Once again it has been a little while since I wrote anything on this blog page. Last time I missed a couple of months as there hadn’t been much going on due to so many cancellations. This time though, I have been a bit busy to spare the hour or so that is needed to put my thoughts down!
Although the covid situation doesn’t appear to be improving any time soon, the Japanese government are appealing for people to follow a policy of living in symbiosis with the virus. On that basis, it has been great to be able to get back into the schools again during the 1st semester, albeit with lots of precautions. I visited all the various elementary schools once or twice each to help out in the English lessons, bringing along special guest teachers each time, to let the students meet new people from far flung places (as well as boring old me again!). The guests hailed from all corners of the world; places such as Costa Rica, Uzbekistan, Georgia (the country) and Italy. I’m sure the students really enjoyed meeting them, and I know that the guest teachers all had a good time introducing their countries and communicating with the kids.
As well as the elementary visits, we were also requested to visit a junior high school to speak in the 2nd grade human rights class. For this visit, the students were to separate into 6 different groups, and I recruited a speaker for each group who would be able to join a lesson for 45 minutes to present and answer the students’ questions. I’m not sure it was fully appreciated how difficult it is to find 6 fluent Japanese-speaking foreign residents who live locally and are available on a weekday morning…but I was happy with the fantastic people who came to help me on that day either way!
That visit was a rare occasion where I was busy with coordinating with the school and the volunteers, and didn’t directly present myself. It was a rare chance to go from room to room and listen to the speakers’ presentations. I gained a lot from them; they all had very interesting points to make about discrimination against foreign people in both Japan as well as in their home countries. One Costa Rican speaker talked about perceived favoritism towards white people above black people among in Japan, while a Brazilian presenter discussed the historical connections between Brazil and Japan, and related discrimination which has been transmitted through the years (continuing to this day).
I found it fascinating to hear what all the speakers had to say, and I’m sure it was a fulfilling experience for the children. It’s a shame that 2nd grade students are naturally so reticent to participate, and that the teachers will allow them to be so (even allowing some students to sleep on their desks!), but—albeit in a very passive way—the students will have gained a lot from the lesson.