Monday, August 22, 2005

Random Thoughts Racing Through My Head...

I am all set to go to Japan, and I feel pretty confident about the whole experience but there are still questions that arise. I guess I worry too much! Most of them are pretty crazy, but I can't help with the "what ifs..." Never the are some of the random things that I think about....

How will I react with the jet lag and time change!? This is a very rigorous experience, so I don't think I'll get a lot of sleep. I hope there's caffeine. Actually, in the tour books it says that there are Starbucks on almost every corner. Nice...just like Boston! I think I'll be okay in Japan, but I will be crashing when I return. I come back right before daylight savings time so my body is going to be all out of sorts!

What if I go running or exploring (well, at least as far as Kinko's to e-mail, which is only a block away!) and I get lost? What if I can't read the signs and find my way back. I have been in countries before that have a different language, but I have never been to a country that has a different language and system of writing. I might be able to learn a few phrases before I leave, but I don't think I'll be able to read much!

Okay, I'm sure I'll think of a lot more things. I'll keep my questions coming...maybe someone will have the answers! :)

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.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Why I Want to Go to Japan....

All right, this is a looooong posting. It is part of the essay that I had to write to be considered for the award. This was one of the steps that a candidate had to go through, along with letters of recommendation, a proposal for a project, an application with questions to fill out and a lot of other paperwork! And that's just to be considered! Whew! :)

JFMF Essay One

“You have to be crazy,” my roommate screeched, staring at me wide-eyed when I told her that I had been accepted into COST, a program that places pre-service teachers in an international setting to do their student teaching. “You’ve never taught in a classroom, how in the world can you teach in another country?”

Crazy, huh?

Yes, perhaps maybe I did share a little of my roommate’s view on my decision. Student teaching for me had always been anticipated with mixed emotions, and to do it in a different country made me even more anxious. It was the accumulation of my educational career, the time when I leave behind my spot sitting in the classroom and become the one speaking at the front. But on the other hand, this is what I had been preparing to do for the past four years. To teach. And teaching is going to present its challenges no matter where you are.

So you may call me a little crazy, although I prefer adventurous to be a better choice, because come the end of August, I packed my bags and headed to Costa Rica. I embarked on what I believe is one of the most amazing educational experiences I could have ever received. An experience that I want to continue through your Japan Fulbright Program.

I chose to teach abroad to experience a world different then what I was accustomed to, to immerse myself into a culture and be part of its daily life. Until college, I never had a class with a someone from a different ethnic background. I grew up in a middle class community where my grandparents grew up with my friends’ grandparents, and was removed from most of the problems that schools face today. I wasn’t ashamed of this nor was I proud; it was just the way that I was raised. But I did know that while I could not change the educational path my parents had provided for me, I could do something about my future training. That is why I began to take every opportunity that I could to involve myself with different settings and background. College was spent tutoring students and volunteering in different school communities. I worked at a language lab where I could interact with international students and at a summer camp that provided a respite for kids from disadvantage backgrounds and another for kids with mental handicaps. I attended graduate school at Boston University, and tried to involve myself as much as possible in the urban city life so I could continue to learn about different people and cultures. I believe that the only way to become a better educator is to get to know your students and in order to know them; you need to be aware and learn about their backgrounds. Through these experiences I began to see the world in different ways. I started to make connections with those who had backgrounds that were unlike mine, and I saw ways in which we were similar. I started to share myself with others, and in return, I started to grow personally by what I learned.

As I get to know my students more closely, I see a lot of my early background and myself in them. Perry High School is located in a rural suburb about thirty miles outside of Cleveland. It is a small school with about two hundred students in each graduating class. The Nuclear Power Plant is the main source of income for the school, however the majority of the students’ parents work in the nurseries that cover the town. There is little diversity in the school, and most students have not traveled far outside of Ohio. Many of my students plan grow up and stay in Perry their whole lives. I believe that the experience that I gain from learning about other cultures can help me bring those cultures to my students in the classroom. I will be able to give first hand accounts of the vast world that is awaiting them and link it to the literature that they are reading in the classroom. It is my hope that through my excitement, I can motivate my students to want to have these same experiences. I already have had successes incorporating my previous travel experiences into the classroom. I have introduced my students to different ideas and perspectives. I have worked to show them that different lifestyles, ideas and concepts that exist inthe world. I wish to continue my exploration of the world by participating in your program, and bring back new adventures to my students.

I see the role of the teacher as a guide. I lead my students to the information and open the world to them. But once I have taken them there, I allow them to explore and discover. Education is a never-ending process, and when you give a child the motivation they can do anything. I relate this thinking to the opportunity that your program presents. The experience that I receive from learning about the Japanese culture will reflect in my classroom teaching. I will be able to bring a culture first hand to my students. I will be able to describe to them my experiences, share with them the stories from the time I was there and inspire them to want to seek out new experiences also. My philosophy of education is that people learn best from
experience and sharing.

I believe that everyone has something to share and it is through sharing that we teach each other. Learning about others’ experiences help us find a common thread in others, to link a part of their lives to ours. Education is a never-ending process, regardless of age. Every individual you come in contact with has something that they can teach you. This philosophy links to how I view the Fulbright experience. Not only will I learn about a new country and culture, but also work with other educators from around America that I can learn from. While in Costa Rica, I worked collaboratively with the other teachers at the school where I taught. The American International School had teachers from all over the world, and together we worked on planning lessons, testing ideas and offering advice. I have continued to work with my fellow staff members through the Language Arts department and learning teams. I have continued to use team learning as I grow as an educator. I am currently taking on-line classes so I can work with fellow students from all over the United States. Through these classes, I discuss new ideas and learn different viewpoints and ways to understand issues. The Fulbright experience will allow me to test my ideas and share my knowledge with a new group of educators. I will be able to work side by side with teachers from all over the nation and share my expertise with them. I have learned different methods of teaching and have had my own personal success that I can share with the others I will work with in Japan. The information and advice that I receive from these people will benefit in my own classroom when I return from the trip. I plan to form bonds with them that would spread beyond the Japan experience and allow me to continue to communicate with them long after I return to the United States.

I believe the FMF is the perfect fit for where I am at in my educational career right now. I also feel that with my dedication, imagination, and love of education and travel; I am the perfect candidate for your program. The Fulbright Memorial Fund will help give me the tools to better reach my students and work towards helping them succeed. Inside me are strong forces, an enthusiasm and concern that drive me to work harder and learn more so I can begin to solve the problems that I find in the classroom. Your program would allow me to make connections to new ideas and situations, formulate personal ideas, test them, and share what I know. My philosophy of education is that people learn the best from experiences and sharing. As an educator in your program, I would not only learn, but also teach others by sharing what I know and have experienced. When we come together, we can only become stronger and better educators. I feel that learning never ends and the Fulbright Memorial Fund will give me additional tools to improve as an educator.