A blog about the amazing things teenagers do, about writing for teens, books for teens, and occasional forays into my world and the world of publishing.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Finding Common Ground--Japanese Students at Aspire and Pleasant Glade

When I look back on this week, it's not the differences that stand out. Its the way this group of Japanese students and their American friends worked to find common ground without using words

On Thursday, nine of the students spent their morning at Aspire Middle School. These kids had a host brother or sister at Aspire. While most of the other host siblings got to take their Japanese student with them to school, the Aspire families had to say good-bye at the beginning of the school day. But on Thursday they got to keep their students with them.

Thursday was backwards day at Aspire--a reverse schedule (7th period first), backwards hair-dos, and yes, backwards clothes. Our Japanese friends really enjoyed this, because Japanese schools don't have dress-up or "spirit" days.

Most of the Japanese students started the day in leadership class. To welcome the students and give them a way to associate without a lot of conversation, Mrs. Wisnant had them play games. The first game was a kind of acting out, rock, paper, scissors game, except this was guy, girl, gorilla--a game translated easily in either language. The kids would mingle in a circle until the music stopped then they would have a face off--girl beats gorilla, guy beats girl, gorilla beats guy. Funny posses and funny faces made for a lot of laughing. The other two games saw the students running, sliding, trading places, and jostling for a position in the circle (all in good fun).

During other classes at Aspire, the Japanese students were able to participate without a lot of talking--pantomiming in drama class, dancing a reverse bunny hop, or sharing music through choir, band, and orchestra. By lunchtime the shyness had worn off and the students crowded together to talk and laugh and just be teenagers.

After Aspire all thirty-three got back together for a trip to Pleasant Glade, a grade school. Four third grade classes were waiting to meet the Japanese students. The Japanese students were eager to share their time and talents with the grade school. They taught the third graders origami, made hats with horns, and wrote the kids' names in Japanese.

Smiles, demonstration, and a helping hand were all the communication necessary. The third graders were impressed. I heard questions like, "How many letters do you have to learn in Japan?" and "I bet you could fold a crane really fast."

At the end of the day the Japanese students had added two schools to their list of friends in the United States.

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