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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Using the Buddy System--Japanese Students at Chinook Middle School

It's been a busy couple of days for our friends from Japan. On Monday they had their first day at Chinook Middle School, their host school for the week. Each of the 33 Japanese students has an American "buddy" that they are shadowing this week. Most of the students are shadowing their host brother or sister. The students who don't have a host brother or host sister at Chinook were assigned someone else to be their buddy. We were overwhelmed with the response from the Chinook students when we went looking for buddies. It seemed like everyone wanted to have a Japanese friend for the week.

In the end we came up with thirty-six buddies, (extra to cover for a field trip on Friday), that were eager to share their classes, their lunch break, and the rest of their school day with a new friend from Japan. Its an interesting situation on both sides. The Japanese students are trying to make their way in an unfamiliar school, with an unfamiliar language, in this great big unfamiliar country. The Chinook students are trying to navigate a normal school day with a tag-a-long who speaks little English. The Japanese students go everywhere with their buddy--from P.E., to Applied Technology, (shop class), the library, teacher's assistant assignments, band, and lunch.

It's fun to watch the exchanges between the American students and the Japanese students. One girl was laughing as she and her buddy skipped in gym class, (skipping for exercise I didn't say skipped gym class, don't get any ideas.) She smiled as she skipped by and said, "This is fun." A Japanese student named Hikari showed me a bracelet that an American student had given her. The girl was a friend Hikari's host sister, and she had taken the bracelet off her own wrist to give it to Hikari as a momento. I was also touched when I watched one of the Japanese students talking to an American student in a wheelchair and then helping that girl clear her tray. Simple generosity--something that both the American students and Japanese students have shown throughout this visit.

The Japanese students have been fully immersed in the American middle school—classroom time, craziness between classes, cafeteria food—but luckily, no homework. (Except for a nightly journal.)

The comments I've heard from the Japanese students are great. "Chinook is big", "lunch is big", (sensing a trend with the big thing here), and often, "students are nice".

Despite the language barrier, missed buses, and a bee sting, it’s been a good experience for both the students at Chinook and the Japanese kids.

We're grateful to the students at Chinook for sharing their school days with our Japanese students.

I'd like to hear some of your stories. How has it been to be a host buddy? What have you learned? If you could be an exchange student in any country for a week, where would you go?

1 comment:

  1. When I was in high school (Gasp! 20 years ago now!!), I studied French and Japanese. I had the opportunity to spend a week in France but my parents forbade it. Grumble.
    I never had a school-sponsored opportunity to visit Japan, and my parents probably would not have let me, so I had planned to teach English for a year in Japan right after college. I got married first.
    In high school, I had a Japanese pen pal. She was a few years younger than I. She sent beautiful letters and maps and postcards and all sorts of things. If you're interested, I *may* still have some of those things. I can scan them in so you can see them. I always felt like a poor correspondent, if only because my handwriting, in both English, and the 3rd-grade level Japanese I knew, was execrable. (Still is, actually.)
    If I could go anywhere today? Japan or China or India. Some place truly different from this Western culture I live in every day.