We are supported, not only by our family and friends, but also many people around us. To be aware of this through our school life, there are many opportunities to reflect on issues such as thanks and kindness. For example, we have a religion lesson once a week in every grade and learn words from the Bible. SP (St. Paul) Times are our school's special lessons. These lessons are a combination of SP Time and religious lessons aimed at developing mature students under the guidance of the teachings of St. Paul.
In religion lessons, we learn how to love our neighbors like Jesus Christ. Using the Bible, we analyze current problems. Through this process of reflection and discussion we can reflect on the meaning of what happiness in life is, and how we can live responsibly.
St. Paul is our patron saint. SP Time is named after him. In SP Time, we use our heads and keep our ideas in our mind, and then we use our hands and feet. Each grade has a specific aim. In first grade, the aim is to feel joy while supporting each other in the surrounding environment. In second grade, the aim is appreciation of living harmoniously with nature. The third grade's aim is the joy of helping each other. These are the aims of SP Time. We experience many activities over three years that facilitate the processes leading to achieving these goals.
In first grade, we study about the birth of Jesus, then perform a play about this for local people as well as people from retirement homes.
In second grade, we grow Japanese radish from the end of August at a large garden near our school. We plant radish seeds, then weed the garden, before finally harvesting and selling the bounty. The money collected from the sales is donated to various charity organizations. We also take Eco (ecology) Cooking classes on this occasion, learning how to prepare the entire radish, including leaves and peels for eating. From this experience, students feel a greater appreciation for nature and the importance of living a more efficient life.
At the PTA meeting held after harvest, we cook for our parents. We cook miso soup with pork and vegetables and hold a food-tasting session.
In third grade, students make donation boxes and implement fund-raising campaigns. We also decide what charity organizations we will raise funds for. We visit some retirement homes to clean their rooms, sing songs and spend time talking with residents.
In Sierra Leone, many people are suffering from hunger. We have raised funds for Sierra Leone over the last 20 years. Donated money is used at medical facilities, especially for children. We also establish specific fund-raising campaigns from time-to-time as the needs arise, in response to particular disasters or emergencies our world encounters. When a disaster strikes, we start fund raising efforts.
At Shirayuri, we think it's important help students to gain basic knowledge, especially in English and math. We provide proficiency-dependent classes. For English, from the first grade, we divide one homeroom class into two groups depending on their proficiency. For math, from the second grade, we divide one homeroom class into two. Studying in smaller groups enables our teachers to focus more on the needs of our students, and allows students to ask more freely when they need help.
We teach a lot more classes than public junior high schools. We place particular emphasis on Japanese, mathematics, English, science, and social studies so that students will be prepared for higher level study in high school. We especially focus on Japanese, mathematics, and English. Each class lasts 50 minutes, and we provide about 200 more classes than a typical public junior high school.
We provide students with Gakushu Planning Sheets, which means study planning sheets, to help students plan how long and what subject to study each day.
From the first grade of junior high school to the third grade of high school, students are tested on kanji, Chinese characters, from the very basic to high levels. We have kanji quizzes about 10 times each year. This is to help students gain basic Japanese skills. Students who do not achieve a minimum passing grade of 80% are retested until they achieve a passing grade. Some graduates say that having taken these kanji quizzes helps them in their working environment.
Students have both regular English classes with Japanese English teachers, and English conversation classes with native speakers of English. In English conversation classes, teachers use only English in order to provide students with an English speaking atmosphere. Students can relax and enjoy speaking English. The most important thing is to try using English.
We provide students with many chances to use English such as our Extensive English reading programme and English recitation contest. In the English recitation contest, all of the students memorize an assigned text. It is a great chance for students to improve their English pronunciation. Our newly-established Extensive Reading programme makes use of over 2000 English-only books, and allows students to read at levels appropriate to their individual abilities. Students choose books that interest them and free-read without the use of dictionaries, or the intervention of teachers. This exposure to English raises our students' performance.
Those who are interested have a chance to visit New Zealand for two weeks at the end of second grade during spring break. Students can try English that they have been learning, and exposure to a different culture which includes a homestay experience gives students a great chance to learn and grow.