Why can’t I find a decent meter stick ?
Why can’t I find a decent meter stick for my classroom in Japan? They have meter sticks here, for sure. But you practically have to move heaven and earth to find a reasonably priced one, and even then it is not quite what you want for students’ use at school. They are easy enough to find in Canada. I go to a Staples office supply store, and there. But in Japan, the usual run-of-the-mill stationery shops carry only 30 cm, or 50 cm, or 60 cm rulers, made of plastic or aluminum. The 50 cm and 60 cm sticks are an odd size, but as I have written before, when it comes to things like dimensions, colors, temperatures and aesthetic tastes Japanese culture abounds in oddity.
When I finally did find meter sticks (in the hardware section of the Tokyu Hands department store - one of my favorite stores - in Shinjuku) they were bamboo rulers (“take jogi”), and although they were graduated, the numbers were not written on them. That means they present another challenge as devices to use in an elementary school science or math lesson to teach units of measurement.
I thought of buying meter sticks during my last holiday in Canada. And, I did buy one at Staples. But I declined to buy more because the sticks were too long to fit in my suitcase and I worried about appearing strange carrying meter sticks onto the airplane. But now in hindsight I realize that I should not have been deterred by such worry. If I had bought ten, then I could have wrapped them in newspaper or something and either taken it onto the plane or else check it in as checked luggage no problem. That is what I should have done, because now I kick myself for letting the opportunity go.
There are other problems at school besides a paucity of meter sticks. There is a paucity of practically everything that I think a classroom ought to be equipped with: sets of dictionaries, atlases and thesauruses, one for each student; proper and sufficient shelving; globes and wall maps; abundant chalk and brushes, pencils, pens, colored pencils, erasers, and markers; clip boards; safety eye goggles; compasses, magnets, staplers and staples, cellophane tape, duct tape and notebooks; geometry sets; mirrors; pins, tacks and push pins; magnifying glasses; tweezers; eye droppers; measuring cups and spoons; paint brushes and paints; poster board; teacher’s demonstration compass and protractor, and much more.
These things cost money, and my school is a small school with a small budget. We have supplies, but not enough for all and the emphasis is on cooperative use - sharing. However, I believe in the merits of self-sufficiency, individual responsibility and independence over shared responsibility and mutual dependence. So I have no reservations at all about spending my own money to outfit my classroom. Consequently, my classroom is the best equipped at school - although a tad cluttered with stuff - and other teachers come to me requesting teaching materials.
In Canada I know where to go to find teaching materials. There are teacher supply stores. But in Japanit is not as easy. I could go to the American bulk store, Costco, but that is far away. So barring that, I have to make due with what I can make of Japanese sources.