Monday, August 22, 2005

The BIG Project

A large part of my trip will be spent working on a project that I will implement when I return. I will be able to talk to teachers from all over the world and receive feedback on what I am planning to do. Below is another essay that I had to write (yes, there were many!). It is my proposal for what I will be doing with my experience in Japan.


The idea of teaching is to share your loves and interests with others so that they can discover what is important to them. As an English teacher, I am able to share my passion for literature everyday. The written word, whether it is their own or that which is in books, is essential in children’s development today. It is a tool that can empower children and shows them that they are not alone as they are growing up. It acts as an old friend who is always there in this sometimes all too uncertain world. My mom was a preschool teacher so there were always books lying around our house. Long before I could read the words, I would make up stories to go along with the brightly colored pictures. The library was only two blocks away, a short bike ride to an unlimited supply of books. While my sister often teased me because all the librarians knew my name and I guarded my library card with my life, I could think of nothing better then spending an afternoon paging through books. I vowed to read every book in the children’s section and got a job as a page as soon as I turned fifteen. To me, there was something magical about the world that is inside books. A magic that has continued to amaze me, a magic that I want to share with other children.

The world that we live in is changing everyday, introducing new trials and obstacles for this generation’s children. In a society where people are all too often fueled by wealth, fame, and personal advancement adolescents search for a constant. Something to push them forward, something to believe in. I have chosen to focus my career on writing to embrace these feelings of our children and reassure them that they are not alone. By introducing the treasure of writing I hope to let them know that they are important, that what they are going through is recognized and important. Writing is an outlet to pour out one’s pain in a nonviolent way. What children have to say should be heard, expressed in their personal narrative. I believe the most important way to know something is to live through the experience. Through stories and writing this objective is accomplished so specifically that the only way to know it better is to have lived through it. Students are taken away to different worlds and cultures, facing situations that they may never ever live in person, but through the magic of literature, are able to learn about. The written word is a perfect way to teach about different cultures because they are created in our own unique styles. Books help us bridge the gaps between different cultures and I plan to use this to the best advantage I can.

I have chosen to focus my follow-on program around literature and the power it has to inspire a student. The written word is a perfect way to teach about different cultures, because they are created in our own unique styles. Books help us bridge the gaps between different cultures and I plan to use this to the best advantage I can.

My project will center on the literature of a country and how it can teach about a culture, a world that is foreign to them containing lifestyles totally different from their own. My students will analyze the literature of Japan, and then use then use the information as a model to discover their own heritage and culture by looking at literature from their ethnic background.

Before I leave for Japan, I plan to work with my students on American Literature and the American culture. My students will start the semester writing persuasive essays about what they think it means to be an American and how they view our country. My students will then discuss their own personal views and explore the role that they play in American society. We will spend the first two months reading different stories, poems and essays that center on what it means to be an American. I will use the time before I go to Japan to familiarize my students with examining the literature from our country and how to analyze what it says about our culture. They will do this with many selected works first as guided practice and then they on their own, which will prepare them for their individual country projects, which will be completed when I return from Japan. While I am away in Japan, I will assign specific literature books to my students centering on the different cultures that make up the melting pot of the United States. They will work in groups analyzing their books and the portrayal they have of a culture. They will track these customs, ideas and concepts throughout the whole book. After completing the reading, each group will create a presentation in which they demonstrate what they discovered through their reading.

After I return, my students will then focus on literature as a way to teach them about a culture outside of the United States. They will look at one country from their own individual heritage and examine the literature from that country and what it says about a society. My students will choose their countries and receive a rubric of what needs to be completed for the project. This list will include research on the way of life and the analysis of a specific number of poems, essays and literature. They will do writing on the topic including reflections and comparisons of their own life and traditions to the ones that are presented in the readings. I plan to incorporate my Japanese experience into my classroom at this point of the lesson. I will complete the same project with my students, using Japan as my country. I will model what I want my students to do with their own country by educating them about Japan and creating examples for each of the assignments. The students will read Japanese pieces, and I will show them how it links to the culture. I will use first hand accounts and show pictures from my experiences there, and share what I have learned about these lifestyles. Together, we will learn about a country that is different from out own, and I will model the results that I expect for them from their own country, by immersing them in my Japan experience.

While in Japan, I plan to use the time to study as much of the culture as possible. I want to work with my fellow educators to learning about different teaching techniques and ideas for my classroom. I intend to discover new literature and discuss the different styles that the Japanese have in their writing. I hope to be able to talk to people in the country about the literature and what is important to them in the writing. I am looking forward to being introduced to new pieces to read and use in my classroom. I intend to bring back as much literature as possible, so I can share it with my students and explore it myself. I will use it as an opportunity to learn about new writers who are important in Japan. I am very excited to talk to learn about their educational system and the way that school is taught in Japan. The information that I gain while in Japan will be integrated into my classroom through the literature project and dialogue with my students. I will also be able to share this information with my fellow staff. I could speak to different learning teams and communicate my new knowledge during development days.

Beyond exploring the literature of Japan, I also plan to use the time in the Fulbright program as a way to promote traveling and studying abroad within my school and the community. I want to ignite a spark with those around me to start discovering the vast world around them. I would like to encourage others to take similar opportunities. I plan to try to get my students interested in foreign travel and also the community. I want others to learn the benefits of learning about other cultures and how it can help them grow as an individual. Emotionally, studying abroad promotes positive independence and gives one the skills to adapt to situations that are unlike what they are use to. I want to set up a program where students who have graduated can come and talk to me for help, if they choose to study abroad after high school. I am interested becoming an advisor for the students currently at my school who are interested in traveling. I have started to look into summer programs that my students can participate in. I hope to start leading trips and developing a program where the students study a particular country during the year, including the culture, food, literature, music, movies and other aspects. I would then travel with my students and encounter these things firsthand.

I believe that the more I travel myself, the more knowledgeable I become in different situations and I can relate this back to my students. I look at the Fulbright Memorial Fund as another way to connect to my students. Each student comes from a different background and is made up in a different way. The more I know about the world, the more I know about lifestyles different from mine. As an educator, I plan to continue to learn my whole life and grow professionally. I reach out to any chance I get to put myself in new settings. I look for a connection with each and every child that I teach, and by trying new opportunities, I can learn more about what makes up the world around me.

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