Recently, I (Kie) attended a meeting which took place on Monday, May 8th, 2011 at Junten Junior and Senior High School with teachers involved in the English, International Education, and volunteer activities at Junten. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the implementation of RIJ Classrooms at Junten and receive feedback on general implementation strategies for other schools in the greater Tokyo area.
Initially, I discussed with the three teachers strategies for offering RIJ workshops both at Junten and Japanese schools. Nakahara-sensei suggested that a clear approach (kirikuchi) should be identified when we request implementation of RIJ Classrooms. Three possibilities emerged in our discussion: English education, International education, and Volunteer education. Together, we decided that it would be best to promote RIJ Classrooms as a hybrid English/International education approach, at least initially, not only because of the language and content of the workshops but also because we do not want to compete against volunteer activities students are already involved in. By the same token, given that students’ time outside the classroom is consumed by pre-existing extracurricular activities including clubs and cram schools, we decided that students can most effectively engage in RIJ Classrooms if it is offered as a one-time or series of workshops in existing English or International education classrooms.
Nakahara-sensei, Bernie-sensei and I agreed to invite RIJ Classrooms during the Autumn or Winter terms as part of the second-year Foreign Affairs and Oral Communications classes following their cultural perspectives curriculum in the Spring. This will consist of three or four 50-min workshops by Refugees International Japan interns on the topic of human rights or displacement, which will provide inspiration, education, and guidance for a group presentation at the end of the session. If this series of workshops are successful, Junten will consider a second implementation during the Winter term in which students can engage in a new topic. RIJ interns will arrange a visit to the Foreign Affairs and Oral Communications classes in the near future to assess students’ English capability and appropriate topics for this particular initiative.
On the topic of broader implementation, two types of Japanese junior and senior high schools were identified in the discussion: private schools and municipal schools. While relationships with private schools are advantageous since private school teachers tend to be committed to their schools longer and thus enabling longer term commitments to RIJ Classrooms (compared to the rapid turnover of teachers at municipal schools), it may be easier to implement workshops at municipal schools because it is a part of their curriculum to invite visitors from the public. This contrasts our preconceived notion that it would be more difficult to enter public schools.
Overall, the teachers at Junten were supportive of RIJ Classrooms and we received valuable feedback from them. Interestingly, the teachers pointed out that this could be an opportune moment for RIJ Classrooms because many foreigners have left Japan following the earthquake. We hope to continue to build our relationship with Junten through the party at they are hosting next month and identify volunteer opportunities for students to engage in more RIJ related opportunities.
Hereafter, we will be searching for more host schools/groups in the Tokyo area. While initially we may turn to schools that we have pre-existing relationships with, one major challenge that must be overcome is to establish new relationships with new groups in an effort to broaden RIJ’s base. Additionally, we hope to translate the English material into Japanese, so workshops can also be held at Japanese schools and community centers. In any case, for all workshops, we will work to identify and cater to the hosts’ needs, in return for their support.
Please feel free to leave comments or suggestions!