Sunday, April 27, 2008

Summer Class at Kyoto Int'l Academy

Kyoto International Academy (KIA) has 2 main function. One is to prepare foreign students (high school graduates from abroad) to take entrance examinations for colleges and universities (something like college prep.) and another one is to train foreign trainees to be accustomed to life in Japan for about a month before being dispatched to various companies. Besides these functions, there are several more courses and classes. COD summer class at KIA began 1999. COD students will be divided into a few classes based on the result of the simple placement test initially but can be re-placed into a different class in the course of Japanese language study. During the morning class hours, GTS (the director) is NOT usually in school for the educational purposes (e.g. relying too much on GTS or English) though always reachable. Any concern about any aspects of the program can be discussed with GTS after school. Those concerns are mainly about 'Host Family,' 'Language Class,' 'Daily Life,' and 'Classmates'
But students are truly encouraged to communicate with GTS about life in general. (e.g. homesickness, any physical conditions, allergy, food preference, transportation, socializing skills, Japanese customs, future directions, grades, etc.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Majoring or Minoring in Japanese (w/Education)

There are many Japanese who want to teach Japanese language in America just like GTS. If you want to teach at a college or a university as tenured faculty, a doctoral degree like Ph.D or Ed.D is almost required with a very few exceptions. How long and how much money are necessary for obtaining these terminal degree? 5, 6 years (at shortest) after college graduation? Rapidly increasing college tuition being at least $100,000 for 4 years, another $100,000 for graduate studies seems to be a real burden. If you are lucky, you may get scholarships, teaching assistantships, or research assistantships to decrease this burden but...... Master's degree holders can find a job at college-level but status is usually unstable and the salary is usually less than that of K-12 public school teachers in reality.
On the other hand, Master's degree holders are well evaluated in K-12 teaching environment both in socially and economically. Japanese native speakers coming from Japan are not very familiar with education philosophy and system in America and usually have no state endorsed teaching licensure. So those non-native speakers of Japanese who aquired decent Japanese language and social skills do have a great advantage to get a teaching jobs if there are openings. If you like to become a K-12 teacher rather than business person, I really encourage non-native speakers to become a K-12 Japanese language teacher. By now, finally we can have reliable network among teachers at all levels helping with each other and never letting anyone feel isolated in the field.
GTS originally wanted to become a high school Math teacher. So many high school classmates and teachers don't think it is unusual to have "GTS in the world" but no one believes that GTS is teaching "Japanese" in Ameirica since GTS's English grade had always been below average and the score of national exam (like SAT in the U.S.) of English was barely 60%!
Hey! Nonody can predict the life!! GTS is always dreaming someday GTS's former students positively surprises GTS in one way or another. That is the rewarding moment that 'teachers are longing for.'

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

December Trip to Japan 2008 (Shikoku Part)

From Okinawa, we will fly into Matsuyama, Ehime prefecture in Shikoku. Shikoku is one of 4 main islands of Japan and connected with Honshu (the main island) by bridges. Matsuyama has a castle from the feudal period and a hot spring (Dogo Onsen). Famous Meiji writer, Natsume Soseki ("I am a cat" and "Kokoro" etc.) was from there. We will travel to Uwajima which is another castle town as well as Uwajima-bay where the best Pearl has been cultured. Some may know Mikimoto-brand from Japan and available at most department stores here. Uwajima-pearl is better than Mikimoto in its quality. What don't you buy one for even yourself and for your significant other? Uchiko area keeps feudal period's townsman housings and structures as well as one of the oldest Kabuki theaters which is still in use today. Tobe area in Ehime is famous for its ceramic pottery industry and many tallented artists in the area actually studied about pottery making in Kyoto!! Students can paint their own design on plates and cups which must be the best souvenir for themselves! GTS's long time Senpai assists me to build the Shikoku program with great hospitality and GTS owes him (GTS calls him SHACHO!) a lot. No international travel package to Japan includes these areas as you can imagine.

December Trip to Japan 2008 (Okinawa Part)
This link will take you to the information page for this particular trip to check it out! We went to Okinawa last summer (June 2007) and learn about Okinawa (formerly known as Ryukyu Kingdon):
1) Visiting the former palace "Shuri-jo" for the KING.
2) Listening to the civilian survivor from Okinawa landwar between Japan and the US in June 1945
3) Attending Okinawa traditional performance show.
4) Visiting one of the most beautiful aquarium 'Churaumi.'
5) Visiting all the main sites of final between Japanese(Okinawans) and Americans.
6) Visiting University of Ryukyu to learn about Okinawa's present and future.
7) Visiting one of the Japan's largest 'limestone cave' "Gyokusendo."
etc. etc. etc.......
GTS was assited by Chicago Okinawan's Association, Consulate General of Japan at Chicago, Okinawa Prefestural Goverment, Consulate General of USA at Okinawa, University of Ryukyu and other local churches, news paper companies and GTS's friends. I'm not sure what we can do in December but going to the tropical zone in December is THE BEST! though may not be able to swim as we did in June.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Field Study Trips to Japan

Over the past 10 years, besides the summer study abroad program, GTS led many field trips (10-20days) to Japan where we visited many areas in Japan. Each trip had 10-18 students from various age groups. Even in that very moment of 9-11 incident, our fairly large group was in Kyoto where we changed our schedule a bit and went to the specific temple and prayed for the world peace. Although daily schedule was usually prepared way before the trip, we had to change the itinerary due the weather and other happenings beyond my control. Not only my students but also community people and college faculty and staff have been taking advantage of this rare opportunity to go to Japan with GTS.
Field trips often play an important role for students which I don't probably have to explain. There are quite a few repeaters for my trips. One specific participant from Texas went to Japan with GTS 4 times! (twice in the summer study abroad and twice in the field study program) NO wonder, there has been no same trips in the history of my field study programs!
There are several important advantages for students:
1) Students can earn academic credits and GTS tries very hard to make them be transferrable.
2) Students can use regular student loans---nobody loan you money with such a low interest rate to travel to Japan.
3) Tuition for the international field trips from COD is always IN-DISTRICT---No wonder, students are coming from Texas!
Though it is getting more and more difficult to keep the fee low because of flat $350 fuel surcharge for every plane ticket and weakening US dollars against other foreign currency such as Yen, and Euro, GTS has been keeping trip cost as reasonable as possible.
Some students are going to Japan as a field trip before participating the 5-week Summer Study Abroad Program. Where does those money come from? Parents? Grand parents? Relatives? Banks? Part-time jobs? In any cases, those money is definately worth borrowing and/or spending. How do I know? I don't know but students know!

Majoring or Minoring in Japanese (w/Humanities)

College students in America have to unfortunately pay attention to their marketability in the work force even though higher education's main focus should be cultivating human beings. (You may argue, but...) When computer skills were highly regarded, everyone jumpued into the relevant are to gain his/her marketability which wasn't too long ago. Now certain basic computer skills are required in any field.
So what is next? They are NOT skills that you can master within the certain period of time. They are 'culture,' 'liberal arts,' 'creative thinking,' 'humanities,' 'multiple viewpoints,' etc, etc. We cannot master them since they are on-going abstract invisible beings. How can we be equipped with them? Through reading books, watching appropriate TV programs and films, thinking deeper, discussing with friends, listening to radio, etc, etc.
Any short cut? NO (as an official answer). In actuality, there are some good ways which are attending classes, such as, Philosophy, Humanities, Religion, Sociology, Anthropology, History and Languages and "try to challenge classmates and instructors." America needs and will need more and more 'skilled professionals' with broader cultural horizon. Hey! Majoring or minoring in these disciplines may not be that bad idea!
Remember, GTS's another undergraduate major was Western Philosophy! My graduation thesis was about "Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein" ("History and Class Consciousness") written by Szegedi Lukács György Bernát, Hungarian Marxist (1885-1971). I researched about him and wrote the thesis on his thought for 100 year anniversary of his birth. Marxist "dehumanization theory" under capitalism/imperialism was my eye opener! Let's make some effort not to be dehumanized!!!

Majoring or Minoring in Japanese (w/special skill)

You can tell almost instinctly that engineering/science-major students can play an important role in every possible occasion if you are equipped with Japanese language skill. Why? Simply because there are NOT many people like that here in America or elsewhere including Japan! When I bought a new townhome last year (though I struggled to sell my previous one as you can imagine), my travel agent who is a bilingual Japanese-American told me that she has been learning Spanish. Simply because there are too few well-certified Spanish-speaking realtors while more and more Spanish(only)-speaking families are looking for decent houses!! As a realtor, if you can utilize English, Spanish and, of course, Japanese, your life gets so much easier and FUN even in this horrible housing economy! Everyone here is looking for housing, right?
One of the jobs which will never dissapear is Auto-mechanic! Japanese-speaking super-duper auto-mechanic in America will probably never have to worry about the economy! Why? Even Japanese cars get accidents, get broken, get a tiny annoying problems! You want to become an Auto-mechanic or a Realtor? Attend our programs at COD! No worry for even tranferring to another school!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Majoring or Minoring in Japanese (w/Engineering)

No matter how much you love Japanese stuff, you have to earn some money to make a living! Agree? In this competitive society, chances to make a big buck are very slim even if being fluent in Japanese. If you want to use Japanese language as one of the living tools, try your best to be proficient in all 5 skills: Speaking, Listening, Reading, Writing/Typing, and Acting (culturally competent, not knowledgeable!). The language skill is the greatest asset for you if you can utilize well. For that reason, I suggest you either majoring or minoring in another field. If you can major/minor in any science fields, your future is very hopeful!
One of my past students majored in mechanical engineering at UIUC while taking Japanese language courses got a job in a decent company in Chicago not because of Japanese ability. But as soon as his big boss learned that he has had a Japanese language skill, he could get luckily out of boring entry job and was placed into a big Japan-related project! (He has never studied abroad in Japan!) Who's next? It's you!
Remember, GTS's undergraduate majors were Civil Engineering and Western Philosophy! Thanks to my engineering background, I am often asked for technical translation or serving as an interpreter for Japanese visitors to several manufacturing companies here. Maybe just because I know a little bit of engineering and understand G-codes of CNC, I can survive!
Hey! If you know a little bit of Japanese and some surviving skills with 'science' background or something, your life may likely to get easier!

Tranfer to 4-year Institutions

Most 'traditional' students (teens and 20's) in my classes are transferring to 4-year institutions where they can hopefully continue to learn Japanese. Some students are tranferring out from Illinois to other neighboring states while others may transfer to as far as California or even Tokyo. In Chicagoland area, not many institutions offer beyond 'beginning' level of Japanese which may be equivalent to 2 years of Japanese or 250~300 instructional hours. Those who want to major Japanese language in our area, North Central College (NCC) is the only institution and those who want to major in Japanese studies, DePaul University is the only institution available. Other institution such as Northewestern University (NU), University of Chicago (U of C) and University of Illinoi (UIUC) may offer East Asian Studies and the like as a major or a minor. Transferimg to so-called prestigeous praivate insitutions like NU and U of C is quite challenging but there have been cases from my classes once a while.
I am very proud to announce that one of my students has been admitted into University of Chicago beginning this fall. I am sure that Japanese teachers of mine in U of C will be happy to have this student from my class!!
Some are transfering neighboring 4-year institutions and still attending upper-level Japanese class of mine! I am always thankful to those who continue to learn in my class after transfering!!

K-12 Japanese Education

Japanese has been taught in K-12 (Kindergarten through 12th grade) public schools for about 30 years in Chicagoland area. Learning Japanese in K-12 schools and in colleges and universities are fundamentally different. . In college-level teaching, we are more or less assisting students in acquiring an extra skill, namely, the ability to communicate in Japanese. In K-12 school settings, on the other hand, what we teach and how we teach it will directly affect the children’s character formation have an impact on how they view themselves as members of society.
K-12 Japanese language teachers, therefore, must become familiar with the cultural and socio-educational environment of children in the U.S. If there is any short-cut to becoming a knowledgeable, effective K-12 teacher, it would be to take courses in teacher education in the U.S.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Daily schedule during the Summer Program

The class begins at 9:15am and ends at 12:45pm from Monday through Friday. The class is taught by those who are certified by the government and professional organizations of Japan. Students are taught in so-called Direct Method without using any other languages like English.
During the class hours, there maybe some cultural activities, such as paper folding, calligraphy, Sushi making as well as celebrating traditional festivities like Milky-Way day (7/7). During the program Kyoto has its main summer festival, Gion Festival (7/14-17), that students can enjoy together.
After school mini-excursion is led by GTS to visit various places to maximize the cultural competence. Weekends are generally open for students to explore their Japan by themselves either individually or in group. There are always default weekend activity plans prepared by GTS including Universal Studio Japan, Professional Baseball Game, Sunbathing in Ocean or/and Lake, Japan's Largest Aquarium, Harbor Experience in Kobe/Osaka, etc.

Who are in the Japan Summer Program 2008?

The Japan summer program this year will be from mid-June to the end of July. The group is composed, coincidentally, of 10 male and 10 female students. 17 students are from College of DuPage (COD), 1 from Waubonsee Community College (WCC), 1 from Columbia College in Chicago, another one is from Boston University whether you believe it or not. 17 students are currently enrolled in one of my Japanese classes and 1 is former student of mine. Students will be placed in 3 or 4 classes in Kyoto based on the placement test at the language school. Students in a Japanese language school in Japan are mainly from Asian countries like China, Korea, Philippine, Thailand, etc. Kyoto International Academy isn't exception so my students can socialize with them during the program.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Welcome to GTS blogspot!

You have just found this page through google or GTS if you are/were a student of mine. I sincerely welcome you to this page. I have been teaching Japanse language, Japanese history, Contemporary Japanese society, and Chinese language as well. Maybe you went or will go to Japan with me as an international field study program or Japan study abroad program offered through College of DuPage (COD). I was born and broght up in KYOTO where you must visit once in Japan. Anyone in the United States can participate these programs and earn college credits with in-district tuition through COD with very reasonable traveling cost!
So you may ask GTS about 'traveling to and in Japan'
I am also one of the leaderships for Japanese language education in USA. I was a President of National Council of Japanese Language Teachers (NCJLT) and Director of Japanese National Honor Society (JNHS-HS).
So you may ask GTS about 'teaching and learning Japanese in USA'
I'm not sure how often I can renew this blog but.... Hey let's enjoy together!