Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thursday, June 21: Reflection

The day started off quite beautifully--sunny and clear which was amazing considering all night long we were being rocked back in forth by the Typhoon.  Thursday we went to Meiho Elementary School to observe the Japanese elementary education system, and to deliver our lessons to 5th and 6th graders; together with Michael and Carolynn, we delivered a lesson about American popular culture.

I have had many teaching experiences in the past, and I know how to adapt when technology goes awry; however, this time--during the first lesson--all technologies (no internet connection, no YouTube, no Google!) decided not to show up to class with us!  The team and I quickly responded, managed our time table, and adapted to what we needed to do in order to conduct a successful, high energy lesson.

During the second lesson, the technology worked to our specific expectations and we delivered a lesson that not only got all of the children involved (hooray for active participation without prompting!!!), but also the student teachers got up and danced with the kids as well. With minor deviations to the original lesson plan, we added an on-the-spot dance lesson (no, definitely not choreographed by me) to wrap up our lesson.  In a word to sum up the lesson: AWESOME!

Thereafter we retreated back to our classrooms for a lunch with the students.  I'm not one to experience culture shock, and up until this time I still had yet to see something completely unexpected.  During lunch teachers eat with their students in the homeroom.  Very cool, not too unexpected.  After lunch, however, all of the students (in an elementary school, mind you) got up and began cleaning the entire school in a highly coordinated manner.  At this point in time, yes, my jaw dropped.  At this age students in the US eat lunch outside and can't even pick up their own trash, short of cleaning the entire school!  So that was amazing, in and of itself.

The day concluded with a nice train ride back to Shinjuko station, followed by gift shopping and gearing up for karaoke with the class!  Fun times.

In all, Thursday was a great final day in Tokyo.

Pictures to come.


Thursday, June 21: Meiho Elementary School

This was the second day of the two-day workshop with Waseda University. Day two consisted of teaching 5th and 6th graders an aspect of American culture. For this project I was teamed up with Carolynn and Steve. I was very thankful for this because I am not a teacher. Both Steve and Carolynn have experience teaching in some format. I have tutored before and I currently mentor high school kids that are at-risk but I felt very anxious about this event. It had been a long while since I had been in front of a classroom. I remembered watching a video that Yumiko-san had constructed for a depiction of the KJ method in her classroom that we watched with the Waseda students. She seemed like a natural in front of those kids and I wanted to emulate that nature as I stood on front of our students.

Steve, Carolynn and I decided to talk about American contemporary media such as online video streaming, music, and movies. We decided that Youtube was a very important aspect of American culture. The video we picked, "Ultimate Dog Tease" is one of my personal favorites and still makes me laugh today. The kids appreciated it as well. For music we picked one song that we thought represented each genre (rock, pop, country, rap, and dance) very well. My favorite was the movie section where we decided that the comic book movie surge in America in the last 15 years was the way to go. I knew the kids would know Spider Man, Iron Man, and The Green Lantern.

In the first class section we did not have Internet so instead of showing videos and pictures, we decided to show the kids a dance, the Macarena. This was exceptionally fun! The children were very nervous but because of the youthful spirit of children (that I miss in myself sometimes) there were a number of kids that got up and rocked it!. This event could not have been so successful without the help of the Japanese teachers and our own professors. I had so much fun and I could tell we all did!






After the sessions, I had lunch with the 6th graders. This was very interesting because of the way they construct lunch in Japanese elementary schools. Growing up I ate lunch in the cafeteria but Japanese children eat in the classroom and it is maintained by the students themselves. I was immersed in the Japanese discipline in these young souls as food was set up, served and cleaned all by the children. I could only imagine the chaos that would ensue if this practice was implemented in the States! I am very thankful for this opportunity and I thank the Waseda students, the children, staff, and faculty at Meiho as well as my professors!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Monday, June 18th & Tuesday, June 19th Reflection

On Monday June 18th we all went on a Tokyo Cultural Tour. We went to the Tokyo Tower: 


And a very beautiful shrine (shown below top right). After the tour, Jessica, Annie, Ari and I went to Kamakura where we visited the Great Buddha and the Kamakura Hasedera. Kamakura Hasedera was my favorite place because of all the hidden beauty of the flowers you see in the picture on the top left. 


On our free day, we had a lovely day in Hiroshima. We met a man named Hiro who gave us an amazing guided tour around the Atomic Bomb Memorial. We had a really eye-opening experience to meet this man who gave tours just for the love of sharing the story of the A-bomb and practicing his English.

We also went to the Children's Peace Memorial where we saw the many paper cranes made in memory of Sadako Sasaki. This experience was my most memorable experience in Japan. 






Wednesday, June 20: Sessions at Waseda University and Dialogues with Japanese Teachers!

Presenting our group thoughts on Lesson Study from the Video 
Today we got to go to Waseda University and discuss education with the university students. The day was divided into to three sessions.  Each of the sessions were very interesting and beneficial because we got to interact with other students that were going to the university to become teachers as well as interact with teachers and the principal from an Japanese elementary school. At the end of the day, the Waseda students then took us to dinner for their welcome party. At the welcome party, we exchanged gifts giving the Waseda students San Diego T shirts and the Waseda students giving us a Waseda University stuffed animal bear.

Waseda University: The baseball field 
The first one included an activity where we were able to interact with the Waseda students about education. In this session we watched part of a lesson dobe by a Japanese teacher. While watching the video on the lesson, independently each of the USD students and Waseda students wrote sticky notes on the thoughts of the video of the lesson. One thought was written down on each sticky note. After watching the lesson on the video, we were then divided into groups to discuss what observations we made about the video and to divide our sticky notes in to categories. For this group activity the USD students were with divided into groups with the Waseda students. We then gave presentations about what we discussed in our groups. This sessions was very educational. It was a great opportunity to discuss education as well as the similarities and differences with the Waseda students.
The Entrance of Waseda University 
The second session was a presentation about last years tsunami and how it affected several parts of Japan especially the teachers and schools. Several of the children in the schools as well as the teachers had to move schools. In addition several of the teachers lost their jobs. At the end of the presentation there was time for question and answer which ended up being very productive and a great discussion as well.

The third and last session was an presentation given by the principal and teacher of the elementary school. Their presentation was on lesson study and how lesson study was accomplished at their school. Their lesson study includes several discussions as well as breaking the lesson down using sticky notes just like the activity that was completed in session one.  At the end their presentation there showed a book that the school creates every year. This book includes lesson studies that have been completed throughout the year.




Waseda Students take USD students ro Dinner 


Far and Carolynn with Waseda students after exchanging gifts!  

Steve with the Waseda girls! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesday, June 19: Meiji Shrine

My free day off consisted of hanging out and traveling with Steve and Carolynn. I don't remember if we had a specific plan on where to go, but I know we were all looking forward to seeing the Meiji Shrine in Shibuya. To be honest, I was just happy to be hanging out with my classmates in Japan! They were wonderful company and very funny! We were all just so excited to be in Japan the first time. Carolynn had a rough morning but I am glad that she was laughing all day after that. It was raining but I think that this made Yoyogi Park even more beautiful! (Yoyogi Park is next to the shrine). The event was very humorous because we could not find the shrine for-the-life-of-us when we got there but eventually stumbled upon it.





   The shrine seemed almost ominous to me, a magical history that I cannot seem to experience in the United States. I really enjoyed the shrine because of the story it told of Emperor Meiji. An American film called the Last Samurai with Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe was made based on the beginning of the modernization that Emperor Meiji took Japan through. The shrine tells the story of the move of the capital from Kyoto to Tokyo and the story of Japan's modernization. The film is one of my favorites and I personally relate to it on multiple levels. So, needless to say, I really enjoyed the visit. I really appreciate Japan for it's rich history and culture and I was very glad to experience this free day of roaming Tokyo.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday, June 18: Cultural Tour of Tokyo

Today, we embarked on a tour that brought us to various parts of Tokyo. Our itinerary included: The Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, and Sensoji Temples. After our tour, we were free to enjoy the city however we chose. Jessica, Krishelle, Ari, and I continued our exploration to the city of Kamakura. Kamakura is known for the Great Buddha as well as the Meigetsu-in Shrine that is covered in beautiful hydrangea's.   The city also lies along the beach and the coastline can be seen from the Meigetsu-in Shrine.

View of the Tokyo Tower from the floor windows

Annie, Jessica, and Krishelle at the Tokyo Tower

Toyko Tower

Imperial Palace

Sensoji

Jessica got the best of luck & Krishelle got the worst of luck!

Coastline at Kamakura

Hills of hydrangea's

Krishelle, Jessica, and Ari at Meigetsu-in Shrine

Imitating the statues!

-Annie

Monday, June 18: Tokyo Tour and Free Day!

This was my first visit to Japan and Tokyo. I really enjoyed seeing different parts and Tokyo as well as being out on my own with my classmates. I loved spending time with every person and getting to know everyone :)   There was so much to do that it was very difficult to choose what to see and where to go. One thing that was surprising to me was all the shops along the streets. I really enjoyed the shopping as well as nights in Tokyo including experiencing karaoke!

Getting a fortune!! 

Carolynn 

Steve 

Far and Carolynn shopping one free afternoon 

USD students on the cultural tour 

Tokyo View from the Tower 

The girls singing a song on the last night:  Karaoke Night :) 


Night life in Tokyo!!!

Tokyo at night!!! 

Sunday, June 17: Day 2 of the Cross Cultural Workshop in Tokyo 2012 at Daito Bunka University


On day two, we returned to the Daito Bunka University for group discussions about what we had done the previous day. We got together in various groups to talk about the realizations and concepts (kizuki) that we have become aware of as a result of our interactions. We alternated giving presentations of our overall findings to the group. The students of Daito Bunka gave their impression first, stating that they felt that USD students showed a sense of hope for the future, whereas Daito Bunka students seemed to hold a lot of anxiety for the future. When the USD students questioned this by stating that we too have anxieties with going into the workplace, the Daito students mentioned that we showed a consideration towards a "back-up plan", which they did not.


As the conversation continued, it was evident that for the Daito students, going into the workplace seemed to be considered an "end" and college was simply a means to that end. In contrast, USD students argued that college was an avenue for students to discover their identity and truly consider the options they have for career choice. It was clear that for the Japanese students, entering their career was their last step before they could begin to experience personal growth in that carrer. However, many of the USD students talked about the fact that they already had work experience and were now taking steps to make career changes and/or career advances-- something that the Japanese students did not discuss as a future option or avenue. With this, it seemed that both groups experienced some anxiety regarding entering the workforce, however the levels of anxiety were slightly different given this idea that USD students saw the possibility for other options in the future, where as the Daito students considered the job search and final hiring as the ultimate step.

Towards the end of the night, Mrs. Inoue made a point that was very eye-opening for me. She began to discuss her experiences in American Faculty meetings at her work, discussing how it is very difficult for her to get a word in considering many of the Americans have their hand raised before a question or discussion is complete. She related this to a key cultural difference between American and Japanese culture. She said: in the Japanese language, the verb comes at the end of the sentence. However, in english, the verb comes directly after the subject. With this, in Japanese one must listen until the end of sentence to know what the sentence is about. In english, one knows the point of the sentence from the beginning. She explained that this made it difficult for her to communicate with her colleagues as many of them ask her to get to the "point"-- as she leaves the point until the very end. This really solidified the whole experience at Daito Bunka University for me.

I have come to the realization that Americans generally develop a goal, shown through the constant questioning since youth of "what do you want to be when you grow up?" and thus often develop a linear progression of tasks to get them to attaining that goal. Through our interactions with the Japanese students, we noticed a tendency to leave white spaces in their pictures and their speech. I argue that perhaps the Japanese students feel this overwhelming sense of anxiety for entering the workplace because they are more present in the moment and the "now" that they do not think in the same linear manner as their US counterparts. For the Daito Bunka students, it is not until their reach their job and career that they "get to the point" as Mrs. Inoue stated, that they find their true place and begin to grow. In contrast, for the US students, it was clear that we started with the point and goal and worked our way to fulfilling that goal-- just as our sentence structure reflects.

Overall, I took away an important lesson from this experience. It is important to be present in the "now" of what is happening in our lives. So many times, we tend to be so caught up worrying about how we are going to reach our goals and what we need to do to get there, that we forget to enjoy the lessons that we can learn in every moment. Uchiyama-sensai explained that the Japanese value this sense of now, and feel that taking full advantage of each moment will lead to prosperity in the end. I feel that because I was so present in the "now" of this workshop, last night, I finally realized the point of the whole experience. Dr. Inoue did not start out by telling us the purpose of point of visiting the Daito Bunka University, but just like the Japanese language, I learned the purpose in the very end and do not think I would have had the same eye-opening experience had he told me what his goals were in the beginning. I learned that both the USD students and the student of Daito Bunka share many feelings and struggles, and yet we both have room to grow and learn from each on how our differences can teach us something about ourselves and others.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday, June 17: Reflection

Today we concluded our time with the students at Daito Bunka in USD’s second Cross-Cultural Tokyo Workshop.  The morning started out excited for me as Dr. Inoue assigned me Captain of our group to get the group from the hotel to the university…and I must admit I prevailed!  I was able to get us from Keio Plaza Hotel to Shinjuku Station to Ikebukuro Station to Tobu-Nerima our exit for Daito Bunka University! J The time spent today at Daito Bunka was truly one of the most eye-opening experiences of my educational career…
The workshop began with small group discussions regarding the Kizuki, awareness, that the members of the small groups took away from the previous days discussions on our rich picture exercise.  What I found most remarkable from my small group discussion was the groups’ ability to take a small opinion and turn it in to a completely developed and in depth analysis of one aspect of the entire large groups similar Kizuki; the notion that we may all be in completely different aspects of life but we share the same fear of uncertainty in this journey of life. 
Masami-San brought forth a powerful thought that captured my attention and has continued to be in the forefront of my thoughts since the original conversation; most American ideas can be answered/discussed before the sentences have been completed, however, Japanese ideas are not complete until the entire thought has been presented because of the context of grammar.  These two differences create two very different conversational environments; one in which Americans do not give themselves time to truly think about the entire context of the idea and the second in which the Japanese create an environment that enables more thought because of the time frame required to present the entire grammatical idea.  The major notion that has resided within me is that as Americans we are always trying to have/do the quickest solution possible and in that I believe we are not living in the “now.”  We are so focused on the end point that we may be losing the entire meaning of the journey and the true ability to be present in our current situations.  The connection I made to this and to the Cross-Cultural Workshop is that until the latter portion of today I was unsure about the meaning of this workshop until I allowed myself to step back and analyze all the aspects of the rich picture discussions that had gotten us to the conclusion of the workshop.  The ability that drawings have to bring together two groups of students from two completely different cultures with a language barrier and create in depth meaningful useful discussions and future relationships is truly indescribable.  For one of the first times I was living and learning in the “now” and reflecting and learning about my Omoi and Kizuki, and the most beautiful aspect was I was able to do/share this with strangers who are now friends.
Inoue-San told us many times that Japanese drinking parties are used to truly communicate with others and tonight that was definitely evident.  The Daito students invited us out to dinner/drinks after the workshop had been completed and during this time we shared some of the most amazing conversations.  This group event was one of the most talkative experiences that we all were able to share.  One of the most beautiful mental snapshots that I took away from this evening was the sound of cross-cultural conversations in which Daito students were helping the USD students with Japanese and the USD students were helping the Daito students with English, and we were all able to learn and cherish this time together!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday, June 16: More reflections


Today we met our colleagues from Daito Bunka University.  After a quick tour of their campus, Suzuki-sensei, Inoue-sensei, and Inoue-san (Mrs. Inoue) facilitated a discussion of our views on the challenges facing us as we complete our various programs and venture into the professional world.  We discovered that the differences in outlooks between the American students and our Japanese counterparts were minimal; uncertainty about balancing our desires to find jobs which are intellectually stimulating and for which we have passion with the necessity of earning an income in an economy in which job openings are scarce would seem to be a universal feeling.  Our cultural exchanged continued after we left the classroom and were treated to a welcoming party by our gracious hosts.  The cafeteria was filled with laughter and lively conversations.  When it came time to say goodbye, I knew this would be a day I will never forget.  The American students said “Mata ne,” and the Japanese students replied, “See you later,” and we walked out into the warm Tokyo evening eagerly anticipating tomorrow’s session.