Because working 16-hour days, every day with no overtime pay, does seem a bit much.
Being a teacher in Japan is not for the weak. Whether you are a new teacher just trying to fit into the system, or a seasoned teacher with years of experience, there is no end to the duties and responsibilities you are expected to take care of. It’s not simply preparing for your subject and teaching your classes, there are administrative duties, club activities and more, especially if you are a homeroom teacher. Ask any teacher in Japan if they want to do something in their free time and they might laugh and ask, “What free time?”
One teacher has had enough and took to Twitter to air some complaints. Professional or not, judging by the content, it seems like they at least have a point.
kaoru (@kaoru13375786) September 08, 2016
“Please also give us educators the right to take days off. Give us our rights to live like humans. The lives we’re living now, working at school 16-hours a day, is abnormal. Why are parents angry when they call the school at 10 p.m. and say, ‘Why has X-sensei already gone home?’ Don’t you see a problem with calling at 10 p.m.?”
Since teachers play such a huge role in the lives of students and parents, some people believe that teachers could be doing more for their children as shown by this conversation @kaoru13375786 had with a parent.
kaoru (@kaoru13375786) August 31, 2016
“‘I think you don’t understand the feelings of parents because you don’t have kids, but on Sunday (or other holidays) instead of just lazing around, I think my child should go to club,’ from a mother who works part-time.
I think other people in my profession have this same opinion, as well as many parents. Club activities are free child care.”
Teachers in many other countries don’t have these problems; usually there are strict guidelines that help separate working time from non-working time. And while most teachers are just as dedicated to their work as those in Japan, workplaces elsewhere have adopted the idea of work-life balance.
With the “culture of work” that prevails in Japanese society, stories such as these are not uncommon and some people might believe that teachers and office workers are no different. If one group has to work hard overtime, everyone should be doing the same. The wife of @kaoru13375786 wishes people would see their side of it though. In a couple of Tweets that she shared on her private Twitter account, she expressed her concern that because her husband can never come home at a set time and must deal with preparing for class and responding to parents’ phone calls at all hours, it’s like the labor laws are being exploited. While she feels sorry for him, she knows that he was truly meant to be a teacher as he often excitedly tells her stories about students and the club.
It is abundantly clear that Japan values a hard worker to the extent that “going the extra mile” is the norm rather than the exception. However, there are additional responsibilities for a teacher that other professions don’t have to worry about. The simple fact that teachers nurture and care for children should allow them the opportunity to refresh and recharge their batteries (summer vacation is not as long in Japan and for most teachers it is not a vacation). It’s pretty rare in Japan for someone to publicly air their grievances like this, so maybe we should do what our teachers always told us to do: listen.