The Problem (Rachel Larson):
Tomoko Tadeshi was born in Yokohama, Japan (Nihon). Tomoko’s first language is “Nihongo”/Japanese which is related to Korean. Tomoko speaks a dialect of Japanese that resembles the common dialect spoken in Tokyo.
In Japan, the children are educated through rote-learning techniques that avoid understanding the “inner complexities” and reasoning of the concepts that are being learned. Rote learning focuses on memorizing material so that it can be recalled in exactly the same format that it was written or spoken. Japanese schools utilize rote learning because it is difficult for many students to learn the large numbers of complex Japanese characters. Tomoko posses an exceptional ability to “learn by repetition”. Tomoko makes 100% on every spelling test as a result of this technique; however, she struggles to use the same words in comprehensive sentences.
Japanese schools are also characterized by passive learning. The idea behind the passive approach is that learning requires an individual to reflect on the information of which he/she is presented. In Japanese schools, students are not encouraged to be the first to answer a question. Rather, the students are encouraged to reflect on the situation, and in time, create a solution that demonstrates a great deal of thought. Tomoko is uncomfortable in active learning situations that require her to respond immediately. She struggles to find a correct answer as quickly as other students, and does not perceive a connection between speed of response and quality of response. Tomoko is often unable to finish an evaluation, because of the thought and depth that she puts into each response.
Another characteristic of the Japanese school system is competition. Students are not evaluated on the speed of their answers, but they are evaluated on how well they answer the suggested problem. To enter a prestigious Japanese school, a student must take numerous entrance exams for a limited amount of positions. Although Tomoko did not experience this part of the Japanese school system, she is exposed to this “hidden curriculum” through her family member’s expectations. Given time, Tomoko is successful on an individual basis; however, she struggles in group settings. Tomoko does not understand the value of collaborative learning, and is unfamiliar with the proper procedures involved in this approach. Tomoko does not participate with her classmates in group projects, she gives little in-sight in any class discussions, and she seems to shy away from making any lasting relationships with any of the students in the class. Tomoko works best through rote-memorization, passive learning, and individual activities.
Tomoko (Rachel Larson):
I don’t like second grade. The teacher, she go too fast! Other kids always take my answers. I answer the question in my head, but before I raise my hand, teacher calls on Becky. She calls on Becky every time. I don’t like Becky. Sometimes she calls on me, but I don’t know the answer yet. She go to fast. I am a smart girl, my mommy said it. I can remember everything she tells me. The teacher says, “First write your name on your paper. Then answer the questions. When you are done, color the pictures.” I never color the pictures. She picks up my paper too fast. The teacher tells my mommy that I am bad at following directions. I used to like second grade, not anymore! The teacher puts me in a group. I think that group work is silly. The teacher tells me to help my friends, but I don’t want to give them my answers. They are not my friends. Then the teacher might think that the other students is smarter. I just like to work all by myself. My mommy helps me with my work. Kids in my class tease me. They say that I am not very smart. I just sit by myself.
The School Counselor (Kalisha Holloway):
I have not really had that many opportunities to interact with Tomoko since she has been in our school. But, in the last week she has been sent to my office twice with a teacher’s note. The teacher has replied that Tomoko has refused to open up and participate in her group work. The teacher thinks that Tomoko is having a problem at home and would like me to try to talk to her. When Tomoko is in my office she doesn’t say much. She will not ask questions or open up to me. When I try to talk to her she never looks me in the eyes and when she does respond it is with head nods. I feel that Tomoko is uncomfortable with her new surroundings and needs reinforcement. I know that Tomoko is not familiar with English culture and is not taking to it well. The teacher does not understand the different cultural background that Tomoko brings to the classroom. The problem is not Tomoko’s attitude she is only acting the way she feels comfortable. I feel that the teacher and Tomoko needs to see me so we all can sit down and go over a more effective way to get Tomoko interested in her group work and still feel comfortable.
The Classroom Teacher (Kalisha Holloway):
Tomoko is a bright student but I feel that she is not working at her potential. When we have group work she hardly ever participates with the rest of the children. Also she never raises her hand to answer questions. I try to include her in many activities but this only seems to make her push away. When I talk to her alone she never looks me in the eyes and I feel like she is not paying attention to me. I wish she would answer more of my questions. On the positive side when I assign homework she always turns it in and it is always perfect. I would like to schedule a time when I can talk to her parents and see why she is so distant in class. I understand that Tomoko is fairly new to America but I don’t understand why she never wants to participate in class. When I give assignments that require her to call out the answer she never does. I have to call on Becky because she always has her hand raised. I feel like Tomoko is lazy and doesn’t want to take the initiative to participate in class.
Tomoko’s Parents (Carolynn Pearson):
My Tomoko is a very smart girl. I do not understand why the teacher is picking on her all the time. She never had any problems in Japan. Tomoko tells me that the teacher acts like she bothers her when she is answering questions, and sometimes interrupts her when she is in the middle of explaining a topic to her. My Tomoko is not lazy, either. She comes from a school that teaches very differently than the American way. My Tomoko says that it is the teacher that makes her the way she is. She never looks her in her eyes and she does not want to help other students because she does not want to give away her answers. That is an American choice that she can make for herself. I want some of these concerns answered that I have for my Tomoko. Her academic and social progress will suffer if it is left a lone and if something is not done I know my educational rights that my daughter has. Why is the teacher acting that way towards my Tomoko? Does she know anything about English Language Learners from Japan?
ESOL Teacher (Rachel Russell):
I have noticed that the teacher seems to be unaware of the differences between Japanese and American culture. Tomoko is used to a whole different style of teaching and her culture influences how she acts. I have contacted the teacher about using maybe some different approaches such as pairing her up with a buddy to help with directions and getting used to using social language, making an effort to involve Tomoko in class discussions, and calling on her occasionally. The teacher didn't seem to take my suggestions into account and I am going to talk with the principal about implementing a plan to better serve Tomoko. I think that more group work should be introduced so that Tomoko gets used to it and is not so intimidated by it. I am trying to cater learning so that it is relevant to Tomoko, allowing her to write about her culture and traditions. When I introduce literature, I find a way to activate prior knowledge by linking it to her life experiences.
The Principal (Rachel Russell):
I have been informed of the issues Tomoko has
been facing and I am very concerned. I will be coordinating a meeting
between myself, the ESOL teacher, the classroom teacher, parents,
and Tomoko. I want to gain some insight into Tomoko's culture and
learning style. I want a plan written up to show what the classroom
teacher is going to do, to better integrate Tomoko into the classroom.
I am also going to recommend that the teacher take some kind of cultural
awareness/appreciation class. I want to see continued attempts at
group work and increased social interaction. I want the parents to
feel comfortable with what we are doing for Tomoko and I want to ensure
the lines of communication are always open. I have scheduled a time
to come in and observe the classroom and see how changes have been