Mari Stair in Japan with market vendor
Mari Stair goes shopping in Japan.

Mari Stair, who is finishing her doctoral degree in WSU’s language and literacy program, is teaching in Japan this year thanks to the Nishinomiya-WSU College of Education Partnership. Mari is so enjoying the experience that she has asked for, and received, approval to stay on a second year.  She shares her excitement in the following letter.

Working as an assistant language teacher in Nishinomiya, Japan, is an amazing experience!  The schools are filled with considerate students and energetic teachers.

There is a strong focus on physical fitness, teamwork, precision maneuvers — and it shows.  School sports days are impressive.  This year, a city-wide sports day event was reinstated after a three-year renovation of historic Koshien Stadium. It was mesmerizing to watch twenty junior high schools perform in unison.

Each junior high school also has a singing contest, an all-day event held in one of several beautiful civic performance halls. I was astounded by the contest I attended.  Each class had one or two student pianists for accompaniment, while student conductors kept the tempo for each classroom’s choir.  Between performances, one class asked me to listen while they rehearsed out in the hall. The sound of their voices brought tears to my eyes, it was so pretty.

Japanese students watch video about Martin Luther King
Shigemi Kida, lead English teacher at Hamakoshien Junior High School, integrates Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech into a lesson.

You must imagine what it would be like for American middle-school teachers if they each had to instruct their own students in PE and music in addition to regular content areas. That seems to be common here. Students wear school uniforms and everyone eats the same home-cooked school lunch together, which I think only adds to the level of harmony and attunement. This synchronicity obviously benefits physical and artistic performances, and may help overcome the challenge of teaching and learning in classrooms with 40 students.

Japanese English-language text books include information about the American civil rights movement. There are essays about our civil rights leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. The texts also cover important social issues from many other places around the world, as well as the spectrum of cultural diversity throughout Japan itself.

I am very grateful to get to work with this excellent city’s educational leaders.  Thank you WSU College of Education for the opportunity!