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IIST e-Magazine (For the Japanese version of this article)

2017 International Educators to Japan (IEJ) Program (2) A Harmonious Community Preferred in Japan, while Individualism Comes First in America Marta Jevenois-Richardson Principal Siver Spur Elementary School Rancho Palos Verdes, CA USA | Unique Opportunity to Immerse Ourselves in Japanese History, Culture and Education Shailee J Patel Director of Student Service Novi Community School District Novi, MI USA [Date of Issue: 31/October/2017 No.0272-1059]

Date of Issue: 31/October/2017

2017 International Educators to Japan (IEJ) Program (2)


IIST held the International Educators to Japan (IEJ) program over 18 - 29 June 2017. Following the previous issue, No. 0271, here are two of the articles by the participants.


A Harmonious Community Preferred in Japan,
while Individualism Comes First in America

Marta Jevenois-Richardson
Principal
Siver Spur Elementary School
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA USA
Our team was extremely fortunate and thankful for the opportunity to participate in the International Educators to Japan Program 2017. This amazing trip provided all of us with a better understanding and appreciation for the rich and diverse Japanese culture.

This trip allowed us the opportunity to visit public elementary schools and one international high school. Our visits to the schools made it very clear to us how education is a valued part of Japanese culture. Educators are very much respected and parents do their best to ensure that their children are supported and have access to the best educational opportunities.

The typical Japanese school year lasts around 240 days. In California, however, the actual number of regular school days is 180 days. Japanese students go to school 5 days a week plus half a day on Saturday and many of them also attend juku, a private extracurricular study school, that takes place after school and on the weekends. The Japanese educational culture is one of high expectations, team work, respect, success and hard work. In Japan, being a student is a full-time job.

Our team was rather surprised to find out how the Japanese educational system is extremely traditional, especially as it refers to the delivery of instruction. One teacher at the front lecturing and no technology in the classroom at all. No computers, no Ipads, no overhead projector, no smart boards, just a blackboard and chalk. However, the results are unbelievable. Japan schools truly prepare their students extremely well for the work force and higher education and they do so in a harmonious way.

The Japanese society is one that models a peaceful unit and conformity within a social group, in which members prefer the continuation of a harmonious community over their personal. This is a truly new concept in America, where individualism usually comes first.

At Tachiai Elementary School (Tokyo)

At Tachiai Elementary School (Tokyo)

In Tokyo, we had the opportunity to not only teach a lesson but also observe the Japanese lunch system. In fact, not only did we observe the lunch time but we also experienced it and we ate lunch with students.

In Japan students eat fresh meals made from scratch. All food served to students is prepared on site by their school cafeteria staff. In addition, students serve lunch to each other and they clean up afterward which teaches them cooperation and manners. I had an opportunity to try the school lunch and it was delicious. In Japan, lunchtime is part of the students’ education and not a break from it. Students eat everything that they are being served and are very respectful of one another in waiting to be served and also in waiting for all students to be served before they start eating.

In most of the schools we visited, we observed that music is an integral part of the Japanese educational system. All schools we visited had a band and students played many different instruments.

At Motomachi Elementary School (Hiroshima)

At Motomachi Elementary School (Hiroshima)

Japanese students walk to school, even if this involves a 15-20’ minute walk. School principals pair students with neighboring students so that they all walk to school together, which again contributes to encouraging a healthy lifestyle and daily exercise.

Our group truly enjoyed observing children taking turns to clean their classroom and the school. There are no custodian services, yet restrooms, hallways and classrooms are spotless. Classrooms in Japan belong to the students, plain and simple. Rather than move around from class to class, as is the norm in the United States, students stay in their homeroom and teachers of various subjects come to them. The exceptions are Physical Education, home economics, music, certain science classes, or any subject that requires more than a desk for learning to take place.

Students have indoor shoes as well as outdoor shoes and they use special shoes to go into the restrooms. When going outside, they wear a hat to be protected from the sun. Every student has their own cubby for shoes right at the entrance. (No locker for books though. Students keep all books and personal effects with them in their homerooms.) Besides the normal indoor school shoes, there's usually a gym shoe requirement. They also change into sports clothes for Physical Education.

With host family

With host family

Finally, we truly enjoyed our family visits. Our host families went above and beyond to make us feel welcome and to teach us about their Japanese culture and lifestyle. We all had different experiences but they all were extremely rewarding and truly provided us with a much better understanding and appreciation of the Japanese culture.

This experience will forever be unforgettable and provided us with the opportunity to make many positive contributions and ease the transition of Japanese students into the American school system. We do not have enough words to show our appreciation for this truly invaluable experience. Thank you to all who made this incredible experience and learning opportunity possible.


Unique Opportunity to Immerse Ourselves in
Japanese History, Culture and Education

Shailee J Patel
Director of Student Service
Novi Community School District
Novi, MI USA
Our group was asked to give the remarks at the Farwell Dinner on June 28, 2017. Words cannot express my gratitude towards the staff members and the Leaders of IEJ for allowing US educators this amazing experience.

At the dinner, I shared these words, “On behalf of the IEJ participants of 2017 we would like to say thank you for organizing, supporting, and giving us these wonderful memories. We have not only formed harmony amongst us but with all of you as well. This truly has been a trip of a lifetime through the history, culture and education of Japan.

During our time, we visited Jr and Senior High Schools, Elementary schools, Tokyo, Nara, Hiroshima, multiple Temples, and stayed with a host family. Each experience provided an opportunity to enrich our understanding of centuries-old Japanese culture, community, lifestyle and traditions.

When visiting the schools, we always received a warm welcome which made us feel as we were the most important group of educators. The kindness and respect shown to us at each school was inspiring. The students were gracious, well-mannered and demonstrated great pride in their school culture and community.

At the schools we called upon, the children presented us with a beautiful and delicate paper crane, which symbolized happiness and good luck. It was evident that the Japanese culture creates opportunities for children to develop independent skills and at an earlier age.

At Tachiai Elementary School (Tokyo)

At Tachiai Elementary School (Tokyo)

For me, one of the highlights of each school visit, was observing the unity in how lunch is served. The students showed leadership, equity and most importantly created a system that is communal duty.

As we continued our journey, we had the unique opportunity to immerse ourselves in Japanese culture and traditions. This included the opportunity to don a Kimono in a ceremony done with grace and respect.

We also spent time in some of Japan’s principal cities, with trips to Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Nara. Due to the graciousness of the hosts and the adept hand of IEJ, in our short visits to each city we experienced the true essence of the city, embracing the spirit of its people and the richness of its history.

At welcome ceremony in Ikaruga Town (Nara)

At welcome ceremony in Ikaruga Town (Nara)

Personally, I was taken away by Hiroshima and how the city has managed to both preserve its history as a living memorial while also using its experience as a foundation on which to build a truly-modern, world class city. On Miyajima—the “Island of Gods”—my breath was taken away by the humbling friendship and peaceful co-existence among deer and man.

Our journey let us wrap ourselves in the history and culture of Japan, filling our hearts with many wonderful memories that we have carried back to share with our fellow educators here in the US. While personally enriching, most importantly, these memories and experiences have provided us with a stronger understanding of the Japanese culture and will allow us to work more closely with Japanese families and students here in America.


Related Page
The 42nd International Educators to Japan Program (IEJ Program 2017)


(For the Japanese version of this article)


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