All About Japan

Surprising Truths of Teaching at Girls' School

Teaching English Kyoto
Surprising Truths of Teaching at Girls' School

What's the first thing people say to me when they find out I taught English at an all-girls' junior and senior high school in Kyoto? “Oh your students must be so polite and respectful—so different from America!”

Sure, that holds true for many students. But kids are kids no matter where you go. As often as not, the school more closely resembles a circus.

In one class, renowned for its wild cast of characters, a girl burst into tears over her cell phone (mobile phones are a huge no-no), having just won tickets to an Arashi concert. I guess she thought I wouldn’t notice.

Students would (usually unsuccessfully) try to get piggy-back rides from teachers, or casually wander into the staff room like it was their own. An audio/visual aide came to my class once to help set up a camera. When she met the students she was clearly shocked, and asked me and a Japanese teacher if they were always like this. We both nodded.

One student well-known for giving the teachers a hard time would sit in my class grumbling, “I hate Jessica” in Japanese while her friend tried to convince her of my virtues. I won her over in the end, though.

It’s not all craziness, of course. From the shy students who would talk to me after class to practice English or get my thoughts on the latest Taylor Swift single, to the seniors who loved to reminisce with me about days gone by, or the fellow nerds who were thrilled when they found out I liked video games and proceeded to work references into all of their projects—every day, no matter how hard it was, included something to smile or laugh about.

While it’s not without its drama, the student body is generally very supportive of one another, and there’s a high sense of loyalty to the school. They lead each school club and event with easy confidence. Not every student is interested in English of course, but each student has her niche and embraces it wholeheartedly.

There’s nothing quite like the all-girls environment. It is, above all, a place where the girls can be completely themselves, something I just don't think you could see at a co-ed institution.