What makes Japanese schools tick? | VailDaily.com

What makes Japanese schools tick?

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyStone Creek Elementary school teacher Cindy Hester helps a student with a test Thursday in Avon. She is headed to Japan this summer to see how kids learn English, among other activities.

AVON ” Walking through the neon-lit streets of Tokyo, there’s a good chance a Japanese local will understand your plea for directions.

“Why is that?” asks Cindy Hester, a sixth grade teacher at Stone Creek Elementary, who wants to figure out the Japanese approach to teaching English as a second language.

Japanese students have at least six years of English in school, and four more if they go to college. It’s quite common for Japanese parents to start their children on English as early as age five.

Maybe they have some tricks that would help here in Eagle County, where teaching English is a daily challenge facing all teachers, she said.

Hester was one of 200 educators chosen for a three-week visit in June to Japan through the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program. She’ll visit schools, meet teachers, tour the ancient sites and come back, ideally, with a better understanding of what makes their culture tick.

“My plan is to take all this culture and bring it back to the states and into the classroom,” Hester said.

She’ll begin her visit in Tokyo with a orientation on Japanese life and culture, which she’s been researching herself before the trip.

Basic greetings like “domo arigato” (thank you) and “kon nichi wa” (good afternoon) should come in handy.

Sushi? Seafood? Shots of sake? No problem, she says.

Figuring out the dollar to yin conversation could be tricky. Travelers checks and credit cards would be wise.

It’s a good idea to bring a handkerchief. Using a Japanese toilet, which requires strong leg muscles and squatting, may be a venture she’ll write about in the blog she’ll be keeping.

She hopes to make a good impression dressing in smart-looking business suits. And she knows to carry a pair of house slippers in her purse, as it’s customary to take off your shoes in Japanese homes.

“They provide slippers, but they usually don’t fit Americans,” Hester said.

Hester, chosen from more than 1,700 applicants, and the other teachers will travel in groups of 20 to host cities where they will meet with Japanese teachers and students during visits to schools as well as a teacher’s college. They will tour cultural sites, local industries and stay for a week in a Japanese home.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the contrast between the modern and the ancient,” Hester said.


Konnichiwa. (kon-nee-chee-WAH)

How are you?

O-genki desu ka? (oh-GEN-kee dess-KAH?)

Fine, thank you.

Genki desu. (GEN-kee dess)

What is your name?

O-namae wa nan desu ka?(oh-NAH-mah-eh wah NAHN dess-KAH?)

My name is ____ .

Watashi no namae wa ____ desu. (wah-TAH-shee no nah-mah-eh wa ____ dess)

Nice to meet you.

Hajimemashite. (hah-jee-meh-MOSH-teh)

Please. (request)

Onegai shimasu. (oh-neh-gigh shee-moss)

Please. (offer)

Dozo (DOH-zo)

Thank you.

Domo arigato (doh-moh ah-ree-GAH-toh)

You’re welcome.

Do itashi mashite. (doh EE-tah-shee mosh-teh)


Hai. (HIGH)


Iie. (EE-eh)

Excuse me.

Sumimasen. (soo-mee-mah-sen)

I’m sorry.

Gomen-nasai. (goh-men-nah-sigh)

” From Japaneselifestyle.com

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.

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