Who wants to teach in Japan?
During my time off, I had the fascinating opportunity to tour a handful of elementary schools in rural Japan as teachers prepared for the students to return there. Some differences with American schools:
1) Afraid that teachers will get too comfortable in their jobs, the Japanese powers-that-be transfer them to different schools within the area every few years. And first-year teachers are always transferred somewhere else for their second year.
2) Students are off for just about six weeks in the summer, which falls in the middle of the school year, and teachers work year-round, planning lessons while the kids are on vacation.
3) So committed is the community I visited (a town called Yakage in the Okayama prefecture, roughly between Osaka and Hiroshima) to the concept of neighborhood schools that class sizes vary wildly so students can attend the school closest to their home. I saw one school that has 40 kids to a class and another a few miles away with an average class size of 10. I heard about a class with only one child.
4) While discipline isn't perfect, teachers are generally revered by their students and in society. (This is also true in the Philippines, which explains why many of the Filipino teachers here experience culture shock when they enter American classrooms.) The same Japanese word, "sensei," is used to refer to teachers, doctors and priests.