Tuesday, 29 July 2014

A day at Sasabe Kindergarten – a new perspective

Sing-a-long time
I was fortunate enough to be invited along to Sasabe Kindergarten, for their last day before breaking up for the summer holidays, to observe how it’s possible to manage a class of over 20 youngsters effectively (just the thought of it was mind boggling for me), get involved and have some fun.

The teachers at Sasabe run a pretty tight ship to create an ideal learning environment for their students, with very little need for disciplining students directly. Instead of it being the teachers’ duty to pickup on misbehaviour, the majority of responsibility is handed over to the students to make sure nobody is being naughty or disruptive. There is a focus on peer to peer recognition, where students are given the
Better than any school lunch I ever had!
opportunity to praise each other for good behaviour or doing a certain activity particularly well. It’s fantastic to watch students in this sort of environment, it’s completely student focused with the teacher acting as a safety net when they need to. Every student is aware of how they should and shouldn’t behave (not by being told by the teacher but being asked by the teacher whether certain behaviour is appropriate or inappropriate) and are willing to help with the teacher’s job of reinforcing classroom rules.

Ready, get set, paint!
Of course in any classroom there is going to be at least one rebellious figure who will try their best to not conform to the rules, but in these instances the teachers are looking at the bigger picture. There is no need to fret and panic if only a small proportion of the class are doing their own thing, they will eventually integrate with the rest of the class through peer pressure while their fellow classmates encourage them to stop messing around.

Getting their hands dirty
The teachers are also able to control classes through certain cues, such as music, tone of voice and facial expressions. Responding to these cues is similar to a natural reflex, ingrained as part of the daily routine in order to maintain structure and order. Time to sit down and get ready for the next activity? Cue song. Time to be quite and focus on the teacher? Cue short but clear instructions. Time to stop misbehaving? Cue grumpy face.

You missed a spot
After spending the morning going between classrooms, joining in with the end of term assembly and eating lunch with the students it was time for the grand finale. The playground apparatus had been covered in plastic wrap in preparation for what was about to go down. The students were instructed of their afternoon task in their classrooms before being given free reign to paint the plastic covering most of the playground (this also provided as part of the decoration for the Sasabe festival held the following day) with their hands. Even me and Jim jumped in the fun and couldn’t help but laugh and smile as we all lathered up every available space on the plastic wrap. Nerves of steel on the teachers’ behalf for even attempting this but during the whole event there was not a single individual who was doing something they were not supposed to, everybody was following the instructions to a tee and there were no instances of painting each other (only themselves by accident!) or any signs of “kancho” handprints.

Thanks to Jim and all the staff at Sasabe for an enriching experience, I learnt so much and had a wonderful time. Looking forward to dancing our socks off at Matsumoto Bon Bon together!

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