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Monday, November 03, 2008

Tales of the Hodo-Hodo Zuku

This from Japan:  they are having problems filling management positions because their current generation of young people no longer wish to make the sacrifice of longer hours and time with family for not that much more pay than in lower level jobs.

From the Wall Street Journal Saturday:

"Many young workers are shunning choice promotions -- even forgoing raises -- in favor of humdrum jobs with minimal responsibilities...

Even as Japan faces a sharp recession, civil servants are opting out of career-advancing exams and information-technology workers are flocking to headhunters to switch to less-demanding careers. A study this year by the consulting firm Towers Perrin found just 3% of Japanese workers say they're putting their full effort into their jobs -- the lowest of 18 countries surveyed."

Employment experts have begun to call these workers hodo-hodo zoku, or the "so-so folks." They say these workers, mostly in their 20s and early 30s, are sapping Japan's international competitiveness at a time when the aging country must raise its productivity to keep the economy growing."

Meet the Hordes of Hodo-Hodo Students

As a teacher, I've seen this happen quite a bit, I just didn't know what to call it.  The Hodo-Hodo according to some teachers are the students who'd rather play sports, spend time with friends, and have a family life than study till the wee hours of the morning to get another point on that biology test tomorrow.

And I'm not sure I entirely condemn them.

Some accused me of this same thing when I gave up my six figure job in the cell phone business to be a stay at home Mom.  I was "settling" or lacking in ambition. 

No, I just think it is more important to be a good mother than anything else that I can do.  I don't call that hodo-hodo or so-so, I call that knowing my mission in life and staying true to my calling.

No one should marginalize the calling of a mother to stay at home and take care of her brood, I honestly think we need more involved parents, not less.

What makes kids Hodo-Hodo or Not

We have to understand that not all students have that calling for excellence in school and that much of a calling comes from the priority that parents have at home.  I make school a priority for my children -- so so won't cut it in that area for them because Kip and I won't let it.

But we also want balance and want them to enjoy their lives, which is why we're at Westwood, a tiny small town school with a family environment where every kid plays sports, anyone who wants to be on a team, joins, and the one act play is comprised of almost the whole high school.  Homework, although it is there, is monitored and the curriculum director will impose limits if it begins to take up too much student time, in her opinion.

And some people at the local prep schools with twice as much homework but with SAT scores no better than ours would call us "hodo hodo" for that reason.

The Hodo Hodo Teachers

As a teacher, I understand the varying motivations of students.  It is my job to make sure that I provide enough extrinsic motivation for my students to make my class a priority. 

But, where my own personal patience runs out is for those teachers who spend more time playing solitaire than in teaching class.  The so so teacher wastes the time of everyone around them.

Hodo-Hodo Gone Bad

Chiaki Aria, the person who covers this phenomenon in Japanese newspapers says that

"young workers saw older generations throw themselves into their work, only to face job and pay cuts as companies restructured." 

Other companies are offering this for the "unambitious:"

"A specialist track where they can remain rank-and-file employees but have similar salaries as managers."

And this is where I see the problem:

What would happen if someone told me that they don't think it is "fair" for unmotivated students to make an F or a C but now, I'll only be allowed to give A's. 

What would happen to motivation?

I believe that the unambitious will remain unambitious, but what would happen to the highly motivated student who wants the A.  With the meaning removed from the A, we transform the ambitious to unambitious.

This is why having a hodo-hodo teacher in the ranks, making often more than other teachers who are working themselves to death, is such a dire motivational problem for a school.

If the administration continues to ignore the hodo-hodo while putting the clamps down on the teachers who care, a backlash happens. 

And this, my friends, is a large part of what I believe has happened in American education.  Unfortunately, every school I know has the great coach who is a horrible teacher, entrenched forever in the classroom to justify the expense of having them on board.  These go-go coaches but hodo-hodo teachers cause frustration to the other teachers who have to fill in the gaps of a wasted year.

Why bother?

So, why do beginning teachers get either become hodo-hodo or quit?  We've seen it happen so many times:  the beginning teacher who starts in a blaze of glory and lets the first three years of teaching be their best when it should be the other way.

But after the long days and nights -- hauling work home, just to see that veteran teacher who teaches for 10 out of 50 minutes coast into the school building footloose and fancy free with a tan from the beach.

There are those teachers, however, who will never settle.  Who will never be "so-so" because they don't want their students to be so-so and those are the teachers who should be rewarded -- both in pay and publicly.

Does the headmaster take as much time to brag on the teacher who is incredible as the coach who is incredible?

I think we must all ask ourselves: 

Are we doing things that make teachers (and their students) more or less Hodo-Hodo?

And school boards that ask principals just to leave that one Hodo-Hodo teacher alone need to realize the impact it has and message it sends to the other teachers.

I see a lot of the struggles in education AND US business tied up in the Hodo-Hodo Zuku phemonenon of Japan.

And remember the balance
I DO think that the loud and clear message that Japanese workers are sending their employers is right -- they DO need balance and perhaps the Japanese system encroached upon family life to the excess. 

School does often encroach upon my life and there are times when I have had to say "that is enough."  But, I believe that I can still be excellence AND have limits.  The fact that I refused to take work home last weekend doesn't make me a so-so teacher.

I'm fascinated about this phenomenon in Japan and look forward to you sharing your thoughts.  I've still not "made up my mind" entirely on this one because I think there are issues on both sides of it.

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