Huron teacher brings a taste of Japanese culture to her classroom

A short video clip and slides with some of Dorothea Bryant’s memories from the 2010 Keizai Koho Center Fellowships Program:

From AAPSNews Service

Huron High School business and social studies teacher Dorothea Bryant called her summer trip to Japan a “cultural experience of a lifetime.”

She was among 10 North American educators selected as a 2010 Keizai Koho Center Teacher Fellow. The fellowship program allows teachers to witness educational, cultural and industrial aspects of Japanese society firsthand and promotes closer ties between North America and Japan.

The most memorable part of her trip was meeting the people. “They’re very hard-working people – service is paramount,” Bryant said. But the generation that built a very modern, clean and safe present-day Japan faces many challenges, she said, including an aging society and low birth rate which is creating a critical labor shortage, she said.

Bryant said she was excited to share her experience and has begun integrating her fellowship experience into the classroom.

Dorothea Bryant shares information she brought back from a summer fellowship in Japan with her students at Huron High School.

Bryant’s visits to Tokyo’s Nishi High School and Asa Kita High School in Hiroshima were eye opening, she said. Class sizes are larger, schools use less technology than U. S. schools, and teachers are required to work longer hours than teachers here, she said. Bryant was also surprised to learn that the students are responsible for keeping their schools clean; the schools have little operational or support staff.

She discovered that students in Hiroshima wear uniforms, but not in Tokyo. Bryant said that during the roundtable discussions between students and teachers, she found students and staff to be very open-minded and friendly.

Bryant also observed students in after-school activities. Sports are favorites, but young women in both high schools were involved in the Tea Ceremony Club; they served hot tea and cookies in a quiet ceremony to the fellows. Bryant said she felt very humbled by the experience.

In addition to visiting the two high schools, other highlights of the trip included: lectures about business and cultural changes; visits to businesses/research facilities including Panasonic Center Tokyo and Mazda Motor Corporation; viewing the Tokyo Stock Exchange; a home stay with a Japanese host family; and visits to cultural locations such as  Edo Tokyo Museum, Miryajima Island and the Hiroshima Peace Memoriam Museum.

‘The experience was wonderful and I was proud to represent the Ann Arbor community.’

“I was very touched to have gone to Hiroshima and stood where the A-bomb was dropped,” she said. “It was a really solemn moment for me.”

On a visit to Nihon Rakagaku Co. in Tokyo  – a company that makes dustless chalks – Bryant was impressed to learn the company has a commitment to hire workers with special needs. About 75 percent of the workers had a mental or physical challenge.

“It started out as an experiment a number of years ago,” Bryant said. “As a group, they were immensely loyal employees, and so it worked out well. The company’s business model warmed my heart. They seem to take the role of corporate social responsibility seriously.”

Bryant said a special time was the overnight home stay with a local family. Here she got to experience Japanese home life firsthand. “They treated me like royalty,” she said. Bryant said she was impressed with how close-knit Japanese families are. “They really believe in taking care of family and of each other.”

On a humorous note, Bryant realized, despite preparation for the trip, that she did not know how to eat with chopsticks once she arrived. It’s something she was able to master with many tries over a couple of days.

On the final day of the program, they took part in a seminar about “Challenges in North American Classrooms,” where each fellow presented his/her school and community. Bryant discussed the Ann Arbor Public Schools and the diversity in the district. She also touched on the issue of bullying and explained about some of the initiatives at Huron High School, including the school’s “Tolerance Week Activities.”

Bryant has begun to share her experience with her World History students, most recently during “Current Events Friday,” where she teams with student teacher Kyle Locke from The University of Michigan. They recently used news articles about Japan collected on her trip for an in-class assignment.

“The experience was wonderful and I was proud to represent the Ann Arbor community,” she said of her trip.”  “The Kezai Koho Center is a phenomenal organization with a dedicated staff …  that did an outstanding job at planning a very meaningful experience.”

Bryant began teaching in the Ann Arbor Public Schools in 2001. Prior to coming to Ann Arbor, she worked as a permanent substitute teacher in Detroit.  Bryant also worked as an adjunct instructor at several universities, and she had a career in the banking and finance industry for 22 years. This year, she teaches Economics and World History at Huron.

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