Wednesday, March 5, 2014


On a rainy Saturday, March 1, 2014 I went to a Japanese
school , Minato school, with Dr. Inoue in San Diego. The Minato school is a school for 400 students that is supported by the Japanese Ministry of Education. I was excited to join this trip and see the Japanese teaching pedagogy in action. I have learned about some of the Japanese pedagogy and style of teaching as I have a course with Dr. Noriyuki
Inoue at University of San Diego where I was exposed to the Japanese culture. I also have read a book called Preschool in Three Cultures. One of the cultures that the book has addressed is the Japanese culture. The book talks about a preschool in Japan, and I enjoyed learning about  the Japanese way of teaching and the principles that Japanese society wants to raise their children on.

When I went to the Japanese school I thought  that we might have to take off our shoes and rain coat. However, when I reached the school I did not have to. Actually, it was an American high school, Madison High School, that the Japanese association rented and used for their Saturday school.

Minato School teaches the Japanese national curriculum and tries to teach students Japanese culture. School is taught in a
similar way to how it would be taught in Japan. It is mainly aimed for the children of the Japanese people who are working for Japanese companies such as Panasonic.

The principal of the Minato school is from Japan. One of the things that stood out to me was the fact that the Japanese Ministry of Education changes the principal every three years. I can really connect to the idea of principal rotation.  From my experience, I see that it is so easy for a person to lose his culture when he is fully immersed in another one. Therefore, if the goal of the school is  to keep its culture, they need a principal with a clear Japanese identity.

I also liked how humble and hospitable the vice principal was. He explained the ideology of the school in Japanese and Dr. Inoue translated what he was saying to us in English. The vice principle emphasised that free time for students is at the core of the Japanese culture. He said that other than recess, students might have 10 minutes between the first and second period to go play outside before continuing their other class. He also told us what is typically done in Japan. He said students in Japan learn how to harvest rice, and that this rice is given to them for lunch. The school also provides lunch which includes, rice, yogurt and milk. After lunch students brush their teeth. Students also are the ones who clean their school. Furthermore, some of the Japanese schools are moving away from the morning assembly to more class meetings instead because they think this is more beneficial for the students. He also explained the school’s Omoi, which is that every student feels for other students’ needs. A large part of the Japanese culture is that they care, help and support each other.

After the presentation we went to observe a fourth grade math lesson. The lesson was about the cube and rectangular prism and their characteristics. The teacher first started by explaining the lesson. She used three dimensional shapes to help the students visualize the shapes and their characteristics. She then gave the students boxes with different shapes and told the students to sort them into two groups. Some students thought that the sorting was according to the box color, and then the teacher told them that it has to be according to their shapes. This activity was done in groups of three students. After that the teacher explained the number of sides and the corners of the two shapes. It was clear to me that the teacher was well prepared, had a strong relationship with the students, and that she was full of life.

During our visit we did what is typically done after a Japanese lesson, which is a lesson discussion and reflection. In the lesson discussion the principal and some of the teachers will meet and discuss the lesson that they have observed. We were part of this lesson plan and participated in that discussion. We asked the teacher some questions, and she fondly answered them. I asked the teacher about one student who was copying the answers from her friend. The teacher said that she is aware of that and said she put the lower student with the higher student on purpose. It is a Japanese principle that the individual help the other individual when needed. Another person asked the teacher why did she pre-wrote the lessons’ information and did not write it during the lesson itself. she explained that the reason is that she can not waste time writing on the board when she needs this time to explain, as she has to put two lessons in one lesson. The teacher also told us that she differentiates the lesson and modifies it according to the students’ needs. She also said that she was interested to see the way they were thinking when she assigned them to classify the boxes.

After visiting the Minato school, I can see that one of the challenges that foreign schools face is the different levels of the students. Another thing that  is common between the Japanese School and the Arabic school is that students tend to talk to each other in English. Even though if they are from a Japanese or Arabic origin, the huge exposure to English makes it more accessible to those children.

Going to the Minato school not only made me aware of what the Japanese education looks like, but it actually depended my believe that what we teach in schools and how we teach our offsprings determines the characteristics of the next generation. Every culture has its own way of teaching and emphasises certain things that are at the root of that culture.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

preschool in three cultures

In one of my courses I had to read a study and analyze the research question and method. I choose to read preschool in three cultures Japan, China and U.S.
In the research book written by Joseph J. Tobin, David Y. H. Wu, Dana H. Davidson, called Preschool in Three Cultures a comparative study is done to compare preschools in three cultures, China, Japan, and America. The researchers went to each country, choose a school and started to videotape a typical school day. They then edited the videos and showed the edited videos to the the school where the videos were taken, educators who are not in the  school but in the same country. Researchers showed the twenty minute videos to educators from other countries. Doing this, researchers made the study intercultural rather than cross-cultural. The purpose of this method is to gain more insight of the outsiders’ culture through their comments and feedback about the other two cultures videos.

A lot of interesting finding were found from this study. And here is some findings from each country:

Japanese nuclear family
Japan:  Movement to the cities and the lack of peer interactions,  created a fear of that next generation would miss the opportunity to learn how to be part of  a group and learn morals and accepted actions in a society. Therefore, preschools in Japan are mainly structured on the Japanese goal to rear a “True Japanese”. Rearing a true Japanese is by showing the fun and enjoyment of joining a group rather than forcing children to be part of the group.

One child per family
China: Since families tend to have only one child, due to the “One child per family” law; parents and grandparents are seen as spoiling the child, making the child selfish. Therefore, the goal of preschool is to “correct” the mistakes of the family in rearing the child, and educate the child to be a good citizen.  In addition, the government places emphasis on the schools to make sure that this child is healthy, educated, and well raised.

U.S: After the Vietnam, Women’s Liberation Movement, fifty percent divorce rate; American family’s construction was changed. The increase of families with dual-careers or single mothers resulted with a need in the need for extended child-care. Preschools therefore were seen as a supportive institution for the family. The pre school's goal is to build self reliance, free choice, and individuality in a child through a controlled environment.

I have found that all of the three countries had the same end result they want their preschoolers to reach which is to learn how to have an effective roll in a group. Nevertheless each country has its unique way to teach preschoolers how to act in a group. The methods each preschool used is so much affected by each culture norm and believe.

Click her for: the full research analyses

Click her for: the research presentation

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cooking food from my culture

Making Zaatar

I have volunteered to be a mystery reader in the school of my two kids, The Children’s school. I have signed up to read for the second graders a story on Friday Dec 13, 2014. The story introduces to students a middle eastern powder, Zaatar. The story began by telling the students about how does a boy likes Zaatar and ate it always. I followed reading the story by mixing Zaatar powder with olive oil and spreading it on a ready pita bread. I then heated the pita bread and the students ate it.
It was a nice experience, the students were happy and willing to taste it and some students cared to eat another piece. I was also happy to students reactions and conversation while cooking. When I placed the pita on the cooking sheet, they imagined it as a mickey mouse face and they started commenting, one of the comments was that they do not like mickey mouse song. Another interesting thing to see, is when I dropped oil on the table accidently. I was busy making Zaatar and would clean it latter. But it was amazing that one student felt responsible and brought tissue and cleaned the table.
This experience also made me know other people in the school. When one of the parents heard that I made Zaatar, she told me that her husband love Za’tar but he is not finding it now baked on a dough. I then showed her the ready pita I brought and told her that this kind of pita has the same taste of the dough she is talking about. I also had an extra box of Zaatar so I gave it to her.
I believe that it is important that students know about other cultures and know about their lives. Sharing with students other culture will raise their cultural awareness and make them respect people who speak, live and even eat things that are different from their own.

showing the ingredients

adding honey to students who want to have it on their Zaatar

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving volunteering experience

Michelle, a parent of a student who was in the same school as my children (The Children’s school) was the one who introduced me to the service opportunity. In addition to my two children attending this school, I also spend time there doing my practicum. One day while I was observing the 8th grade class for my practicum, Michelle came into the class and introduced the students to a volunteering event that was to be held at their school Sunday morning Nov, 24 at 9:30 am. Although I have experienced several volunteering activities in Kuwait I have not been able to volunteer in San Diego because it is hard to manage, school, family, and am not sure of places to do charity work. Therefore, I was excited to be part of an event in a place that I am familiar with.

One Nov, 24th, I took my two children Yousif and Zaina with me to The Children’s School. It was challenging to have to get up on a day that I would normally be relaxing or studying on. I went to the school and when I got there, there was about 30 adults working like bees. There was boxes lined in rows on the ground and stocks of food that are needed to be put in each box. For example, the coordinator will say its time for a stuffing and you will see that people will grab stuffing and put stuffing in each box. After the boxes were filled with food, we closed them and the people who were distributing them loaded them to their cars. They were to be delivered near the Mexican border.

It was a nice experience especially for my little ones. I thought it was a good time to teach them the meaning of giving and volunteering. To be honest, they did not help much and went to play with a boy they knew, but I tried to make each one of them to do one task. For example, I told Yousif to distribute bread and Zaina to close the boxes. They were happy to do those tasks. They also volunteered in their own way; they took care of a two year old boy. I was surprised when I told them to come to take a photo with the volunteering team they told me that they could not because they were babysitting that boy. I liked how they felt responsible for this boy and for the task assigned to them.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Indian visitor

In the children's school in La Jolla, the seventh grade are studying cultures. One of the cultures they are studying is India. 
An Indian man who was born in India and moved to the California came to share with the students his Indian culture.

He started by telling the students the geographic of India and its different parts. He also talked about the different religions in india. Hindu, Muslims, Christian and Buddhists are people who are living in India. The government gives holidays to each special festival of each religion. For example, all the country will get a holiday in the Muslims festival Eid.

Due to this diverse society and different cultures and believes in India, people are more aware of cultures that are different from their culture. This diversity made them more able to assimilate with others and accept other people.

Marriage in India is arranged, which mean that families would give the name of their son or daughter that are in the marriage age to an older person in the society. This person would try to match those people depending on their characteristics. Then the families with the boy and girl will meet and those boy and girl will see if they are a good fit for each other.

The food in India is diverse. It depends one the region of the people and their believes. For example, Hindus are vegetarian and Muslims eat a dish called Berianey. South regions eat rice and spicy food. The north region eats wheat and mild food. The people in the middle do get both rice and wheat.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Minni lesson

This is a link to a mini lesson that I taught to the 7th grade in my practicum placement.
It is about Volunteering and I have gave examples of Kuwaiti volunteers.

My practicum's journey # 4 "writing"

There are several ways that writing happens at The Children’s School. It takes place often, but in different forms. For example, they might write a long formal essay, a topic in their journal, an answer to a grammar question, etc. In this response I will visit these forms of writing in depth and other aspects related to writing in class.

The teacher uses the whiteboard for his mini lessons where he will write, for example, a sentence and ask the students to correct it on the board. I think that this is a good way to refresh previous grammar skills that the students knew before. The teacher also writes a sentence from a student's essay and asked the students to reconstruct it. The teacher also writes the reading options that the students have to choose from. Moreover, he will uses the board to write the responsibilities of the students when they have special events, for example, when organizing the pizza social event

In the 8th grade, students are writing a persuasive essay. I like the process in which the students are going through to write their essays and the time given to them to complete that task. The students are given about four days to write these essays. The students can work on this assignment at home and it has to be typed. They can use the internet to support their point of view and thoughts. The teacher encourages them to do so without plagiarising or copying others work. He made it clear at the begining that he will know if anyone borrowed others ideas. This is because he knows their style of writing and because he has an application that will show him where a text exists if you type five words into the application. I think that by through this writing process the students are being prepared to what we, as graduate students, are experiencing. After the students write their essays, they will switch their papers with another student so the student will edit the paper and give feedback to improve their peer’s essay. After the students submit the papers, the teacher grades them and gives them back to the students with his comments and feedback. He then asks the students if they can do another draft that would improve their grades. The teacher also told the students that they have to be careful to whom they choose as their editor. This way of collaborative writing embraces how professional writers write and publish their work.

Another piece of writing is writing a personal statement. Since that the students in the 8th grade are moving to high school, the teacher wants to teach them how to write a personal statement and be ready to this requirement in some schools. Before asking the students to write the teacher gave the students a handout with good and bad personal statements. They discussed the good and bad characteristics in those personal statements. Then he asked them to write one.

Another type of writing is writing vocabulary flash cards of the words they are being tested in. The teacher told the students to begin writing few words everyday at home. HE also gave them time to write the words for those who did not finish and for the ones who finished they were practicing their words.

Students also write in their journals that they will write in from time to time. For example, one time the teacher asked the students to write a piece of  advice that they value. He suggested that if the advice is so personal that they write it in a third person perspective.

The students that I am focusing on differ in their writing needs, some has punctuation issues, some are redundant, some have organization problems and some does not like to be limited by a prompt. Overall, I think that they are close to the writing expectation. For example M got in his writing score was 4 out of five, which  think is acceptable.

To help students in writing I suggest to to pair students that has less writing ability with experienced students to help them correct their mistakes and know the writing process. I also think that students might discuss what they want to write and talk about t it before writing.