Sunday, April 29, 2007

My Japan Life

My Students and I after school. I have fun talking to them and convincing them to pose for 'photo shoots' with me. Of course they gladly volunteer and we have a fun time chatting and getting to know each other.

Some of the Japanese teachers have told me they don't believe in being 'friends' with the students. That they care to keep the line professional always, and as I agree with a strict sense of professionalism -I can't help but feel that it's borderline neglect on the behalf of the teachers (many of whom) are too disinterested in the future of their students. This is why in most Japanese schools you'll get a strong sense that the teacher are merely talking down at the children via lecture format. Instead of guiding them, making them excited to learn, and teaching them in preparation for life you will see a lot of 'rules and regulations' and 'disciplining' which often takes up all the valuable 'teaching' time. At the end of the day I feel that some schools are merely telling kids to do this or that and not actually teaching them anything.

Luckily this is not the case at my school. We all understand the importance of educating the children and raising them up to become a vital part of society. In Japan its about joining the community rather than being an individual like in the States. I firmly believe that teachers can (and should) be more than just educators, we can be role models and confidants as well. The children are our future, and one thing is certain, if you can be a positive force and influence a child to want to learn let alone enjoy learning... the world will be at their finger tips. And yes, this sometimes means that we must transgress that rigid line between adult world and youth, and get to know our students as people -and not just pupils.

Speaking of students, here is Tomoyo (left) and Midori (right). Nakama Midori is one of the 'part time' English teachers I occasionally work with at the various Elementary schools in my town. Every Saturday I meet with her and a couple other ladies (students) for English conversation practice. It's not a formal class or anything, but it gives me a social life and allows me to get to know the people in the community. Plus, over the past year I have become good friends with these ladies and just having that added support and friendship makes all the difference in the world. Especially when your in a place where you are the minority... sometimes it's nice just to have friends to talk with.

On Thursday I got to surprise one of my Elementary school students who were on a field trip. They hadn't expected me to come on the scheduled date due to their outing. As I was driven there in a van with dark tinted windows in all secrecy, the children all erupted into cheers of excitement as I stepped out of the van to surprise them all. Of course afterward we enjoyed a nice lunch picnic under the shade of some cherry blossom trees.

The matching bright yellow hats are mandatory for all Elementary children in Japan. They must where them whenever venturing off of school grounds. This safety precaution is very useful since many Japanese school children of this age walk home alone. Many of them walk as far as three miles everyday. This technique actually works in a country that so densely populated and roads are so narrow... traffic is extremely hazardous and this one little fashion element does a lot in keeping the children safer. It makes them stand out and 'visible'. Plus they look like cute little golden sundrops.

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