Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Learning from others

I recently had the good fortune to participate in an educational field trip to Japan. While in Japan I visited several schools. At one school I took this picture. What do you think is going on?

The picture was taken at Hunan Junior High School. These students are not being punished. They are, in fact, performing one of their daily tasks. Every day every student in Hunan Junior High School is assigned a job. It's part of their commitment to the school.

What did I learn on my visit to Japan? I learned that the Japanese have figured out how to create a sense of community in their schools.

One of the ways they do this is by assigning jobs to students. Some clean the floors - like these students. Others serve lunch. Others sweep. Others empty trash.

Every one does something.

It surprised me. It was routine to the educators with whom I was visiting.

This picture represents to me something that we have misplaced.

Creating a community requires developing a commitment to the cause and to each other. Hunan Junior High helps to create this commitment to the cause and to each other by assigning jobs to students. The students quickly learn that other people are counting on them. These students learn that what they do is important. Without them the school would not function as effectively as it should or could.

In our schools we often punish students by making them clean. We make taking care of the school something negative. Custodians do that we say. It's not my job we say. As a result our lunch rooms the floors are often littered with debris at the close of lunch. The attitude seems to be that it is someone else's job to keep my school clean. 

That is definitely not the attitude at Hunan Junior School. 

In the schools I visited during my stay in Japan I was impressed over and over again with how the Japanese took time to build a community. This picture provides just one small example of how that was done.   

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