Thoughts, links & ideas from the 2008 National Teacher of the Year

Each time I've taken off in a plane since May (which is a lot), I've been writing in my journal, then adding these journal entries on this blog.

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(Note: the blue posted dates are actually the dates I wrote the journal entries, not when I posted them online.)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Japan II

Tokyo, Japan


Life is beautiful.


Japan is a beautiful and fascinating country, but the true beauty is in its people.  Although publicly reserved, most of them tend to open up a bit in private.  After spending a bit of time together, and after a bit of sake, they’re downright hilarious.  Or should I say “hirarious”?


The Japanese people and culture are very complex, perhaps especially to the Western mind.  Japan is a land of paradoxes, and therefore I find it fascinating.


I was there as an honored guest of the RealScience foundation, an NPO working to help bring more experience-based science into public schools.  In just one year, they have made great strides and valuable partnerships.  After my visit last November, they asked me to return to Japan to teach a class and present at a symposium.  I was truly their honored guest, and was overwhelmed with their generosity, service and friendship.


I got to spend more time with many of the friends and colleagues that I met in November, including Nakajima sensei, Endo, Keiko, Kazu, professor Matsuda, and a dozen more.  I was introduced and made friends with many new people, too, including students, teachers, principals, professors, the most famous mathematician in Japan, the CEO of Toshiba, the mayor of Tokai City, and many people from the ministry of education.  We were even served in a traditional tea ceremony by a wrinkly little woman who couldn’t have been over 4 feet tall (yes, I'm sitting in this photograph.)  She was spunky and inspiring!  But each of these people showed each other and me the utmost in honor and respect.  I like that.  And it brought out the same attitude in me.


From the media coverage of my classes, they say I am now “famous in Japan.”  I was also awarded the Toshiba Innovation in Teaching award, a surprise to me on Saturday.  But much more than these things, I will cherish the people I have met, the meals we shared together, and the ideas we have exchanged.


I wish every person could experience the same level of kindness and respect I have been lavished with the past few days.  I’ve learned a tremendous amount about human nature, and am a better person because of it.


[For a video review of my November trip, and my top 40 insights into the Japanese culture (well, sort of) check here.  You won't be disappointed.  Well, unless you're from Japan.]



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