Manassas museums 10/25/00



His Own Words


by Tiffany Schwab


Jim Amaral is a fifth-grade teacher at Bennett Elementary School and

was a participant in the Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program to Japan

in November.


How I found out about the program was an announcement was sent to me

from the local Prince William Education Association.

I saw it and I said, “Well it looks interesting. It looks like

something I had not done before to find out about another culture.”

I thought this was a perfect way to do that. So I applied for a position

and was very happy to find out I was awarded a spot in the program.

We were there for three weeks.

Our 200 people split up into 10 groups to go to 10 different cities

in Japan. And there we spent a week and a half learning about the people

in business and education for each section of Japan that we were in. I was

in the Miyazaki group.

We found out about the business and the government and the schools within

Hyuga city in the Miyazaki prefecture.

The impression I came away with the schools is it made me very pleased

with American schools.

We’re more focused on individual needs and learning. We have a structure

like they do, but we also look more for the individual needs.

We have a lot more resources that the children could use for learning,

such as computers in the classroom, the use of calculators, the use of instructional

aids such as overhead projectors. They have them, but they seem not to use


It was also my impression that the Japanese are very proud of their

schools. They are pleased with what their children learn and how they learn

and what the children are capable of doing when they leave the school.

I saw things that they did that were very good that we can use in our


One of the things I thought was very good was part of their orientation

for students transferring from the elementary school to the junior high


What they had several months before that transition took place was a

day long festival of games and activities where students from the different

elementary schools get together and interact with each other and learn about

each other and make some friendships before they go to the school.

That is one idea I have mentioned that I think is a very excellent thing

we could do.

Traditional Japanese theater is also very simple and easily staged.

My students will be doing a kabuki play.

They’re also learning some traditional Japanese folk tales. We learn

folk tales in fifth grade anyway. And then they’re going to be presenting

some Japanese folk tales to some of the lower grade students.

One of the things that I found that made this trip special is the fact

that the program is set up by the Japanese government and they got volunteers

to let us stay in Japanese homes for a weekend. So we got to interact with

the people directly, to go into the schools and observe throughout the day,

to get places that we normally would not be able to get into if we arranged

the trip ourselves.

This allowed us to see more of the culture and more of the people and

interact with them. I think this made the trip even more valuable. I’d love

to do this with other countries, too, the same type of arrangement.

I think the more we find out about cultures and that we find out how

they’re different, I think we end up finding more about how we’re the same.

Throughout the trip, several times teachers over in Japan asked me,

“Well, how are the Japanese children compared to the American children?

Which ones mature faster, which ones learn faster, which ones behave better?”

And I was asked that by American teachers when I came back. My discovery

was, they’re the same, all over the world.

It depends on the individual child as to how fast they mature, learn

and grow. There’s not a difference in other cultures and I was happy to

see that.

And I think that’s what teachers can get from that, to learn to appreciate

better – and our students, too, to learn to appreciate the customs of others

better and to understand them better. To understand how we’re alike and

how we’re different. More so how we’re alike, I think.



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