East meets West for lessons in community service
Nine delegates from various schools in suburban Tokyo, Japan, visited Blair on January 9 to learn about the United States' methods of encouraging student community service and individual motivation for learning.
The delegates were shown around the school by seniors Matthew Yalowitz, Annie Peirce, and Japanese-speaker Fumino Tamaki. Only two of the delegates spoke English, so the rest relied heavily on Tamaki and the delegation's professional Japanese translator Risa Marbarg. After their tour, the delegation met in the Career Center for a presentation by resource teacher for career development, Robert Hopkins, as well as Yalowitz, Peirce, and senior Sarah Thibadeau. The three students talked about a mentoring program, MUSE, that they had set up and coordinated since their sophomore year and then they answered the delegation's questions about their experiences as part of the American educational system.
The delegation's main goal is to see how American schools encourage students to participate in community service, and then to try to use American techniques to inspire Japanese students. Patrick Doyle, a member of the Points of Light foundation, which is organizing the delegation's visit and helping them implement changes to the Japanese education system, believes that the conflict between Japanese and American culture makes implementation of the educators' goal difficult. Japanese culture, which traditionally emphasizes central control instead of individuality, has in the past placed the responsibility on teachers to inspire youths to participate in community service projects. Japanese educators are now trying to shift that responsibility to the students so that they will take more individual initiative in working in the community. "The core value of service learning is for students to do it themselves," said Marbarg.
According to Marbarg, the delegation was very impressed with the "scale and size" of Blair, as well as its many opportunities for student learning. "American students seem to have more options in classes and resources. They're almost jealous that each individual student has more responsibility for their learning," reflected Marbarg.
Japanese delegate and elementary school teacher in Tokyo, Fuyuhiko Fukuhara, commented that he was most impressed with the "free spirit" he saw in the students, and plans to have his students eat lunch informally on the floor. He was also interested in the amount of responsibility for education that American students share with their teachers. Fukuhara said he would like to see teachers not only teaching students, but having teachers learn from the students as well.
Annie Peirce. Annie Peirce is a senior in the Communications Arts Program and the public relations manager for Silver Chips. She is also an opinions editor for Silver Chips Online. She was born on October 25, 1984, in a hospital somewhere in Prince George's County; but doesn't … More »