Passionate learning 青い目の熱血授業


In our last article, we introduced ourselves, Gary and Sachiyo Vierheller, and we looked at Japan's educational system with an emphasis on the national and regional administrators/bureaucrats that oversee the massive mission of educating the youth of Japan. In this article we would like to share with you our experiences in working with the school administrators, the principals and vice principals on whose shoulders fall the real responsibility of meeting the tremendous responsibility of seeing that their teachers have the knowledge, tools, skills and abilities to do their job, and of assuring their students of their school receive a quality education.

We were quite shocked from the very beginning with the attitude and approach of each principal and his/her team we have worked with from schools all over Japan. We expected rigid, stern, conservative people hesitant to even consider, much less support and enact any kind of new ideas or changes. We were so wrong. Each principal usually begins by being wisely cautious, while willing to hear what we had to say on our concept of our positions and our methods and procedures. Usually the principal gently asks questions as to our purpose(s) in being involved with the Super Science High School Project (SSH) and what we hope to accomplish. We tell him/her of our mission to create a positive, safe learning environment in which questions and guesses are welcomed, encouraged, and almost demanded, and where student mistakes are natural and heralded as efforts to better oneself that present a chance for us to coach, and therefore, help the students improve. Every principal we have met deeply desired the students to experience the joy of learning. Every principal immediately was interested in how we would go about creating such a classroom.

In fact, the great majority of principals have not only come to observe our seminars, they have actually participated. This had a multitude of effects -- on the other teachers that saw their" boss" be willing to try something new, in front of students, and therefore lead by example; on students, who up to this time saw their principal usually as some unapproachable figure hidden away in the offices, now see their principal in a new light, much more human (!) who is willing to do what Gary and Sachiyo are asking of them; and finally on Sachiyo and me with their support of what we are dedicated to do. The end result is a greater appreciation for the principal as a caring human being willing to make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and LIVE the educational experience with all of us. Invariably, respect for that principal skyrockets as the students and teachers pass the word.

Following each seminar we meet with as many of the participating teachers as possible along with the principal and the administrative team. We ask them, "What did you like about our seminar? What was effective? Where can we make improvements? How can we make our seminars better?" Because of the principal's lead in answering these questions thereby encouraging the teachers to offer their ideas, our seminars have continued to evolve and develop. We also announce that we will share with all other SSH schools what we learned and that we are honored to have them become part of this network of educators so devoted to bettering the learning process for students.

So, what does this mean? It means that principals we've met are engaged and involved. They are actively seeking ideas, methods, procedures, and plans that can be applied in the classroom to help teachers deliver quality lessons. And we have been struck with how passionately they love teaching, care about their teachers, and treasure their students. We are honored to be associated with such professionals.