Monday, 2 October 2017

Day 3: An Eye-opening Experience from Japan - Sandy Davey

Having the opportunity to teach in Japan has truly been a-once-in-a-lifetime, career highlight. The intention of my visit to Midorimachi Elementary school was to reflect on the educational practices that I viewed during my short visit – however – I walked away learning more about myself.

It didn’t take long to realize that children are the same the world over. The Japanese students wore their love of learning and curious natures on their faces, and the classroom chatter, giggling and surprised looks were a delight to observe. We walked down the halls of the school as they high-fived us, with their calls of ‘Hi’ echoing behind us.

Prior to coming to Japan, I was aware of a national pedagogical shift in the teaching of science – a change from ‘teaching as telling,’ to ‘teaching for understanding’ – by promoting practices such as active reflection, discussion and debate, and hands-on experimentation. This was to be my experience in-part, as I observed a Japanese elementary teacher in-action. His lesson was open-ended and his use of questioning admirable.  The lesson quickly diverted from the lesson plan we had been presented with, as the students took charge of the experimental inquiry and invented their own ways of testing their hypothesis. At the end of the lesson, he drew the learnings together. He used a strategy of ‘Look, Look Deeply, Look Back,’ to plan his lesson, which is new to me and a strategy I will look more closely at.

Soon it was my turn to teach. Amidst the nerves, I prepared the materials for my lesson and for the entry of my Year 5 class – 30 students in total. They were very excited and took their places in the purpose-built, science laboratory, quickly – waiting to see what I had for them.  They participated fully in the lesson and the experience of working with an interpreter was both different and exciting. I took comfort in knowing I had someone else to work alongside – however - the flow and timing of the lesson was interrupted. All new experiences that I have professionally grown from. The students loved the experimental component of the lesson and took on the challenges I had set for them with great enthusiasm – even the school principal had a go. But time got away and I found myself condensing the most important part of the lesson – our time to reflect and draw together the lesson learnings. Lesson over, I drew breathe and soaked up the positive energy in the room.

In this instance, I was certainly placed as the learner within the classroom and unexpectedly received an education I had not foreseen. The experience of walking into a totally unknown situation required me to think of things that I had taken for granted all these years. Things that form part of my practice that I automatically do without consideration. This experience laid bare my own personal cultural practices and challenged me to see things from another angle and a new perspective.  And so it was the teacher who grew… 
Thank you to ASTA and Latitude Group Travel for allowing me to participate in this wonderful experience.

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