Brave Words


If I had a dime for everytime…

Japanese people often seem very repressed. Generally there is a feeling that foreigners live such wild, free, and enviable lives. Normally people just suffer silently while hoping to do something, but on a number of occasions I have encountered people willing to make bold suggestions. Every time I allow myself to get excited, regardless of the track record. Yes, the ideas rarely bear fruit.

Public schools seem particularly adept at this kind of gratification free gratification. “You should go swimming with the kids; they’d love it!”, is a phrase I’ve heard often, but is generally followed by back-pedaling when I start asking questions about which class, which day, what gear to bring, etc. Also, once I’m at a school and they know I don’t have my gear, they really toss the suggestions about. Today they even recommended I strip down to my undies and dive into the water. I was tempted to call their bluff, but don’t want to end up in the newspaper.

Other recommendations have been:

  • go on the field trip
  • go on the school overnight trip
  • go to the campground
  • participate in the ‘suspicious character’ safety drill
  • allow someone to travel to America with me

It is always a joy when I find staff that wants to make the recommendations and is willing to let me follow them through. Many times, the reason for not following through is a feeling that it would trouble me too much, which is why most people won’t even toss the ideas out there.

My mind drifted off while writing this because I realized how many fun times I’ve had when we run with the ideas:

  • cooking class with 5th graders
  • ancient card game with 300 junior high students
  • free talking with 4th graders to see how much they would try to learn in a non-standard teaching environment
  • planting rice
  • reading books to the students during break time

Here’s hoping for more brave follow through on the brave words.


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5 Responses to “Brave Words”

  1. Keven Says:

    The trick with the swimming is to wear swim tights to school. They are about as comfortable as boxer briefs. Then, when they suggest you dive in, you can strip off you clothes and jump in before they can react! Be sure to take a picture of their expressions!

  2. びっくり Says:

    That would be hilarious!

  3. verbivore Says:

    I struggled with this when I was teaching in Japan, especially because I can be quite shy – sometimes it felt like being placed in the guinea pig role a lot – “hey, you do this, because I’m just not that silly/crazy/uninhibited etc” – but at the same time, and as you note, some suggestions translate into wonderful teaching opportunities for the students. It was hard to balance how often I was willing to step into that role.
    On a side note, I would have loved to do a cooking class!

  4. titus2woman Says:

    I know it’s very different, but reading this reminded me of Rafe Esquith and the Hobartan Shakespearans. I LOVE HIS BOOKS! He works in an inner city school where English is the second language of almost all the students. Their test scores were WAY low, and with his methods his classes test in the top now! Sadly, his methods are always in question, and he often has to fight the school system he works for~even though what he’s doing is working. I don’t get it…. (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  5. びっくり Says:

    Brief update: I brought my swim gear and called their bluff at a school where I had no classes scheduled. The principal immediately asked, “Are you sure you have time for that?”, in a very concerned tone. I will be leading a seminar for them at the end of the month, so I better be prepared.

    Anyhow, I spent two periods in the pool and got a little sunburned. Curse my pale white skin.

    Verbivore – I have trouble viewing you as shy, but I wouldn’t guess you were crazy or silly.

    Titus2 – good to see you online. Certainly anyone outside of core establishment wanting to try new educational methods will inevitably face challenges; particularly when they are successful.

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