The Study Abroad Newsletter

Elementary School in Japan

Lindsey Saunders
Fujinodai Elementary, Japan

While I’ve been studying abroad in Japan, I had the chance to hang out at an elementary school. I went with several other foreign students to Fujinodai Elementary in Machida. Our job was to teach 4th graders about children’s games in America. Honestly, this was really difficult for me because I couldn’t really remember any, besides hopscotch (boring and I didn’t have chalk), rock-paper- scissors (which Japanese children already have), and tag. So I decided to go with tag, and after I met my group of 7 kids, I took them outside.

Little did I know Japanese kids already have not only tag, but freeze tag as well!! So at this point I was racking my brain, and with another group of students decided to play Red Rover. It was really hard to explain to the kids in Japanese, but I think the basic point was understood. I figured it would be really easy for the kids because I’ve heard that Japanese children are always taught how to work as a group. Of course, I didn’t think about how there’s always that one kid who wants to be the best, and Red Rover turned into spiraling circles of screaming children trying to prevent their line from breaking. But they were having fun! Mission accomplished. I, however, was dripping with sweat and about to pass out, wondering where kids get all that energy and if I even remember having that kind of energy myself.

Lindsey with some of her students

After this, everyone headed to the gym where the whole did a big traditional dance for us. It was awesome! I was so impressed with their abilities. Then it was time for lunch – I was really amazed by how the kids worked together. There were a few students who had lunch duty and they wore these little chef-like outfits. The food for the whole class was brought into the classroom, and everyone cleared off their desks and the food was served to everyone. At first equal portions were given to everyone, but as soon as every desk had a plate and we all said, Itadakimasu!” (the equivalent of “Let’s eat!”), there was a mad dash to get a little extra from the leftovers. The food was surprisingly yummy – not like American school lunches. After we ate, there was a little bit of arguing and a lot of rock-paper-scissors as my group decided who would take which dirty dishes. But soon all was sorted out.

Lindsey with some of her friends in the program in front of the Golden teahouse in Kyoto

The elementary students doing traditional dance. Before I left, my students gave me this paper they had all written messages on, and some gave me their nametags so I would remember them. All in all, it was a tiring, but fun day, and I was surprised at how quickly I became emotionally attached to these kids. I don’t think I could ever have enough energy to become a teacher, but this was an irreplaceable experience for me.