Before I ever went to Japan I had heard quite a few things about Japanese students. For one thing I had gotten the impression that they were all amazingly intelligent. Perhaps I had taken what I had heard and run with it, but that was the general impression that I had.
Myth #1: Japanese students are all geniuses
The students in Japan are actually a lot like the ones in the U.S., and probably anywhere else. They are all different. Some are extremely quick, others...not so much. Some students excel in some areas and lag behind in others. Then there are those rare students who excel at everything and quickly. But, just like where I'm from, those are not so easy to find. (To be fair, though, they are actually really into rote memorization.)
And, of course, a student's economic situation also comes into play, unfortunately. The area I teach in isn't exactly rolling in money. It's surprising how many students do not have access to the internet outside of school.
Myth #2: Japanese schools are run by robots
When I first moved here to teach I was under the mistaken impression that, technology-wise at least, the classrooms would be the same as the ones I had been in during my own jaunt in middle school.
Every classroom in the middle schools I go to is equipped with a chalkboard, chalk, a pull-down screen (for a projector, etc.), a small flatscreen TV, and four fans (though not all of the time). However, there is no computer or projector. Each school has it's own projector and electronic blackboard.
When I first began teaching here I was asked to give an involved self introduction. At the orientation in Tokyo for JETs we had been shown examples of really awesome self introductions. All in power point. I was dumbfounded by many of my co-workers' reluctance/lack of knowledge to use something as simple as a projector in the classroom. It's like pulling teeth whenever I want to share a video or something with the kids. It's not even that difficult. All that you really need to do is plug in the right cords, all 3 of them.
One of the teachers actually gives me a lot of leeway when it comes to planning special classes, which I absolutely love. We were scheduled to give a demonstration lesson. On the day of a demonstration lesson the whole school is sent home early except for one class. Then teachers from far and wide come to the school to watch us teach them English. That particular school does this awesome thing where they separate the first- and third-year classes by ability level and are taught at the same time by two different teachers. I made a video for the students to watch and a writing activity to sum it up. The teacher who was in charge of the whole thing was great and let me do my own thing (with guidance). I heard afterwards that the other teacher said he would never use anything like that again because the technology was too much work.
Mental face palm.