Over the next few days I am accompanying 5 boys from our year 12 beginners Japanese class to the Rikkyo School in England, as part of an exchange programme with our school, the Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester.

We feel very looked after here, and the surroundings are beautiful. The schedule they have given us is fairly busy, but is nothing compared to the Japanese students’ and teachers’ schedules! I lived in Japan, worked in a junior high school there, but have never come across such a thing before. My students are seriously surprised, if not actually shocked by the workload imposed (self-imposed?) here.

To give you an idea, we arrived on Saturday at midday, when the students were still in lessons. So far so normal for a private boarding school, but tutor group meetings at 8pm, club activities or sport for an hour or so and then study time in the library until 11.30pm or midnight… The teachers in the meantime were holding a full staff meeting at 7pm (remember this is Saturday evening!), and then many of them were on site working until I went to bed at around 10pm… Of course some of them were on duty , but there were at least ten staff around working at 10pm. Sunday morning lie-in for everyone. Wake up bell at 8am then breakfast at 8.20 am. General shoe-shining session and then tutor-group followed by classroom cleaning then dorm cleaning. The Japanese students seemed very surprised that our students didn’t clean their own classrooms. Chapel at 10am followed by hymn practice. Lunch at midday and then real free time for everyone! Sunday evening seems to be a little more relaxed, although it is 8.45 now and most of the staff are still here (after an hour long staff meeting). There are students working at computers and in the library, but also others watching films or relaxing).

Tomorrow we go to lessons and will see what a school day is like. First impressions then: they work hard here, that is for sure, but there is also an amazing sense of community and everyone seems to be happy and smiling. My students were very impressed with the work ethic and motivation of the Japanese students, and I hope that it will inspire them to give their best in their own studies. My impression, well, it is hard to imagine putting any more hours into my job, but these teachers seem to give 14-16 hours a day almost every day. I don’t want to pass judgment, but I could not work in a system like this. My marriage and family suffer enough as it is with the hours I do…

There are a lot of positives here as well, though, and I hope that this little video will show you the fun we have all been having here, and the exchange of ideas that is going on with regard to the work/life balance question.

“No study, no pass…” – our reggae song loosely adapted from “No woman, no cry”. http://youtu.be/-AFt3TSmV0A