Written by Ike Morgan: DEXTER - Reflecting upon his recent three-week visit to Japan, Dexter High School special education teacher Peter Devine says that it was a fantastic experience. “To stop my life and spend three weeks learning and absorbing the culture of Japan is something I am extremely grateful for”, he said.
Devine was one of 158 educators selected to participate in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program (JFMF). Participants were chosen from every state in the US and in every field of expertise: special education, math, science, history, language, arts, physical education, as well as principals and other administrators.
The JFMF Teacher Program is sponsored by the Government of Japan and provides American primary and secondary school teachers and administrators fully-funded short-term study tours of Japan. The program is designed to increase understanding between the people of Japan and the United States by having American educators experience Japanese culture and share their experiences with other Americans upon their return. It is believed that by spending time involved in the culture and education system in Japan participant educators will be better able to share that knowledge with their peers as well as the young people they work with.
For Devine, the three weeks began with a long jet flight that took him from Bangor to Philadelphia, Washington DC, San Francisco, and then over the Pacific Ocean to Tokyo.
The first five days were spent in Tokyo with all 158 participants as they went through orientation and attended several seminars and presentations before being split into smaller groups to be sent to different regions of the country.
Devine was part of the Takeo group which is in Saga Province in the south of Japan, near Nagasaki. It was in Takeo where Devine became involved in numerous activities as well as working and learning about the educational system of Japan.
One particularly interesting event was the Takeo Festival that featured archers on horseback competing in an ancient ritual of competition. There were also numerous temples and shrines that each had their own unique purpose and history.
Devine spent much of his days observing and working with many young students at the schools and university in Saga Province. One of the most notable aspects of the Japanese education system according to Devine was the fact that students were very disciplined and classes were very much teacher-directed, but when it was time for a break the kids were playful and boisterous.
Devine says that he was very impressed with the fact that all students took a collective responsibility in the upkeep and running of the school. All students had chores such as cleaning and cooking. Devine commented the students, parents, and teachers all seemed to have a real ownership in the education system.
Devine not only speaks with enthusiasm about his trip and how much he learned, but also has put in considerable work putting together an informational slide show to share his experiences with others. As part of the responsibilities of the program he is encouraged to share his knowledge and experiences in Japan with others.
Devine is extremely appreciative of all the efforts of friends, family, and the SAD 46 community for giving him the opportunity to engage in this wonderful experience.
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