Friday, June 28, 2013

Please watch the video series Children Full of Life 1-5 using the following link, and respond to the following question.

What did you learn from the video in relation to our class readings and discussions? 


  1. Perhaps I am not the best person to start this discussion, seeing as I've only skimmed the text and have not been as plugged in to classroom discussions as I would like (the two-edged sword of auditing a course!).

    But I've just watched the video series, and was surprised at my flow of tears, starting around Video 3 in the series. Here is some of what I learned:

    The teacher did a beautiful job of modeling true authority and at the same time, humility (e.g., when he let the students challenge him about Yuto not being allowed on the rafting trip).

    I also loved his fluid approach to classroom learning and discussions. When kids were being bullied, for example, he made it clear the problem was going to be "talked out and stopped cold, right now." Amen! And he stayed true to his word. What a powerful lesson. Life is more important than standardized test scores -- go figure, huh?

    I felt humbled by the empathy and maturity of the kids. The way they finally expressed their sorrow, for example, for having bullied their classmates -- and the emotional clarity of their admissions -- was unlike anything I had seen. Likewise when Yuto said, "It should have been me crying all those tears."

    The teacher seemed to encourage benevolence as well as leadership in his students, as shown in the final class project.

    We in the States would do well to emulate some of the love and best practices we saw modeled in this video. That's another thing -- I noticed the teacher was strict, of course, but that he was also affectionate with most or all of the kids. I'm trying to think of how that would fly here in the States. I'm not opposing it. I just don't see a male teacher having that kind of latitude in an American elementary school.

    Wow! I'm a better person for having watched these. I didn't realize such young kids could be so emotionally well versed. Most adults I know don't have this clarity.


  2. I was really inspired by this video series. I liked how this teacher put such a strong an emphasis on good character in his classroom. He emphasized and made the students practice so many good character traits like: being happy, treating people, respect, reflecting, taking responsibility for wrong actions, and defending actions. In the US, I feel that many teachers don't make teaching and practicing good character traits a priority in the classroom because there is such a big pressure put on them to focus only stuff covered on the standard tests. However, I think it is such an concept important to teach and practice in the classroom to help the students grow and develop into good human beings. Perhaps, that is why there is more crime and acts of violence done in the United States then Japan. Maybe it stems to the fact that character development is not a priority in US schools. In class, you mentioned that the purpose of education in Japan is: completion of human character both socially and academically. This really stood out to me. I could definitely see this present in the classroom in the video series. In addition, I also saw the use of personal theories in the video. In the video, when the teacher told the student Yoko that he could not go on the rafting trip because he had been misbehaving in class, the other students constructed their own personal theories on why he should be able to go on the rafting trip and expressed them to the teacher. I really liked how the teacher allowed Yoko to go on the rafting trip after he took responsibility for his wrong actions. Ultimately because these students are being exposed to and practicing good character, I think it is making them mature faster then students in the United States.

  3. I really enjoyed watching this video series, because it demonstrated that a good teacher is one who creates a memorable bond based on respect and trust with the students. Each of those kids showed such vulnerability, depth, and maturity in how they expressed their emotions and experiences because they knew their teacher had only their best interests at heart.

    There's so much focus on increasing test scores and student performance, but where is the focus, at least from the general public's perspective, on the holistic education? The government places importance on test scores which creates a domino effect leading to schools, parents, then the community at large. But how will that mindset change and who will change it?

    I'll have to admit when the teacher pulled Yuto to the front of the class and began reprimanding him, I was getting really angry. How dare he purposely humiliate one student like that in front of the entire class? (Or was it seen as humiliation only from my sensitized "western" filter?) But then as the other students started speaking up in Yuto's defense then it became bigger issues of empathy and "stand up for what you to believe is morally wrong". When Yo spoke up and said that Yuto's consequence of being removed from the rafting experiment didn't match his behavior if reminded me of operant conditioning and the use of rewards or consequences. Students need to value the rewards and the impact of the consequence or they won't be effective. Yo's point was that the behavior didn't match the given consequence, which showed that he valued the need for a consequence, but it needed to be meaningful and match the behavior. In the end, the emotional discussion about whether Yuto should or shouldn't be able to participate was probably so much more effectual than actually missing out on the raft experiment. Yuto saw how much he meant to his classmates, and ultimately, how much his behavior was impacting their learning experience, too. Knowing that one's actions are negatively affecting someone else can be a stronger deterrent that just negatively impacting one's own productivity.

    The teacher's daily practices and and listening to the notebook entries from their fellow students had created such a bond and maturity. I wondered how that same incident would have played out in my own classroom. I'd like to think that students would stick up for one another, but I think realistically the western culture is to be independently-minded and guarded with our emotions. Students may react with empathy, but they wouldn't have such an emotional, heart-wrenching reaction if one team member wasn't permitted to participate.

  4. I enjoyed watching these videos equally as much as I did the first time. Students really have an understanding of trust, respect and friendship. These videos brought me to tears all over.

    I liked how Dr. Inoue said in class that education in Japan is a continuation of one’s self growth and completion of one’s character both socially and academically. This statement really stuck out to me. I began to think how this would look in the U.S. In the U.S. we have character education programs, but they really don’t seem to be as effective with the students as we have seen in these videos. But, truly would we be able to achieve this in the U.S? The Japanese culture is very different from western culture. In the U.S. there seems to be an epidemic, adults and students are more concerned about the letter grade or the test score then the actual material or what they learned.

    I would have to agree with Lauren who thought about her own classroom and felt that students would probably react with empathy, but they wouldn't have such an emotional, heart-wrenching reaction if one team member wasn't permitted to participate. And this made me think back to my classrooms and experiences in other classroom and I would have to agree. In the future I would love to create a similar bond amongst my students.

    In the end, my favorite part is when the class finishes the letter to the boys deceased father and they read it aloud. I can’t help but think about a student I had whos father passed away right before the school started. I wonder how different it would have been for him if he had already known his teacher from the previous year, and had more of a support system from his peers. It has reminded me of how important empathy is and this students peers did not have empathy towards his situation.

  5. Like Lexi, I also really enjoyed watching this video series a second time with a renewed perspective. The first time I watched this, I was unaware of the emphasis Japan’s education system places on developing human character. I had thought that this aspect of the video was unique to Toshiro Kanamori’s fourth-grade classroom. In the first episode of Children Full of Life, the narrator stated that the class goal is to “understand how to live a happy life.” While I’m confident that Kanamori is a unique and inspiring teacher, I think that this value likely permeates Japanese education, especially now knowing that human character development is part of the law in the country.

    In general, the video has really made me think about the meaning and purpose of education. I know that I want to teaching adult ELLs, so the I always thought the goal of my classroom would be something very specific: helping adults improve their English proficiency, so that they can achieve personal and professional goals. However, I like the idea of promoting character development in my classroom – even if everyone is already “grown up.” I think this corresponds to the concept of “emptiness of self.” According to Dr. Inoue (2012), “When you learn something, you need to be open to throwing away the current ‘you’ and arriving at a new one” (p. 69). As a teacher, I need to work to help my students overcome their egos, so that they can adapt to change and grow as individuals. Character development is certainly an important goal when working with children, but I think it is just as important when working with adults. While improving my future students’ English is certainly the primary goal of my work as an educator, I think that the idea of opening up my students to the “endless possibilities of self-transformation” (Inoue, 2012, p. 70) will also help to define my educational practice.

  6. Children Full of Life

    I watched the video series three times yesterday: twice by myself and once with my husband. I had to share with him my idea of a perfect teacher, one I strive to be, in Mr. Kanimori. The narrator described Mr. Kanimori as, “the best, kind, and tough” which is exactly what I saw in his and his students behavior. All I could think as the tears poured during each section is ‘this is what school should be like!’.
    I remember when I was in the fifth grade a girl’s father suddenly died. We found out about it from the teacher. The teacher didn’t give us many details and when the girl returned back to school, there was no mention of it. I remember the girl would quietly cry but no one was brave enough to ask her anything about it. We just went on with school. She was never given a moment to discuss it and it was many years after I would see her at school but never talk to her. She was “different” as the one girl in the video felt for so long.
    After watching the videos, I am almost angry at the way in which American schools are set up, the way we teach, and the things we don’t teach. Character and empathy, especially. We live in a world of 7 billion people and we don’t teach how to empathize, what it means to stand up for a friend even at the cost of confronting an authority figure, to negotiate, etc. Bullying is such a huge problem in our country but it appears to me it’s still swept under the rug. People are afraid to speak up. Mr. Kanimori did not allow the students to weasel their way out of responsibility. Why don’t we as Western teachers confront these issues in the same way? No one else is going to do it. A bully is more likely to stop if s/he is called out in front of their peers, not a trip to the principal.
    Lastly, as Mr. Kanimori stated, we only have one life and we need to enjoy it, make the most of it, and be happy. The students were really happy at school. As a teacher, I often struggle emotionally with the difficult situations my students face weather it be poverty, a missing parent, lack of love and attention at home, etc. What I can do is provide a safe and happy environment while they are in my care. A place where they have the courage to be themselves and express themselves. A place that no matter what else is going on in their lives, they are happy to be at school and love to learn.

  7. These videos were very touching and inspiring. I watched these videos right after reading chapter four in our text and reflecting on the question about promoting empathy development, which really deepened the impact of these videos.

    In relation to our class reading and discussions, I saw many great ideas of how to promote empathy in the classroom. I also learned the importance of being in touch with our omoi, from chapter one. The teacher in this fourth grade classroom, Toshiro Kanamori, had such a strong omoi to teach empathy to his students and from these videos it seemed that this was the overall goal of his two years with these students. This made me reflect on my omoi, and was a great example of how I can have a positive impact on all of my students in teaching them empathy, yet still be a respected teacher and leader in the classroom.

    I also related this video to the one we watched on day one. I was curious as to what occurred at lunch with the students as they were all in the same homeroom. From the video, it looked like during lunch the teacher would have the more social discussions of feelings. In watching this series I am getting more and more excited to learn from the Japanese classrooms we visit and applying some of these findings to my own classroom.