After lunch in Japanese classrooms, a peculiar thing happens: the students clean. The pupils care for the classrooms, public areas and even the neighborhood. While seen as weird in most other nations, it is as common as a paperclip in Japan.
Student cleaning, known as o-soji, teaches students to be responsible for their space and to respect their classrooms. The often-reported statement that Japanese schools have no janitorial staff is untrue. Non-teaching staff perform maintenance and cleaning tasks around the school.
Even first-graders take a rag to the floors of their classrooms. To help them, sixth grade students come from down the hall. Part of the older students' education is to assist, guide and care for the younger kids. It is a lesson in human relations. If they have no little brothers or sisters, they have them now. They have to step out of their personal world and serve another person.
Is respect for one another and responsibility for one's space ever part of the lesson plan in the United States? Are we building a generation of students who are above menial tasks and think the school staff is there to serve them? Can we learn from the Japanese method, or does it distract children from learning?