Monday, July 24, 2006

Where next?

Since I retuned from Japan I have had a few thoughts about the trip (see earlier post "A Summary"). Most importantly lately is the thought of "Genchi Genbutsu" which means essentially to go and see. There is a lot in the world and it is not as scary as I would think. I guess the strongest thing that I left thinking is, where next? If the world is calling me to see it, how and where do I go? I want to go out and see. I want Kaizen my world. I want to take my students to different levels and places. I want my family to see what the world is made of. The people, the places and the sounds of Japan are the things that will cause the most reflection in my world.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

One Wise Man

At the beginning of Chapter 10 in The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman includes a quote from Albert Einstein:
Out of clutter, find simplicity.
From discord, find harmony.
In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.

I was thinking about this and my classroom for the next year. As I embark on a new chapter of my career I think that there will be a lot of discord and difficulty. How I look at these items will determine how my attitude changes each day. As a team we are going to go ahead and try to find out one to one notebook instruction in a public school. There is little that I have seen on how to do this effectively in a Chemistry classroom. I know that there are ways to do this but I am afraid that I will fall back on the ways that have worked in the past. Time is the biggest struggle when trying to implement this type of change in a classroom.

What will my classroom look like? How will the students respond? How will I adapt and respond? What will the next few years look like? Is this the next level for instruction in my classes?

I do think that stretching teachers, outside of their comfort zones, is what will pushthe students to new levels. For this outlook, I am excited to be a part of this reform in schooling and proud to be a part of it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Baseball and Umbrellas?

While in Tokyo I and some of my new friends enjoyed a baseball game. It sure was fun and the view was amazing. We watched a game between the Yakult Swallows and the Chunichi Dragons. I had noodles for dinner and made a friend that collected WWII airplanes (two were given to me as gifts!). Note: Two photos (The one of me giving the gift and the shot of the Jumbo-Tron with us on it) are from another Toyota International Teacher Deb Cole. You can find her blog here.

Toyota, Greenspan and a Teacher

So, let me tell you about an exchange that I had in Torrance, California. I was having dinner at the Toyota Motor Sales, USA offices and struck up a conversation with James E. Lentz (Group Vice President & General Manger, Toyota Division) while on the Toyota International Teacher Program. Why was this interesting? Well, Mr. Lentz was saying that at lunch the day before, Alan Greenspan...

Wait did he say Alan Greenspan?
I have never been involved in a conversation like this before!
Back to the story.

Anyway, Mr. Lentz asked Mr. Greenspan "What keeps you awake at night now that you are retired?" The response is what I found interesting.

Mr. Grenspan's response was that he worries about the kids in school who are not being built into thinkers. They are do'ers who can fill rolls where there is little creative/independant thought taking place. Students need to be working in the math, science and engineering fields. The US needs people to fill rolls that are going to open soon.

After hearing about this conversation I am again left wondering if we are doing the best that we can to get studnets interested in the fields like math and science or are we turning them off? I cannot wait to try some of the new things that are coming to our school this year. I hope that this is a question that we as a group of teachers continue to ask. These are not the kind of conversations that teachers find themselves in all the time and I think that there was a lot of value in being a part of it. What will the flat world have in-store for my kids?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Torrance and Toyota

For the actual press release about the Toyota International Teacher Program click here.

Let me tell you a little about june 23rd and 24th.

I was taken awayby United airlines to LAX from DIA for the start of an adventure that I was greatly looking forward to. There were four other teachers from the state of Colorado on our flight (Kelly from Greeley, Saralynn from Joes, TJ from Denver and me). How did we find each other if we had no met before the trip you might ask......

Well, the Toyota group that was "taking care" of us had provided a handy rolling carry-on that had the groups logo on the outside. We talked briefly about ourselves and then boarded the flight to LAX. While on the flight, I shared for the first of many times the excitement that I had about the trip. The man sitting next to me was the lucky soul that was able to hear the explanation about the trip and all. We had a great talk and what a small world it was already since we had some common friends.

Once at LAX with my bags in tow, alongside my new friends, I started to see that this was no ordinary trip for a teacher. There was a young man holding a sign for "Toyota International Teachers." He took all of our bags and led us outside to a waiting Limo! Then the short trip to the hotel in
Redondo Beach, California. I had never been to this area of LA and was excited to walk around. However, I felt a little odd being dressed in what the group would come to call "Business Casual Attire"since I was on the beach.

We had a short getting to know you session and then it was on to the first of our many bus rides over the next two weeks.
We went to Toyota USA offices in Torrance, California. These are some amazing buildings. There is even a "green" building that is environmentally friendly. We were treated like stars. There was food, drink and entertainment. We talked with some very important people at Toyota USA and became even more excited about the trip.

My roommate was a newly married teacher (Jeremy from Indiana) and he was just as excited as I was about going to see Japan.

We had breakfast in the hotel and listened to a few speakers. One of the speakers was from Toyota University (Michiko Powell) and she presented some of the basic do's and don'ts for travel to Japan.

What a couple of days! I have never as a teacher been treated this nicely. What would the world be like if teachers were treated like this all of the time in every country?

Camera Help

Hey, I just purchased a Canon S3IS digital camera. Is there anyone who might see this post that can help me. I would like to post some pictures to this blog but I am not sure how to decrease the size once the photo is on the computer. I do not want to use too high of a resolution when posting since I am on a dial-up commection. I have Microsoft Picture-It on my home computer but I am not sure what to do.

Any help would be good.

Japan Itinerary - A Summary

So, before I start talking about how the "Toyota International Teacher Program" to Japan changed the way that I think about the world, let me tell you a little about what we did.

The trip started on the 23rd of June for me as I left DIA (Denver International Airport) and headed west to LAX (Los Angeles International Airplort). There were three other teachers from Colorado and we were all on the same flight to LAX. We had never met before and had no idea of what were going to experience in Japan.

There was an evening orientation at Toyota Headquarters in Torrance California.

June 24th - Orientation/Cross-cultural speaker and departure for Narita Airport in Tokyo.

June 25th - Arrival in Tokyo and a free evening.

June 26th - Toyko Orientation, presentation by an environmental speaker for Toyota, a Kabuki performance and a free evening.

June 27th - Visited Soka University and met with students and a professor, visited a high school and talked with teachers and students, a baseball game in Tokyo and a free evening.

June 28th - Presentation at Roppongi Hills on architecture, environment and industry. We visited Meiji Shrine and the US Embassy. That evening we traveled to Nagoya by the shinkansen (bullet train).

June 29th - Visited Toyota Commemorative Museum, TMC Showroom and viewed the production line for the Camry and Prius. We also had an introduction to the Toyota Production System (TPS). That evening we traveled to Kyoto by the bullet train.

June 30th - Met Mr. Alex Kerr who gave an overview of all the stuff in Kyoto and an introduction to his program called Origin Arts Program. We were allowed to explore Kyoto for the last half of the day on our own.

July 1st - We were at the Origin Program today where we learned about Calligraphy, Waraku, Tea Ceremony and Noh Drama.

July 2nd - We departed for Nagasaki and then to the island of Hirado. We traveled to the hotel on Hirado, enjoyed an onsen and looked around the town. Another group of teachers went to another island for a stay there.

July 3rd - We took a tour of the town and castle, visited Hirado Elementary School and visited with the students, and that night we had an overnight stay with a family on the island.

July 4th - We traveled back to Nagasaki and had a program debriefing at the Art Museum. We were given time at the Peace Museum and Memorial Park. That night we had a farewell party.

July 5th - We traveled from Fukuoka Airport to Kansai to LAX to DIA.

July 7th - Jet-lag and head fog catch up with me.

July 8th - Finally have some clear thoughts and can write stuff on paper.

Well, there it is. The whirlwind tour of the country of Japan. Someone asked if I would go back. My answer was a strong "YES". I will put some detailed entries from the trip up over the next couple of days.


I just cannot wait to see what the rest of the summer months have to offer.

Let see, since football camp at the end of the school year, I have:

1) Worked on the house
2)Rode my bike around Metro Denver
3) Traveled to Japan (more on this later)
4) Planned for our second daughter
5) Traveled to the mountains
6) Played with my daugter Megan
7) Read some books
8) Worked on some AP Chemistry problems (which is a new prep for me in the fall)
9) Stressed about making my classroom more student centered
10) Played around with my iPod
11) Worked in my yards
12) Attended some very important birthday parties (Megan turned two)
13) Sold part of my childhood toys on eBay
14) Read some blogs/made some comments
15) Met with some teachers at school to determine laptop computer use policies
16) Rewrote my classroom policies
17)Watched "The Tour"
18) I am sure that I am missing some stuff but this is what my brain would allow right now.

I am not sure but this sounds like a lot and I know that other teachers are doing the same kind of things. There are people out there who think that summer is just a nice time off for teachers. I am sure that there are those teachers out there who do little thinking on their practice in the classroom. I am not having one of those summers. This is not a post that says how good I am or how much I am doing to be better but one to just remind myself that there is constant work that needs to be done. The work is not only in the classroom setting but for me also.

Japan was amazing and the next few posts that I make will be about that.

Has anyone been watching the Tour de France? Did you see the Alpe d' Huez stage? This has been an amazing Tour and the more I watch the more I think about education. If you do not know, a lot of the riders favored in the Tour were removed before the start. What this did was it left the other riders with a very "open" ride where there was no one favored rider but everyone had an equal chance. I thought about this a lot and what if our schools were places where all of the students had an equal chance. One where the playing field was level. What would that look like?