During the 1988-89 school year, I was selected to represent Maryland in a work/study program with Maryland’s sister-state, the Prefecture of Kanagawa in Japan. I spent the year studying mathematics education in Japanese high schools and was given the opportunity to work with parents, students, teachers, administrators, and the superintendent of schools. I was given access to a cross-section of high schools where I was able to observe and teach a variety of classes. At the conclusion of my work, I wrote a paper on Math Education in Japanese High Schools and had two small books, Just English I & II, published to assist Japanese students when studying in the United States.
Besides visiting many ancient and spectacular sights during my stay in Japan, I had the opportunity to spend many hours simply talking to the people I worked with and the students in my classes. This was the most rewarding aspect of my stay. These talks with my fellow employees and students at Kanagawa International Association (K.I.A.) relating mostly to the similarities and differences between our two cultures. Besides being very open and frank, there were also very revealing. One of the most interesting discussions occurred during a visit to Osaka with two married couples from K.I.A. We were discussing aspects of marriage and how they became engaged. After about an hour, the issue of saying “I love you” arose. They said that there was not an exact translation for it in Japanese. This puzzled me, and I asked how they themselves said it to each other. They said that they never had. Since it was something that they knew exist, there was no need to ever say it. It occurred to us all that in my culture it was definitely said way more than it was felt.
While originally planning to live in Japan for a year, most of my concerns dealt with issues such as food or living conditions. These became insignificant. K.I.A. provided a wonderful furnished apartment which was located in a beautiful area of Yokohama. I was the seventh grantee, and each one before me left it a little more “comfortable” than when they arrived. Even though I left a radio, my greatest “gift” concerns talking a friend into donating his old washing machine. Walking into town with a load of laundry on my back is not one of my most fond memories! In relation to food, it did take a while to get use to sushi. On those occasion where I desperately needed a touch of home, there was a McDonald’s located halfway on the walk home at night. It was a great year, where I experience much, made many fantastic friends, and gained a clearer perspective on education here in Daegu, Korea.
One of my first highlights as a DoDDS’s teacher was the opportunity to visit Tokyo for a SAT workshop several years ago. During my free time, I was able to reconnect with two of my closest friends from this work-study period. We spent several hours talking about both past experiences and friends. This reunion would have not been possible if it were not for my first DoDDS’s teaching position in Daegu, Korea.
It was an honor representing my home state of Maryland for this adventurist year. But for me the greatest result of my stay was for the first time becoming aware of DoDDS’s teaching program overseas. I filed that information away, and many years later became a DoDDS’s teacher in Daegu, Korea and then onto Japan at schools in Okinawa, Yokosuka, and Zama. Presently Rota, Spain is “home.”