After yesterday’s crazy start, we finally all arrived in Japan last night at the International Christian University Dialogue House (guest house) and were greeted by gracious hosts and treated with awesome accommodations. We started out today with a special breakfast prepared for us, then travelled by bus, train, then bus to visit an elementary and a secondary school.
At OIZUMI Elementary School (attached to Tokyo Gakugei University), our first requirement was to place our shoes in lockers and put on the slippers that were provided. This practice is an effort to keep the school floors clean. The slippers fit some better than others.
After David McConnell’s friend, Midori, and her son Tomo, joined us to help with the tours, we met with the Vice Principal, who shared with us the school’s mission, then proceeded to give us a tour of the school.
It was interesting how they integrated learning responsibility into the curriculum, such as gardening (caring for a chrysanthemum from seed to maturity each year), cleaning the school, and delivering school lunches to the classrooms. In addition, they intentionally create experiences for the children to teach them leadership skills, such as having multiage groups working together with the older students teaching and demonstrating proper ways to do things to the younger students and assigning leadership roles within each classroom for various tasks.
We saw several classrooms of different types that were empty because some of the children were off on a field trip, which is apparently built into the curriculum on a regular basis to emphasize the values being taught at the school. One of the classrooms that interested me was the music classroom with traditional Japanese instruments, called koto, in it.
Our tour ended with us being paired in the lunchroom with “returning students,” a label given students who have been out of the country for several years and were being reintegrated into the Japanese culture with a need to work on their Japanese language and “reintegration into the culture” skills in the process. We discovered that many of these students are taught in small groups, anywhere from 3 to 10 in size. The students were very lively and very willing to talk with us about their stories, upon prompting, of course
Then we headed over to the Tokyo Gakugei University International Secondary School high school, which did not require us to remove our shoes for most areas, except the library. We did have the opportunity to observe in several classrooms and the classes did not seem all that different from those in the United States, with no uniforms and classes similar in variety. There were differences, however. There were several immersion classes taught in English, for instance, my group observed a Science class and a culture class being taught in English. The school had an International Baccalaureate affiliation for some of their curriculum. We had a long discussion with some of the teachers afterwards about the school, and apparantly, the school system we visited was affiliated with a teaching university to provide student teaching opportunities for students at the university. Also, the schools are a part of national school system, reporting to the national government, rather that to local prefecture school boards like the public schools. I could go on, but suffice it to say, we learned a lot about a couple very unique schools in Japan.
At the end of the day, we attended a talk about promotion and tenure given by Heather Fitz-Gibbon to some faculty and administration to the International Christian University, then joined them for a delightful reception at the top of the Dialogue House, a spacious area with a view off the deck. Can’t get any better than that!