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Amparo Bertram

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09:25 pm: Back to school daze
Monday I went to the new Ritsumeikan campus for my first day of work. The term hasn't officially started, yet, however, so things were still being organized. The first item on the agenda was a faculty meeting to discuss such serious topics as the order in which the students should line up during the opening ceremony and making sure to explain in great detail where and how students must change shoes upon entering the gym.

After the meeting, teachers were assigned desks in the faculty room. High school faculty have their office in the Media Center, which is in the middle of campus. I was told that the English teachers could choose to have their desks in another building (where most of the English classes will be taught), but I wanted to stay in the same building as the school library.

In the afternoon, the various departments got together to discuss class assignments. My classes were already designated, so I just received a copy of what my responsibilities will be. In addition to me, there are four other English teachers in charge of the former Moriyama Girls' School students (now seniors). The class duty list goes like this...

Teacher 1: 10 hours per week
Teacher 2: 10 hours
Teacher 3: 10 hours
Teacher 4: 11 hours
ALT: 18 hours

So I'll be attending nearly twice as many classes as any of the other teachers. This is about the same course load as I had last year; the difference is that this time I will be teaching some of the non-English majors to make up for not having to teach any underclassmen.

And now, on to the start of the new campus tour. You will have to excuse the poor quality of some of the pictures. I hadn't realized that my camera battery was running low, so I rushed to snap shots before it died on me. I was also unable to take as many pictures as I wanted. I will continue to post more in upcoming entries when I get the chance to return with a recharged battery.

For today, I decided to concentrate on an area of much interest to me: the faculty restroom (in this case, for women). Up until now, I have avoided using the school bathroom...because frankly, my experiences with school bathrooms have been very poor. All the ones I've been in had Japanese-style toilets only, cold water (even in winter), and no soap. For the past couple years, I would just walk across the street and use the bathroom in my apartment instead. However, the new campus is a ten minute bike ride from my apartment, so that option was out.

Luckily, the faculty restroom is very well appointed. On the left side of the room are two Japanese-style toilets, but on the right side there are an additional three Western-style toilets. Each stall has an emergency buzzer on the wall (the orange button).

The Western-style toilets have all the modern conveniences, starting with heated seats. In the winter, this makes life SO much more tolerable. Here you can see the control panel of the toilet with all of its functions, including a bidet setting and a "flushing sound." As some of you probably already know, Japanese women are extremely embarrassed for other people to hear them using the bathroom. At one time, they would repeatedly flush the toilet to cover the sound. This was clearly a waste of water. The solution that was developed was to have small devices installed on the stall walls that would make a flushing noise (or sometimes other noises, even songs) at the press of a button. Here such a device has been incorporated into the toilet itself.

And finally, to top it all off--soap! "Stay healthy and Smile!"

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[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2007 01:45 pm (UTC)
'Kay, I have to ask...How do you use the japanese style toilets? Just kind of, um, squat and go? The mind boggles.
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2007 08:39 pm (UTC)
How do you use the japanese style toilets? Just kind of, um, squat and go?

Yes, that's exactly it. Some people consider them more sanitary than Western-style toilets because your skin is never touching anything, so you won't pick up any germs.

...The problem is, you have to have good aim....and using one of these things on a moving train is quite an experience.
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2007 02:28 pm (UTC)
Wow, I like your new school already!

Once we know that our most important needs (like library and restroom) are so well met, we can have high expectations for the rest. We're going to assume good internet service, of course.

The campus looks lovely. I can hardly wait to see your desk.

So, you'll have some new students. I hope that all goes well.

You have a great attitude about the disparity of teaching hours. It's good to keep things in perspective, as you do. When I get concerned about the changes in my teaching assignments (like to a room without a window, like back to traveling between buildings and teaching levels each day, or even changing the subject I teach), my loving husband just gets to the bottom line: "Do you still have a job?" If the answer is "Yes," then we're fine.

I'll be interested in how all of these modifications (including air conditioning and heating) improve the learning environment and if there is a noticeable positive effect on the students.

I can hardly wait to hear more...
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2007 03:07 pm (UTC)
Nice facility!! I'm not sure I could adapt to the Japanese potties... Love the little control panel! Especially with the sound thing - I had read elsewhere about actual water pressure failure issues with the whole constant flushing going on!
(no subject) - (Anonymous)
[User Picture]
Date:April 4th, 2007 06:35 am (UTC)

Re: nice bathrooms, but --

I just have to ask... what are the emergency buttons for?????

There's no specific explanation that I've seen. If I had to guess, I'd say it's in case of an intruder. There have been a number of instances of intruders breaking into schools for various reasons (revenge for being bullied and intent to steal female students' clothing being the two most common).

This particular campus takes security VERY seriously.
[User Picture]
Date:April 4th, 2007 03:46 pm (UTC)

Re: nice bathrooms, but --

I would guess they could be used in case of a medical emergency (Thinking of Elvis, who died while using the bathroom).
[User Picture]
Date:April 4th, 2007 06:25 am (UTC)

(Lack of soap was my biggest complaint at the Jr. Highs, even over the freezing water, so I eventually just brought my own and put it in the bathroom. Judging by how long it lasted, I guess I was the only one using it. Eww.)

Enjoy the new surroundings and new school year! Sounds exciting!
[User Picture]
Date:April 4th, 2007 07:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing the pictures of the new campus. I look forward to more. Does the library have internet connectivity (wifi, maybe)?
[User Picture]
Date:April 4th, 2007 09:32 pm (UTC)
Does the library have internet connectivity (wifi, maybe)?

I don't know. The computers hadn't been brought in yet on Monday. The faculty room will have internet, but I didn't hear anything about the library.
[User Picture]
Date:April 5th, 2007 02:53 pm (UTC)
It looks great! I have never appreciated soap and towels so much as since I came back from Japan. Not having them was just... ew.

Good luck settling in!
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