into the same group as other usual jobs. Like she is the only mother for her son, she is the only class teacher for her students, too. I doubt if her 15-year-old son is still too young to understand the situation…

    By the way, I wonder why his father didn’t attend the ceremony instead of her in the first place. Or is it common that both parents attend your child’s high school entrance ceremony together in Japan? If her son was in kindergarten or elementary school, that would change everything, though…

    Anyway, regardless of her situation, if I were one of her students and she was absent on my very first day at school, I’m sure I’d be very upset.

  3. Fumie on Tuesday April 22nd, 2014 at 09:59 PM

    Hi David and everyone,

    I read this article of Japan Today yesterday morning and found interesting to know that most foreigners took her decision as a good move.
    But in Japanese society, her decision isn’t forgivable, it is probable teachers who prioritize their family matters would be criticized because as David pointed out, people expect teachers to take much responsibilities towards students. So I was surprised to know that the principal approved her taking a day off for attending her son’s entrance ceremony.
    Having said that I’m not against that teachers putting their families before their work. They should be able to take a day or several days off as other professions can do when they want to. They shouldn’t sacrifice their own children for the sake of their students.

  4. Anne on Tuesday April 22nd, 2014 at 11:43 PM

    Hi David and everyone,

    I wonder if there weren’t other family members,father or grandparents. If it was me, I would explain the situation to my son, and prioritize my job since he is not an elementary school boy any more. Having said that, if the reason of absence was “funeral”, no one would complain about. In that sense, if their teacher explain the situation, it seems to be okay for me.

    By the way, I just could read the blog now just once. I tried to read it several times since yesterday, but what I could read was the title”(English)Priorities.” Again, I can’t read the whole content. What is wrong with my PC?
    Anyway, I could imagine what the topic was about from the title.

  5. Anne on Tuesday April 22nd, 2014 at 11:45 PM

    it’s me again. After clicking, I found that the whole content appeared. Sorry for bothering.

  6. Biwa on Wednesday April 23rd, 2014 at 08:51 AM

    Hi everyone,

    Okay, so the son was that big, and the female teacher was working at a high school. (lol!) For some reason, I was simply convinced that the story was all about ‘elementary school’!

    Then, the whole story gives me a slightly different impression. Honestly, I don’t really think the mother and the son were that nervous or willing to attend his entrance ceremony. I would rather take the mother’s behavior as a challenge against the authorities and maybe some parents and students. I mean, she wanted to show people that teachers also have their priorities even though she had known well that her behavior may cause great criticism. If so, that would be quite cool, and I would give her a “Bravo!”

    Besides, I would like to know how her students (the newcomers that she was in charge of) reacted. Of course I don’t know, but maybe she set a good example to her students.

  7. YU on Wednesday April 23rd, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    Hi Anne,

    Actually, the same thing happened to my PC the other day. Then David told me that I should try English site instead of Japanese one and it worked. If you had the same problem again, you should just click the English site button in the upper part.

    Hi Biwa,

    > I would rather take the mother’s behavior as a challenge against the authorities and maybe some parents and students.

    I read that she’d written a letter to her students and parents apologizing for her absent and someone read it in front of them for her on the entrance ceremony’s day. Apparently, they were just confused by her letter.

    Anyway, Like Fumie, I’m not particularly against teachers to put their families first either, but I just wonder if the female teacher really had no other ways than attending her son’s ceremony ‘herself’ until she had to slight her students and parents in the first place. And for example, if her husband had worked as usual on the day, I would think she’s a bit selfish rather than cool and she has challenged the authorities on the wrong day.

    Hi Fumie,

    >I was surprised to know that the principal approved her taking a day off for attending her son’s entrance ceremony.

    Actually, I read that quite a few Japanese people think that she did the right thing. Apparently, 尾木ママ criticized her for neglect of duty pointing out the same thing as you mentioned above on his blog and it littered with abusive comments immediately.

  8. Akira on Wednesday April 23rd, 2014 at 02:16 PM

    I can’t understand why people criticise her. She had told her boss before she was absent in advance and her collegue took her place. If she hadn’t done that and had gone to her son’s school without saying nothing, it would have been a problem. But she did!
    She is someone’s teacher but at the same time she is someone’s mother too.
    In Japan, not only teachers but also any other workers can’t prioritise their private so easily and as far as teacher’s responsibility is concerned, a lot of parents expect the teachers too much to look after their children even though they don’t look after their children by themselves so much. The parents take the teachers doing everything for granted.
    Crazy society! It’s as simple as that.

  9. Fumie on Wednesday April 23rd, 2014 at 10:30 PM

    Hi YU and everyone,

    I read another article of this incident on tonight paper. Actually 4 teachers, 3 female and 1 male teachers took a day off to attend elementary, junior high or high school each of their own children’s ceremonies and the principals were all approved them as paid holidays. It got much attention because one guest attendee felt bad about teachers’ being absent for personal reason and wrote it on facebook. Respondents comments are fifty fifty: about half agreed and half disagreed.

  10. Kattie on Thursday April 24th, 2014 at 12:08 AM

    Hi Akira,

    I assume it’s you! Do you think your stay in the UK altered your opinions on things like this? It seems like teachers in the UK are not nearly as immersed in school life as they are in Japan. I don’t think we have an equivalent of a school ceremony, is it an event at the beginning of the school year to welcome new students?

  11. Anne on Thursday April 24th, 2014 at 05:49 AM

    Hi YU,
    Thanks for your help. I’ll keep it in mind.

    Hi Kattie,
    >, is it an event at the beginning of the school year to welcome new students?
    —-Yes, it is. In Japan, this ceremony is not just a ceremony, but is very important. That’s why this issue became controversial.

    As Biwa mentioned, I want to know how that teacher’s students thought when she wasn’t there. I really hope this issue won’t hurt teacher’s son.

  12. Biwa on Thursday April 24th, 2014 at 08:43 AM

    Hi YU and everyone,

    I understand 100% what you mean. If the story was about an ordinary worker, being absent from the ceremony, especially if you were in charge of the first-graders, it would be similar to skipping the first meeting with your client. If it were me, I know I would waver a lot!

    However, in junior-high and high schools, we have assistant class teachers, don’t we? That is why I think situations are a bit different from elementary schools. More to that, I wonder why her co-workers couldn’t do anything but just read up her letter during the ceremony. They could have added some friendly comments about her, or introduced an episode or two to relax the newcomers and parents. That’s what people do at normal, cooperative workplaces, isn’t it? In that sense, I guess the female teacher wasn’t able to acquire all her co-workers’ understanding.

    I was surprised to read Fumie’s comment because I thought more people were against her decision. I guess things are changing, and will change more in the future.

  13. YU on Thursday April 24th, 2014 at 09:36 AM

    Hi Fumie,

    I see, well, that’s why I wrote “quite a few Japanese people think that she did the right thing”(彼女が正しい事をしたと思っている日本人は少なくない=結構多い).

    I’m not sure if the four teachers you mentioned are all in charge of first-graders too. I wouldn’t be very surprised if they weren’t in charge of new students, but what particular about the female teacher is that she is in charge of first-graders and her son is a new student, too, so everyone talks about her now.

    Hi Biwa,

    Sorry, I don’t know if all junior-high and high schools in Japan have assistant class teachers. Private schools might have them.

    > In that sense, I guess the female teacher wasn’t able to acquire all her co-workers’ understanding.

    I think so. If I were her co-worker, I’d rather think how to avoid blame from parents for her.

    Hi everyone,

    I agree with David that Japanese teachers work long and hard. I don’t think they need to be advisors to school club activities or always hasten to the police station to apologize before students’ parents arrive, either, but I don’t think it is the same matter as whether teachers should attend the two main Japanese school events like the entrance ceremony and the graduation ceremony above all things.

  14. Akira on Thursday April 24th, 2014 at 07:07 PM

    Hi Kattie,

    of course, it’s me.
    I had already been feeling something wrong with Japanese society since before I came to the UK, but as you said, I’m sure my stay in the UK changed my opinion more and my other european friends’ way of thinking also altered mine.

    You can see a ceremony in Japan as a sample.

    By the way, did you get my emails before? I’ve been wondering if you’ve been busy or somthing wrong with email system.

  15. Kattie on Friday April 25th, 2014 at 03:43 AM

    Hi Anne,

    Thanks for the explanation. I think this is a bit like our school assemblies but in the UK, they are not so important. Sometimes parents will go to primary schools to watch children perform but they never go to secondary school assemblies. I don’t think people here would be bothered if a teacher wasn’t there but it’s not really an equivalent situation.

    Hi Akira,

    Thanks for the link. It’s very formal. I’m not sure whether you saw the TV programme called Educating Yorkshire but it followed a year in the life of a school in Yorkshire and it gives you an idea about what life is like in a secondary school in the UK, there are lots of clips on youtube including one of the school leavers’ assembly.

    I’m sorry but I must have missed your emails. I have been having problems receiving emails on my phone and the person I work with kept me informed of emails that came in while I was out of the office moving and doing the new house up etc. We get so many emails, including junk, and so I think some of my personal emails went astray. Actually the other day when I was deleting stuff I saw several emails from friends which I’d never seen. I hope you weren’t offended!

  16. Biwa on Friday April 25th, 2014 at 09:51 AM

    Hi YU,

    Talking about assistant school teachers, I have heard from my friends that they do have them in public junior-high and high schools, at least in Yokohama.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that teachers and also any kind of workers need a good back-up system so that they can take a day off work without hesitating too much. I remember, when I was in elementary school, we didn’t have any assistant class teachers (I don’t think they still do). So whenever our teacher took a day off, we had no classes, everything just stopped, but we still had to stay in our seats doing worksheets all day, and other teachers of the same grade would take turns coming to our classroom to see if we were behaving quietly. It was really weird and I hated it.

    Hi everyone,

    I think this female teacher’s case could have been less problematic if the back-up (the system and her co-workers) had been better. It was just her choice, and it’s good to know that nearly half of the Japanese people supported her choice. And you know, it’s natural that pioneers always receive harsh treatment!

    Hi Kattie,

    I tried to see “Educating Yorkshire” but I couldn’t. It said the video was not available in my area. I’ll try again later. Sounds interesting!

  17. Akira on Friday April 25th, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    Hi Kattie,

    No, that’s fine! I wasn’t offended. Just I was worrying about you but I’m pleased that you’re fine!

    I’ve just watched Educating Yorkshire on Youtube briefly and thought it was very different from Japanese school and one of the episode about a boy having a severe stammer absolutely reminded me of the film called The Kings speech which I watched very recently.
shemale lesbian.