One of the great things I love about being a private high school English writing composition teacher—in Japan—is the fact that once students have learned all the basics and fundamentals of the language, topics to explore in class are pretty much limitless.
English Writing Class in high school sort of becomes like a “master” class of all subjects—anything can be up for discussion—just so long as the topic is being taught in English and students are writing about it.
Since students already have enough grammar and vocabulary to express themselves in a meaningful way by the time they reach their senior year—any further learning just becomes a matter of practice.
My senior advanced writing class has 29 students and I’ve been with these kids since the beginning of their high school career. I can say they are some of the brightest and most enjoyable individuals I have ever had the pleasure to be with and teach.
For their last year in my writing class, I decided to switch up the curriculum and try something totally new.
I introduced, WordPress.
Now, while using technology and the internet in educational settings may not be anything new to you and I, there is something to be said about education in Japan, and Japanese culture in general, that I think would be worth noting before moving on.
Japan is a country that holds traditional values and customs in the highest regard. And that goes double for education.
In my experience, for many Japanese junior high and high schools students, their ultimate purpose is to achieve really just one goal—pass the entrance exam. Well, first to get into high school and finally to get into university. And the system is built around this singular goal.
Because of this, there is hardly any time or room for activities that aren’t part of the traditional education system. And any new ideas or plans for change in the system is met with long consideration at best, but never with open arms.
The formal introduction of English as a subject is a perfect case in point. While Japan is still trying to find its footing in regards to developing an effective English curriculum, proficiency still remains at a disappointing low when compared to other countries.
With the 2020 Olympics fast-approaching and globalization intensifying day by day, Japan realizes it’s now more important than ever to embrace change.
I think the paradox lies in the fact that Japan is resistant to drastic and immediate change, or it simply just doesn’t know how.
Or maybe Japan is waiting for someone to take the first step before it can follow. You see, I think Japan is the kind of country that won’t try something unless someone tries it first.
And this is where I believe individuals like myself come in.
Perhaps it was fate that my current position as an English writing composition teacher coalesced almost perfectly with WordPress’ mission of “democratizing publishing”.
When I realized WordPress would be a perfect way to engage students in writing, English communication and internet technology, I already knew what I had to do.
It’s still too early to tell how this will go. In our next lesson I’ll be showing them how to create an account and build a basic website step-by-step. I am also actually in the process of creating both written & video documentation suited specifically for my students, which I’ll later add to our class website.
I’ve been lucky to work at a school that has given me almost complete freedom to conduct classes the way I want, and so I’ve always put 110% effort into all my lessons, and I can tell my students appreciate this through the smiles I see and the excitement they display in class.
Whether this project proves to be a success or not, I really do believe in the value that WordPress could bring into the classroom, especially for English learners in Japan, which is why I’m taking a leap of faith here.
I’ve also let my students know that as well, and that this is not just some personal desire of mine that I’m trying to fulfill.
To further solidify that message, I included our purpose for using WordPress on our class website. It reads as follows:
The world wide web, also known as the internet, is quite possibly one of the world’s greatest inventions.
Knowledge and information found on the web is, for the most part, free and can be accessed by anyone who has a computer and an internet connection.
In fact, most of the information I use for our lessons come from what I find on the web. To think that all the knowledge you have been learning until now came not from books, but The INTERNET, is crazy right?!
In this way, the internet has great potential to make the world a better place—through our sharing of free knowledge.
There are hundreds of millions of people in the world who don’t have education.
What if I told you there was a way you could help solve this problem, would you be willing to help?
There is a way.
Welcome to WordPress.com!
If you are reading this, than it means we’re on our first step of our new and exciting adventure.
You can probably guess by now that I’m a big fan of technology, computers and the internet and that’s why we’re here. But actually that’s not the real reason.
So why are we here?
You’re here because each and every one of you have a voice.
You have a mind.
You have a vast amount of knowledge that so many could only dream of having. This is something that many of us take for granted.
Let’s look at this from a different point of view
It is estimated that 250,000,000 children worldwide cannot read this sentence. (source)
And according to the same 2015 UNESCO literacy report, 15% of the world’s population is illiterate. That’s 757,000,000 people. (source)
There are many reasons why this situation is the way it is, but that discussion can be saved for another time.
The important point to understand right now is this
So many of us are always taking the time to look at those who are in front us.
We constantly compare ourselves to those who are better than us.
We always say “I’m not good at this” or “I’m not good at that” or “He/she is better than me…”
We say those things without ever thinking that there’s always going to be people who are in front of us and there’s always going to be people in front of those who we’re comparing ourselves with.
Now, when was the last time you ever thought about looking behind you?
Imagine how many lives you could touch, just by simply sharing what you know.
You’re here to share your knowledge because knowledge is meant to be shared.
You’re here to tell the world who you are because you have a voice, and your voice is designed to be heard.
You’re here to have a unique and positive impact on the world, and you can do that by just being you.
And believe it or not, that is why we are here.
This is a project in constant development. I plan to update every now and then about its progress. If you are interested in knowing more, please follow me!