osaka (16)

Final Days in Japan

I can't believe that it is almost time to leave. I am wrapping up and packing my two suitcases while thinking about how little time I have left. I am getting sentimental by thinking about leaving Osaka and leaving Japan. I walked around my neighborhood looking at trees, flowers and plants that we don't have in Calgary. I took pictures from the apartment that I lived for two months and hoping that if one day I ever come back I will be able to find it. I will miss the small Japanese houses, their structure and the aging feel. I will miss all the food in 7-11 that we never had in Canada. I will definitely miss taking trains everywhere between cities and trying to figure out where to go. I am certainly not going to miss the bugs though. They are huge.

On the last day I was in school, the students have come to say goodbye and asked to take photos with me. The student who loves to learn Chinese was really sad because she didn't know that it was my last day in school. The students were so sweet, and it makes me want to stay longer and help teaching them more. However, this is how life has been, just when you are getting to know the place, connected to people, you suddenly realize there is no time anymore. There were a lot of goodbyes and farewells this week from teachers, staff and students. Students came to help out finishing the bottle cap mural for their SDG project while saying goodbye to us. After spending two months in the classroom, I feel that I have also learned a lot as a student-teacher. Seeing teachers modify and adjust language use at all times and reflecting among themselves made me think and envision how I would teach in the future.

I will miss all the teachers and staff I have met in Suito Kokusai, and I will miss living in this city and the traveling experience in Japan. Japanese people are really really nice and helpful when you have a question to ask. The life in Osaka is one of the most inspiring experience for me as a person and as a teacher. It helps me gain insights into student learning in an international school setting that places the emphasis on language learning in addition to content learning. The school environment has opened my mind about teaching and the characteristics of the teachers teaching abroad. I appreciate the opportunity to be in the TAB program and if in the future, there is any international teaching opportunities I would definitely love to go again. 

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A Bittersweet End

2 months have now flown by and I've arrived back home in Canada after a long flight. This has truly been an amazing experience, and I've learned so much during my time in Osaka. It was such a unique look into the Japanese education system, and a great opportunity to learn more about teaching ELL students and how variant the levels of English can be within a single classroom, and the different scaffolding and differentiation methods that can be utilized.  It was also a great way to practice my Japanese and it was so rewarding to speak to and get to know all of the students at Suito. After Japan it really is a strange feeling to be back in Canada and to suddenly hear and have to speak English exclusively. 

My last day at the school was on Halloween, and it was so much fun to see the students and staff go all out and dress-up in school. Most schools in Japan don’t allow students to wear costumes for Halloween, so I think students were extra excited to be able to do this for the first time in a school environment. Students even brought their own snacks and would ask each other to say ‘trick-or-treat’ and exchanged treats amongst themselves since trick-or-treating isn’t a part of the culture here. Students would come up and find us throughout the day to give us treats and say goodbye. Some students even gave me hand-written letters, and one class made a small album with goodbye notes from each student. It was really touching to be able to receive such things, and it definitely affirmed what I want to do in the future as a teacher. I really wish that I could have had more time in Osaka as there is still so much more I feel that could have been learned and two months really isn’t enough time. I’m so sad to have had to leave Japan but I’ve only begun to scratch the surface, and I can’t wait to continue my learning with this upcoming field.

Good luck to anyone joining TAB next year, there will be many struggles, but in the end it is so worth it.

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As I sit here with my bags packed, finishing up our online assignments and looking at last minute plans before my departure in a few days, I am hit with a truly bittersweet feeling. This trip has been the longest I’ve ever been away for, as well my first trip alone… Funny enough, it’s also been the first trip amongst many that I did not experience much to any homesickness. There were times I missed the comfort of my room, but that was easily remedied by the constant excitement of many new adventures I planned and sought out within the country I’ve always wanted to go to, which has now come to fruition. This experience has truly been a dream come true as cliché as that sounds, I’ve always had great fascination in Japan growing up. I was able find some of the old blogs and reflections I had created as a child and even in high school. Through looking back at those, it’s truly incredible to see how much I adored Japanese landscape, culture, traditions and values back then, and to contrast that with what I’ve experienced on my journey here is just surreal- both from a school setting and Japan as a country.

As of now, I am not mentally ready to go back yet, there is still so much I want to experience and explore. The students I’ve worked with have been incredible, and it is going to truly be hard to say goodbye. I am excited that during my last day here, I have the opportunity to attend the school festival where I will get to see all their hard work showcased for not only the school, but the public’s eyes. As mentioned before, our school is a flagship school, spearheading innovative student-centered learning and collaboration that will set an example for Japanese education itself. There was so much learning that took place, although much was focused around ELL, through a UDL approach, our newly acquired insights and skills extend for the benefit of all students, regardless of location and language. We have truly been blessed to have been placed at such an amazing school with incredible administration, teachers and students, where we were able to leave our fingerprints in helping the new school develop itself.

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Light at the End

With each post I do on this blog it really hits me on how quickly time has gone by, and how little time I have left. Now sitting in my apartment, looking at my half packed suitcase after just finishing up all of the assignments for the online courses, I think I'm fully realizing just how little time I have left here in Osaka (3 days to be precise). With tomorrow being my last day at our school, students have been coming to talk to me everyday at lunch, after school, and between classes. Some have even started asking to take pictures with me. It's crazy, because just as you fully start to feel like you belong, getting the hang of everything, and have really started building meaningful relationships with the students here suddenly it is time to leave. I've started trying to go out more and more, and to really jam pack each weekend, and a lot of evenings, trying to take it all in and leave without regrets. To anyone reading this hoping to join the program next year, I would definitely advise to start doing more things early, and to not be afraid to explore your surroundings even if you still feel a bit lost and insecure in a new country. Before you know it your 2 month limit will be coming to an end and you'll realize that you still have so many things left to explore. These last few weeks have really been crazy busy. Not only have university courses really been picking up, but we had to give a presentation to all of the first year high schoolers about Canadian universities, as many of the students here are aiming to study abroad in the future. It was a lot of work to prepare, and I even recorded interviews with a few of my Japanese friends on their own study abroad experiences in Canada to gather some authentic voices for the students to listen to. For the weeks leading up to the presentation, I attended the school's Career Guidance meetings and was able to gain the advice and support of some of the staff here. It was fascinating to see another new side to a teacher's job, and to see how the teachers here are hoping to support students and create new programs for their students to gain experience abroad. This week, Peter and I partner taught a couple classes at the neighbouring elementary school. Coming from a secondary background, and from bring in a secondary school for the past 2 months, it was a huge change in atmosphere. We taught the lesson on Halloween in Canada, and the students were so enthusiastic and really excited to learn and entirely welcoming to two strangers taking over their class for a day. While their English level wasn't great, they still did their best to understand, and were very willing to learn.I really don't feel ready to leave Osaka yet, and it shocks me to see how naturally I move around here now. At the same time, it will be nice to see everyone back home and to share all of the adventures I've had here with them. I also can't wait to hear about how the other TAB students have been doing at the debriefing next week.
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Tea Ceremony

Today we had the incredible opportunity to be part of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. We were taught how tea ceremonies are conducted, the tradition and meaning behind the various rules within a tea ceremony and even became honoured guests of a tea ceremony conducted by a tea master. Although there are various schools and types of tea ceremonies, we learned that we can casually hold a tea ceremony within our rooms with our friends just as we would any gathering.

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Each ceremony has its own unique theme and message for that particular event, ours was about the everlasting youth in nature/greenery and its simplicity. Tea ceremonies are supposed to be very Zen-like and it provided us an incredible way to reflect on the beauty of living in the moment, our time spent together over the past weeks, and our remaining time left.

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Two More Weeks

There are so many things going on in the school right now. Students and teachers are preparing for midterms coming next week. They are also preparing for the School Festival that is happening right after the week of the midterm.

As the EAL teachers have discussed with me weeks ago about what special project I am interested in doing, I have decided to do an interdisciplinary Bottle Cap Mural project with the students as a SDGs showcase for the School Festival. I think this is an extraordinary opportunity to put a thought into an action,  and I would like to see how the project turned out. So, after designing and planning for weeks, with EAL teachers’ help, I was able to finally introduce the project to the students last week.  As a class, they students voted the best design they would like to use. While bottle caps are still being collected, I have finalized the design and ideally to get them to start tomorrow.

The design that the student came up with amazed me and it was a great opportunity for me to observe how does these students feel about this new method of knowledge application. Although to them what we are doing may just be a showcase of their understanding, but whether they can use their knowledge to successfully complete the task is to be determined. I am very excited that the school is letting us to build a special project ourselves to leave at the school. It is also a new experience for me to find out more about teaching and learning.

I have made some plans to go and take more look at Japanese culture and cities. However, the typhoon last week has forced me to cancel all my plans. Teachers are super kind to give tips about how to prepare for typhoon days, and we talked about how the typhoon could blow trees down and blow the garbage everywhere. Osaka ended up getting some rain and a little bit of wind, but nothing serious. People are being cautious about staying outside and tried to avoid going outside. To be honest, I was slightly disappointed because the typhoon felt like nothing but a slightly heavier rain to me. However, when I heard another area was flooded because of the typhoon, I feel that I am so lucky that the typhoon did not hit us right on. There is only a little over two weeks left before we have to go back, and I hope that this practicum can be a little longer. I am sure that I will use the rest of my time here wisely and learn as much as I can.

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Math class is more than just math

As I continue working with students and staff members, the questions I sought out at the beginning become more defined and a different perspective is emerging.

I came here on a pursuit to explore the perspectives and general view students have on mathematics and its impact on their studies along with their performance. This is especially interesting since Japanese students have been seen to rank near the top in global math and science surveys. The origin of this quest stems from how mathematics is often stigmatized in the west, often seen as boring, irrelevant or scary/difficult.

I have learnt that education here is different in the sense that the most stressful and challenging period of a student’s education are in their Jr high school/ high school years, as they are to write extremely  difficult entrance exams that would dictate the schools they go to and their career paths. This is different than in Canada in the sense that once the students here are in a university, it is smooth sailing from there. University graduation/completion rates are extremely high in Japan and much less stressful when compared to their high school experience due to such high stakes standardized testing. It is often described as students working hard during high school and then 'letting their hair down' at university.

Due to this approach, the standard high school math curriculum in Japan is incredibly dense and compact (comparable to higher level math in Canada), often seen as a gate keeper subject as described by some teachers. Due to the intense curriculum, and how public schools typically teach math (very traditionally – where the teacher is the source of knowledge through a stand and deliver format), students take the role of receivers as passive learners taking notes. This is comparable to a typical western math lecture at university where the sole focus is often on teaching as much content as possible within a tight semester.

Since my school is approaching education differently than how typical schools here teach, my senior high math classes are mostly flipped classrooms, as that is the only feasible way to reach out to all 40 students (classroom size is mandated by the public system) in a diverse way, while ensuring the best use of limited class time. Depending on the difficulty of the content that week, the teacher may switch to in-class teaching, and alternate with other teaching strategies such as group-led learning, team teaching, or classroom inquiry/investigations.

It is extremely difficult for the teacher to attempt large scale inquiry, interdisciplinary, design based, or project-based learning while working with all ELL students of varying degrees along with an overpacked and rigid curriculum. We often hear teachers back at home who teach diploma courses say how there isn't enough time to carry out different approaches to learning, picture that here but with a much more dense curriculum (they teach two different curriculums side by side with very different topics as part of the whole Japanese curriculum, where one is heavily tested on as part of the national curriculum, and the other is demanded by universities for entrance testing), with much higher stakes standardized testing for students with a class of 40 students. These exams literally define the student's future for post secondary unlike our diplomas and their ease in rewriting and laxed time constraints.

Despite all of this, the math teacher I work with is optimistic and squeezes in as much non-traditional approaches to learning along with ELL activities as possible. Currently we are trying out more group work in getting students out of their desks with math sorting activities, mixing and matching, and ELL phrases/vocabulary. It is here that I’ve had the great opportunity to work with teachers in planning and carrying these activities out. That said, the culture of students and their behaviour in Japan is much different than in western society, which does play a huge role in sort of activities and expectations teachers can put on students.

Students here are very collective as a cohort, sharing notes with their peers, collaborating on homework, and are always helping one another out. They are very mindful of each other, even to the extent of waking each other up on a long day in the middle of class. This communal feeling is sensed throughout the school community as well.  Students worked together to write a school song in which they are so proud of, having a chance to show-off their school and their song on TV. To such an extent that they are mostly internally driven and dedicated to their class and school community. Students would be working on planning the school festival instead going to clubs and even during class time. This strong sense of school community and self regulation amongst the students is the goal in which I hope to create among my students in creating a classroom of community and belonging.

Unlike the stigmatized perspective students have of hating math and seeing it as irreverent in the west, students here either enjoy math or just see it as a necessary subject that they must work at if they are to have many opportunities in the future (career wise). This comes from my discussions with various teachers and students themselves. The focus is very different, again, because of those entrance exams. There also is not much of a fear in math as in the west and this has great source in the fact that all math exams are in written response format with no numeric responses, nor multiple choice as we often see in Alberta. Students are not allowed to use calculators throughout their schooling, so mental math is worked on since childhood. This also plays a huge part of students’ confidence in math.

 Working with my math teacher serves as a great inspiration in my own practice as he models how even with a tight curriculum, there is always a way to go beyond it, especially if it serves the best interests of the students. Despite having over 20 years in teaching experience from all over the world, the math teacher constantly continues to learn from students, work at improving his teaching and practice. This has been evident numerous times when lessons don’t go as smoothly as planned and the new changes in the following class to adapt and modify the instruction, being received noticeably better by students.

From the students' perspective, I can only imagine how hard it is to learn math in English, as math is a separate language itself. Students here are juggling between three languages: Japanese, English and Mathematics all within their math classes which is incredible. Although there is a translator for the first semester of high school, students work towards being able to handle math classes fully in English by their second semester. Much of my role and the EAL’s (English as an Additional Language) team role is furthering the use of English in math and helping students develop strategies for success.

From the perspective of a math teacher, this makes math class a great balance between an ELL class and math itself. As such, this limits the types of discussions, activities, and explorations that could be done, given the extra language component.

From looking at various lenses, I can see that the priorities and focus is different and thus with the questions I came here seeking out answered, new questions arise in how I take this understanding and apply it in my own teaching as well as how to best work with and help teachers and students here given what they have to do.

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Osaka Updates

It’s officially autumn here in Japan, though only in name it seems, as the temperature doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo yet. The weather is as hot as ever, with an average high of about 26 daily. Even then, any day under 30 has become a welcome break. It’s crazy to see how I’ve adjusted so much to life and the climate here. In the blink of an eye September has come and gone. I’m so sad that I only have one month left of my time at Suito and in Japan. I’ve really settled into the routine of things very nicely here, as going to school and coming home to prepare dinner has become startlingly normal.

Talking to the students and slowly getting to know them has been an incredibly rewarding part of this experience, and I can’t wait to continue getting close to them with what time I have left. I was lucky enough to be asked by one of the teachers here to teach a lesson in the grade 10 English class. The topic was diary writing, so I had to introduce what a diary is, its purpose and the conventions of diary writing. The students were great, and I even got a bit of audience participation from them, which is no easy feat here in Japan where raising your hand to ask or answer questions is just not done. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot about the struggles of teaching English Language Arts as a content area while simultaneously also teaching English as a foreign language. I’ve learned about scaffolding and always am careful to include it in my lesson plans, but never before have I truly seen just how necessary it is. I really hope that I’ll have further opportunities to teach here before our time is up.  

Last week I finally went to a new place and was lucky enough to explore Kobe with some of my really good friends here. It was fascinating to see that the port city still had remnants of globalization from the Meiji period with gorgeous European mansions that used to house wealthy European (mainly German) trade merchants. It was such a jarring contrast to see these types of houses and culture set to the backdrop of modern Japan. Definitely not a sight I’m going to forget.

All of this is to say, that I’m going to really try and soak up as much from this last month here as possible before I have to go back to snowy, cold Calgary.

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Language Integration and Student Learning

I can't believe a month has past!!! There are so many things that have happened in the past weeks. I went on a camping trip with the school teachers and staff to a local village for a natural escape.  It was a wonderful experience to connect with the teachers and experience what was like to live in a traditional way in Japan. I really appreciate the opportunity to be invited into such an amazing and special opportunity. Thanks to the welcoming and kind teachers and staff from Suito Kokusai School!!!  3645797014?profile=RESIZE_710x

 In the past weeks of school, I got to observe and sit in different junior high classes and to work with Grade 7 students. It was a wonderful and unique opportunity to be able to work with older students since my edcuation stream is in elementary. I find this opportunity fascinating and I get to watch how students and teachers interact with each other in the classroom using English(L2) and Japanese(L1). Suito is an international school where English is taught and used together to teach many other subjects in school. I have learn CLIL in the education courses and this pedagogical approach has been implemented in many aspects of the student learning in Suito. It is wonderful to watch and learn how the teachers have incorporated CLIL into the lessons and work in a collaborative manner to deliver classes. Language teachers have a lot of responsibility to work with subject teachers both English and Japanese to find new strategies to help students learn and proactively participate during class. What I have learned from communicating with the EAL(Engish as an additional language) teachers is that always be flexible and adjust to students need whenever necessary. Sometimes, some days students are just not as efficient as what you have expected and your lesson may not go as smooth as what you have planned. It is normal, but learn to cop with the change is a teacher’s skill that I have to acquire being a teacher. I learned as a language teacher teaching ELL students or second language in the future, I always have to remind myself to recognize my role not only as a subject teacher but also more importantly as a language teacher. 

Introducing class routine is also a great way to get the students right on tasks and more focused in class. However, the routine is always better to be introduced at the beginning of the year instead of later. When students already form a series of habits, it gets difficult for teachers to change that behaviour and ask the students to take on more responsibility for their actions in class. Technology use is definitely one to increase studnet engagement and participation in class. Teachers have consistantly used chromebook for student learning. Many classes adopted Google Classroom with pear deck that creates a more interactive learnig environment instead of depending on only the traditional style of learning in class. Everything has been so great in the school and I really appreciate the learning and teaching opportunities in Suito School. Looking forward to collaborate more in the last 4 weeks!!!


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Two different sides of learning and their growth

Japan has world leading tech companies and is a world leader in the field of robotics, as such it was to my great surprise that their K-12 years are rather traditional in public schools and consists of very few to no technology integration in the curriculum. This is slowly trying to change, but still very slowly as I have learned that Japan priorizes math and sciences above all the other subjects. This school is one of the first to have a society and technology class where students have laptops to learn about technology not only for personal/career use but also analyzing issues both on a national and international level. Students during my first week were starting on learning how to use the Google suite- google docs, presentation, and forms, to analyse the impacts of SNS such as Messenger, Instagram, FB, Line, etc. on society here in Japan. I’ve had the great pleasure of working with the teacher in this course and the students in contributing ideas and looking at ways to use more technology in a meaningful, and purposeful way that can enhance learning.

In contrast to the digital world, we have been challenged to contribute to their incredible library- this library has an amazing selection of books articles and comics with works from all over the world from every discipline, with this number to double by the end of this year! This collection is better than any public-school library I’ve visited. Any subject you can think of will have at least a whole section dedicated to it. All the books are brand new, and relevant to topics/issues today.

The library is also currently undergoing initiatives to invite students to visit more often. I was fortunate to witness the school wide library book contest/battle aimed at promoting reading amongst jr high students. Every couple of weeks, students are put into groups where they have to convince their group why their chosen book is the most enticing to read, the group votes, and the winners move on repeating the process until there is a sole winner whom will present their book to the whole school! What was most interesting was that the whole event was student led.

Another initiative we are helping with is creating capsule vending machines (very popular in Japan) with book titles, quotes, authors and other little toys/prizes that invite students to visit the library to borrow and read more books. Other on-going events include gamification in the library where students can level up certain superheroes/villains by reading books with those characters in them and taking selfies with the book. What incredible ways to get youth interested in reading!

Currently I have started an English conversation board games club in conjunction with the English video game club started up by myself and a few other teachers. This has been massively popular, inviting students from both jr high and high school to drop by the library at lunch and after school! The jr high students even come on days when the club isn’t running to meet with their peers. What is awesome about this is that the students get the practice the exact conversational phases they learned in English class through these board games after school. I also love how the students are teaching me their favorite games and how to play them just as much as I am teaching them my own games. It would be incredible if this club continues on even after our time at this school, and it looks like its on its way to establishing that level amongst the students.

I also look forward to contributing more Canadian text, especially those with Indigenous perspectives and ways of thinking, Canadian children’s literature along with texts on diversity. Despite how homogeneous many things are in Japan, this library does not reflect that and continues to strive to be an excellent resource/workplace for all students, especially given the internationalization initiatives of the school.


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Settling In

I've now been in Osaka for a little more than two full weeks and I'm shocked by how normal everything feels now. At first everything seemed to be moving so fast, and it was one crazy whirlwind of discovery. The school here, Suito Kokusai, is an absolutely incredible school and everyone has been incredibly welcoming and flexible. Suito is the first non-government run public school in Japan, and only just opened up this past April. This means that the school is still growing in every sense of the word. There are currently only two grades (7 and 10) with two classes each, with the goal being to add one new grade each subsequent school year. Even the ways that classes are structured is ever changing, and the week we arrived was the start of a new schedule for the students and teachers. Entering a school, and being able to impact its formation (even though it is only in a small way) is an incredible and impactful experience. The coordinator here is constantly asking for feedback for the classes that we observe and it's really motivating to see that all of the staff here truly want to improve their systems and practice. This has really pushed me to be a keen observer here, and has allowed me to really speak my mind in terms of what I'm seeing as well. I’ve been posted in the English courses here, and it is so has been especially interesting to see the differences between and amongst grade levels, and the different teaching styles employed by each teacher.  However, no matter what methods or styles the teachers use engagement and growth are always top priorities. This school is a real life example of theory to practice, as a lot of the vernacular, methods, and classroom setups are mirror images of what we have spent the last few semesters learning about. It’s amazing to finally see a real and successful application of these theories come to life.

In terms of my general life, I’ve been truly enjoying living on my own here, and so far it’s been great to cook my own meals. I’ve managed to not get lost and have even taken a small trip to Tokyo during this past long weekend. It feels so great to be back in Japan and putting my language skills to the test. It feels so wonderful to be able to start over in a new place and in a new language, and I can’t wait to see where the rest of this journey will take me.

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The First Time

It has been two weeks since I am in Osaka, and starting to get more familiar with this school. First, getting used to go out shopping or dine-out without speaking Japanese is a really essential ability I have to master. Very frequently, I have to use a lot of body language instead of verbal langague to communicate with other people or using traslating Apps(Google translate is really useful!!!!) After that is to navigate in the city, finding my apartment from stations, finding grocery stores and even the school. It does take time, but nothing is too difficult. Our liaison, Hinode San is very kind to provide a lot of  assistance and tips for my stay in Osaka. 

Everything here in Suito Kokusai School is amazing and fascinating. Our school is kind of on an island. I can see the ocean and pass the harbour every time I take the train to school. You will also see other life froms in the school such as gigantic praying mentis and water lily. The temperature here is still 35-36 degree Celsium and it remains quite warm even after sunset. So, there are a lot more plants and trees growing here. In the school, students are learning English as an additional language(EAL) in the shcool. The EAL office is where we all stationed at. Hannah, Aubrey and Nicole are the three EAL teachers that work beside us to help all of us in our practicum. In Global Study class, students learned various vocabularies related to social topics while learning English as well. It was really fun to see their dictionary that they created, and it reminds me of my own when I was learning English in China.

I am gradually starting to exploring the city of Osaka. There are a lot of interesting places that I have yet to see. Looking forward to it all!!!!



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Everything is brand new!

I can’t believe it has already been two weeks since school started! Time goes by ridiculous fast, especially when there are many things on your plate such as two online courses, prepping for daily classes at the school, TAB commitments, all while adventuring in a new environment with so much to see and do. It’s a unique experience and an interesting life balance for sure!

The school that I’m at is incredible! It’s one of the first of its kind being a public school that is trying to provide top tier education and internationalization on par to private schools here in Japan. It aims to provide students a cutting-edge experience they cannot get at any other public school, making it a model flagship school that has everyone’s attention, and thus is always getting visitations from high stakes individuals from the government, the board of education, and neighboring school officials. This is really interesting because as I’ve recently learned, public schooling here is very traditional, in all regards, and thus, balancing all the rules, regulations, standards and traditions of the public system along with the school goals of being a modern, innovative school, and international school that reflects all the ideal concepts within education is a great challenge. What’s further interesting is that everyone at the school is employed under a private organization, and through this private organization, they are running this public school- i.e. abiding public policy. A real example of how teaching is political! On top of all this, the school is also one of the first in Japan that has junior high combined with high school.




On the very first day, we learned that the school just recently opened in April and had just completed its first semester. There are only four classes, two grade 7 classes and two grade 10 classes. Unfortunately, the class sizes are quite large, sitting at 40 students per class, being mandated as a standard of public schools by the board of education. The school is on its way to adopting the IB curriculum, in conjunction with promoting the Sustainable Development Goals. The school has a beautiful library with an incredible selection of Japanese and English books for all students, with this number soon to be doubled. The classrooms are modern having projectors, speakers, and whiteboards all built in, resembling a typical small sized university classroom. To my surprise, the inclusion of all of this is really rare of public-school classrooms as typically there is little to no technology in the classroom.



Given how new the school is, everyone was extremely excited to have us be a part of the school, as this contributes to that internationalization aspect. We were also challenged to come up with some projects, and to contribute what we can to help shape the new school. This is an incredible opportunity and I am beyond excited to be a part of these initial stages, leaving my fingerprints and sharing my funds of knowledge. I am currently looking at potential clubs to start up at the school, and sharing my passions, hoping to integrate computer coding into the curriculum.


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Busy start and many surprises

There has been a lot of things happening before I leave Canada. I had some issues with Passports, Visa, job and flight. I had to change my passport before I can start applying for my Japanese Visa. Getting ready was an easy and difficult job to do. I have to guess what I need to bring on a daily basis, and I guess I was just being nervous to go to a country that I barely know the language of. 

My first flight got delayed by two hours, and Air Canada had to cancel my flights and book me again through another route to Osaka. Eventually, I arrived at Kansai Airport 1 hour later than planned. However, nothing can stop me from getting excited to Japan and to meet people in Osaka. I am so looking forward to this experience and learning everything I can from all parts of it!

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The end of one journey, the start of the next

3539165239?profile=RESIZE_710xI have been in Japan for over three weeks now, traveling around Tokyo, Kyoto, and finally Osaka. Each city so vastly unique in what it has to offer. To my surprise, everyday was hot and humid, much like Vietnam, however, I’m slowly noticing the weather cooling down a bit as its been quite rainy recently, along with the trees changing colour (Fall is coming!!). My days started with a full itinerary of adventures consisting of bustling areas, serene moments, and my childhood fascinations fulfilled. My obsessions with Matcha related food items and Takoyaki have been satisfied! I’ve also developed a new favorite food item – Okonomiyaki! Now that I've settled in the "Kitchen of Japan", with food stalls on almost every street, I can't wait to try out everything!


3539171499?profile=RESIZE_710xAlong my travels, many moments had me really admiring Japanese culture and its people. From the very first moment I stepped off the plane, until now, I’ve always felt extremely welcomed and cared for, despite the language barriers - I’m still at the beginning stages of learning the language. To such an extent that I would say based on my experiences thus far, Japanese culture exemplifies ideal aspects of humanity. From the smallest of things, such as always being greeted when entering and leaving in shops/restaurants, to cashiers/strangers chasing down other strangers to return their forgotten items/ money. I can’t say how welcoming these small greetings and gestures are, which goes beyond just language, but rather from within. As an emerging educator, this really emphasizes and goes to prove the importance of welcoming each and every single student!

I'm used to a culture where we just seem to be passerbyers of others, where there is lack of acknowledgement with strangers we interact with. This contrasts my experiences here where the general public seem to be always looking out for one another and are mindful of their surroundings, ensuring they don't inconvenience anyone, also often go above and beyond to be of assistance. This has constantly been evident when I look lost trying to find my way around and a stranger would approach to help, and at times, to my greatest surprise, to go out of their way to walk with me to where I wanted to go.

3539145130?profile=RESIZE_710xI am also extremely impressed with everyone’s self-regulation. The streets, and public transportation are incredibly clean- especially for cities that have millions of people, with not many garbage cans laying around. I’m further impressed by the punctuality of the trains, especially the Shinkansen which has records of only being delayed by seconds. One interesting and strange thing I noticed from having traveled by rail a lot, is that the operators here constantly engage in self-conversation while making vigorous gestures pointing around. I later learned that the reason behind all of this is due to a technique for error-prevention. Apparently, this method of pointing and calling stuff out reduces workplace errors by 85%. This makes me wonder how this technique could be modified for students/teachers in school, and how effective it might be?3539185152?profile=RESIZE_710xAs I finish off my reflection of my journey thus far, and begin my research into Japan’s education system, I am both excited and nervous to official start my TAB experience tomorrow. Regardless, I am looking forward to what’s ahead, hoping to engage in the reciprocity of funds of knowledge and experiences.


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The Beginning

I can't believe that I'm finally here about to start my time in Osaka. I'm currently in Tokyo and will be taking a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Osaka in just a few hours, and tomorrow I'll be going to my school in Osaka for an orientation. It all seems so unreal. I've been looking forward to going on TAB since I started my degree and now it's finally happening. This isn't my first time in Japan, so there haven't been any surprises yet, but I'm looking forward to seeing if I do experience any type of culture shock later in my journey. There are so many things I'm anticipating. Most obvious being gaining valuable teaching experience in a foreign country, but I'm also really looking forward to living on my own in a fascininating and vibrant country. I do have a decent understanding of Japanese, and actually am a TA at the Calgary Japanese Language school, as such I'm hoping to improve on my current understanding of the language and hope that it will help me get closer to my students and coworkers and mentors here. I'm also really curious to see whether teaching English as a second language will have any parallels to how we teach Japanese as a second language in Canada. 


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