Brenda Hutchison, Riverside gifted and talented coordinator, is glad to share her Japan adventure with her students and fellow teachers.
"It was a trip of a lifetime and I still feel so honored to be chosen," Hutchison said.
Hutchison was one of 200 educators chosen through the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund (JFMF) Teacher program to spend three weeks in Japan. The program is designed to promote greater intercultural understanding between the two nations. She made the trip in October.
She took photo albums of Riverside teachers and students to Japan to share while visiting in their schools and brought home pictures and souvenirs so she could share the Japanese culture and education with her Riverside students. While she was in Japan she held four video conferences to Riverside students using her laptop and webcam sharing her experience even before she returned home.
An assembly was held at Riverside Junior High on Monday afternoon. Students were given a "temporary visa" for travel in Japan and viewed a power point presentation, viewed the many items Ms. Hutchison brought home from Japan, and were given a Japanese coin each to keep as a souvenir.
She talked of the 15 hour flight arriving in Tokyo, a city with a population of 30 million.
"I celebrated Halloween a day before you did," Hutchison said.
She talked of the low crime rate of the area.
"Even though we were in a large city, we were safe day or night," she said. "People do not have guns in Japan. We were also never cheated. We were told not to worry about the money because the clerks and store owners would be honest. To do otherwise would be a dishonor to their family. When I purchase something, I would hold up my money and they would take was needed."
Hutchison toured schools at all levels from elementary to college while in Japan. She told the junior high students about the uniforms worn, how the children got to school by subway, walking bicycles, or train.
"Young people cannot drive until they are 20," she said. "Gas is $6 a gallon in Japan. There were no school buses and parents did not take their children to school. A typical school day in Japan is from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. They even go to school on Saturday. Education is very important to them. All of the extracurricular activities such as sports, music, or band take place between 4-6 p.m. after school. Young people study for the test to be admitted to high school after 6 p.m. Not everyone gets to go to high school. There is a test that must be passed to get in. Another difference is the children all take part in clean-up. A bell will ring and everyone has a job from sweeping, cleaning the bathrooms or cleaning the yard. I saw 700 students at recess with one teacher. When I asked how one teacher could watch that many students I was told the teachers do not have to watch the students because they would not disobey the rules. The teacher was only there in case someone got hurt."
She showed slides and told of seeing an active volcano, her experience finding the Great Buddha after getting lost, the schools, the host family, movies, food, and culture.
"Electronics is very big in Japan," she said. "They are ahead of us."
She also pointed out most students had cell phones, but the teachers had no problems with them during the school day because if a student was caught with one out of their backpack, it was taken and never given back.
She said all students take English classes.
"I loved my time there," she said. "When I had my screen up and saw you and knew you saw me, it was a wonderful special time of my trip. The culture is different but I discovered people are the same everywhere. They love their children and they want the best for them."
Hutchison gave the students the opportunity to ask questions and view the many books and souvenirs she had displayed.