The Bulletin Board
It seems to me that classroom and hallway bulletin boards at Japanese schools are different from what I remember in Canada. What I remember from Canadian schools and from my home is that bulletin boards were made of cork, or some other soft material - easy to insert and remove tacks and pins, used for affixing things. But Japanese school bulletin boards are just a piece of plywood attached to the wall: not soft at all. Not even attractive in any way. And on this surface Japanese teachers use thumbtacks only. No push pins or staples. Staples would be singularly difficult to remove from the wood, especially if they were pushed full in, flat with the wood surface. For many years I took it as a metaphor for Japanese barbarism, passive resistance to new ideas, and conservative resistance to change.
Now, over the years I have put up and taken down a lot of English-language bulletin board displays at my schools and I have kind of learned the knack (after suffering lots of bruised fingertips) of inserting the point of the tack just so far and at just the right angle to allow me to easily remove them again later. It is true of thumbtacks as it is with staples, that if their pints are pushed all the way into the wood so that the head of the tack is flush with the wooden surface they are very difficult to remove later.
So now, if I am in a school where other foreign English teachers do or have put up wall or bulletin board displays I can gauge their skill and experience, and maybe their length of stay in the country, by how they use tacks on the bulletin board. This happened recently. I took over a teaching contract in mid-term from some other teacher. He was long gone by the time I arrived, so I never met him. He enjoyed his own classroom at the school, which was unusual but a very happy chance. Usually foreign English teachers rotate from one classroom to another, with never a place in the school to call their own. But at this particular elementary school I enjoyed my own English Room, and the students visit me for their English lessons. When I took over the contract I immediately began re-decorating the classroom in my own fashion. It was a lot of work. I worked fast, I worked hard, but still it dragged out to weeks and weeks. Every time students entered they oooed and aaaawed approvingly at the colorful, lively changes. (Not the least at my utilization of the ceiling, a space usually ignored by teachers. I love hanging things from the ceiling - always out of reach of boys who predictably will jump to try to touch things, like kittens drunk on catnip.) My biggest challenge was removing all the papers from the room’s rear and front bulletin boards. I thought the decorations that the previous teacher put up and left there were good, but not great. I could do it better. When I finally found the time to bring in a step ladder and get a close look at the board I was annoyed by the thumbtack displacement: obviously the guy was a bulletin board rookie, or else he didn’t care about how he was put things up for display, because all the tacks were pushed full-in, flush with the wood. I sweated rivers in the July humidity taking them out, re-covering the wood with a nice colored paper background, and re-mounting better quality posters, etc. And, everything I put up was fixed with greater skill - firmly, yet with the tacks a just the right angle and depth as to be easily removed later.