Pre-Trip Entries

ONE YEAR TO FIVE WEEKS TO DEPARTURE:

 It all started about a year ago (fall 2006) when the application and paperwork arrived.  After discussions with my principal, the superintendent, and family, I decided to give the application a whirl.  Everything was to be completed on-line with copies mailed in.  Click here to see the original proposal to the JFMF.  Well, in the spring of 2007 I received a fantastic letter of being accepted into the program!  Since that time, I have learned so much as different emails and other mailings have taken place.  Lots of background reading, requirements, places, and other information have all been part of the build up to this experience.  I have traveled extensively in Europe and Great Britain, but never in Japan or any part of Asia/The Far East, for that matter.  I received materials from the Japanese Consulate in Chicago expressing good wishes, congratulations, and luck in the program on behalf of the People of Japan.  I was away a good portion of the summer, out of contact with most things around here and returned just before school started in August and came back to learn my Japanese city assignment of Ota-ku (Ota City) in the Tokyo prefecture.  Since my proposal ideas to the JFMF (Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund) were rather involved as far as what I would like to know and see ….. which quite honestly was everything and anything, my base is the Tokyo area.  Hmmm, I wonder if I will be able to see Mt. Fuji from Tokyo.  I understand it to be 100km away from the city (that’s about 70 miles).  There’s the famous and “unusual” fish market in Tokyo—which is listed in the book “1000 Places to See Before You Die” published by Workman Publishing; a disaster museum, and of course there’s Disneyland Tokyo and also the Disney Sea (being a Disney fan, I would love to see these, too).  Oh my there’s only a few weeks to go…and I do actually have work to do there in Japan that has all been arranged!  It will be interesting to see if I can really reach my students from Japan via technology, which at this time I have no idea how this will work.

FIVE WEEKS TO DEPARTURE:

Over Memorial Day weekend, my mother and I went to the western part of Indiana, to Rockville. On the town square is a variety store which has all kinds of interesting odds and ends of all kinds and wound up getting many of my “presents” to take to Japan here at this store. It was a gold mine! I will be taking small gold pins that are the outline of a dove…the representative of peace..which is made in the United States. Also, I will take some American made mints that have the American flag on each wrapper; some resin birds which model the Cardinal, the state bird of Indiana; some postcards of covered bridges; and a few calendars that have American scenery on them. Who will get these? Well, I do know that we will be staying one night with a host family. I think it only proper that something that represents where I am from be given as a thank you to these kind people that open their home to a stranger. Other things, I anticipate, will be given as thanks to other people that I come into contact with.

THREE WEEKS TO DEPARTURE:

 

Now suddenly on the Internet E-mail lists someone was able to get a list of all the participants and the emails are flowing! Oh my! My in-box is really overflowing. As of now, though, not all 200 participants are “participating” in responding to the whole group email list. The list serve list is quite large. And, also we are hearing from the summer participants and their experiences…all positive. In addition, there is an assignment given to the participants to read the history of education with the Japanese system. It is proving to be quite interesting. Also, there is more paperwork to be submitted pertaining to the fact that we have read some of the required material including how to prepare for going to Japan. It sill seems all so far away. I am continuing to learn how to use the new laptop system that I being sent with. Also, from our administration building, specialists have come over to train me on how to use the brand new camera system and SKYPE to hopefully be able to “teach” my students from Japan. We’ll see what happens with this! I might be in bed while they are in class and while I am out visiting schools, they might be in bed. The time differences and date changes are sure to be exciting and something to learn from for all of us! Also during this time period my mom and I visited several Indianapolis area bookstores including Borders and Half-Price Books. I thought that AAA would be able to help with maps and tour book information but unfortunately they don’t do this type of information anymore. They used to help me with tour books and maps of Europe, but I guess that’s a thing of the past, too.   Information in the travel sections of Indy area bookstores for materials that I wanted to purchase on Japan are pretty limited, too, at least that’s what we found. At each place though we would find just one thing. At one store I was able to get a full map of Japan…everyone was saying just look at it on-line; look in a book…that’s not the same as having it lying out nicely and able to study features right in front of you. At another, I was able to buy a decent map of Tokyo that actually did show Ota-ku, which looks like it might be a suburb of Tokyo. At another spot, a phrase book that’s thin enough to be able to put into one of my jacket pockets. Mom found a book on walking Tokyo at one of her favorite spots she likes to shop at and find bargains. I have reviewed all my paperwork that would tell when my exact times of departure, etc and have found out that I won’t know for another week or so! I have met with each of my classes in regards to this project and explained what I anticipate being able to do with them, if all works. We met in the reference section of our school library, interestingly enough in front of the Japan books! Anyway, I explained that I anticipated being able to visit a school while there, as that seems to be a part of the agenda. I didn’t know it I would be able to speak to their students, but would like to be prepared if I had the opportunity. With that, I let my students know that they would be receiving cards that they could ask appropriate questions of the Japanese students. Also, another card would be directed to me in regards to what they would like for me to find out for them, learn for them, experience for them should the opportunity arise. Most of the students seem to be taking this exercise very seriously. We talked about appropriate and inappropriate or sensitive questioning and hope that the questions that are to come in next week will be ones that I can use and ask or find out about. Two students in one class (Joe and Amanda) really had some great ideas about the technology part of this project. Joe asked if I had heard of Skype and aircards and some other things. At the time he asked, early in the week, I knew nothing of these things, and then suddenly, the computer is equipped with these things (as I mentioned earlier) by the end of the week! Amanda brought in some books for me to look at and study if I had time. Also, she volunteered her father to help me as he does some sort of work in Tokyo periodically, but he will soon be leaving for Europe and it was hoped I would know some detail of my schedule before he left. At this time, I don’t have the travel details. Another student, Patrick, is taking the cards questions very seriously and contacted his uncle who spent quite a bit of time in Japan. The uncle is sending a book to him and they will create some good questions! Another girl, Sylvia, spent some time in Japan over the summer and brought in a couple of unusual crackers and two crispy chocolate type crackers as well for me and Mrs. Mayer (the lady at school that is helping me with all this technology). How kind. She said that these might help me be aware of what things to expect in Japan! While in the library, a parent stopped in to let me know some sad news. A former student of mine, who graduated from Carmel High School several years ago, passed away. Sgt. G.J.Cassidy had served in the US Army and after his term was in the Indiana National Guard. He volunteered for a special assignment with another state’s guard to return overseas and was stationed in Iraq. He was injured by a road explosion, was returned to Ft. Knox in Kentucky, where he died. The lady that came in to see me was his mother. G.J. was married and had two children. He will have full military honors at his funeral. His mother also shared that he loved class and learning. In fact he wanted to become a history teacher in junior high/middle or high school. I certainly remember his positive influence in class, how happy he was, and how much he enjoyed learning. And, I remember clearly how much he loved the military. He will be sorrowfully missed. His service to the country is appreciated and his ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms of people around the world that cherish this will never be forgotten.    Thank you G.J.  

TWO WEEKS UNTIL DEPARTURE.

Wow time is flying.  I am trying to get my classroom cleaned up a bit (well, maybe more orderly is abettor term).  Also, this week we have a half professional day to go over some new materials that we will be working on at school.  My area that I selected was on assessment and have an assigned text to read during the course of this school year.  I hope to learn some new ideas and techniques that will help me and my department be able to improve our own strategies.  On Wednesday, I gave an essay test to my students in regards to the history of astronomy, science, and scientific methods.  Most of my students really worried about this test (I am worried about how I am going to get them graded by the end of next week…as that’s when I go to JAPAN!)..but they look like they did fine, generally speaking.  Patrick received the book from his uncle and he brought it in for me to use.  It is amazing and full of information.  I want to get this book myself for my own collection.  The book is DK Eyewitness Travel JAPAN.  On Friday, someone from Carmel High School let me know that a small article about this trip appeared in the Indianapolis Star.  Over the weekend there was a lot of work to be done at home and also during the upcoming week.  I was also able to try different parts of this website and am pleased to see that some are working.  Unfortunately, I cannot get Skype with cameras to work and hope that this upcoming final week the tech people will return so this situation can be fixed! Next week, I will have my final bits of training and testing.  Oh, and I have to work on substitute plans and finish grades!  I also got new business cards printed.  Bryan Alig, a 6th grade teacher at Clay has the standard template of our business, as he was the one that created them for the entire staff.  He did some modifications to mine making it a bit more “international”…like adding USA to the address, and writing out the state abbreviation IN to Indiana. Since I just realized I needed to have these for business card ceremonial presentations, a quick turn around time is necessary.  Bryan gave me the “dummy”copy to be able to take somewhere to have them fast-printed.  Late Saturday night (well, maybe that should really be early Sunday morning) I finally got to FED EX Kinko’s in Castleton area.  They took it in, explained how much, etc.  I explained what I was doing with these and then they were to go right to work.  If I had had more time and really thought about this, I should have had the card translated into Japanese (so the card really would have been two sided!  I say this as some of the email traffic from the group of teachers participating is really “going nuts” and someone mentioned that this double-sided card might be a good idea.  Maybe next time!  Anyway, the Kinko’s people told me how much the color card was going to be and then I asked if they would do it in black and white.  The price was considerably less!  I am to stop back by late on Sunday to approve their proofs.  I did they looked great, and we talked about the color issue again, wishing they would be in color.

 

ONE WEEK UNTIL DEPARTURE:

Well, this is it.  I have made a list of things to try to get done, shopping that needs to be completed. First thing, before school, I stopped by Kinko’s to pick up my cards, paid for them, opened the box and they were in COLOR!  Thank you FED EX Kinko’s, Castleton!  On to school to work on lesson plans and computer training, oh and class,  too!  Tracy Krause, the 7th grade teacher next door has just been fantastic helping me with getting papers and plans together and giving me ideas.  After school, I went to the bookstore and picked up the book on Japan from Borders, along with getting some other books as well, including one on Native Americans that I plan to give to my host family on the trip.  Tuesday, I was sent in the morning before my classes started to a nearby coffee house to try my WI FI (wireless) connections and remote signals.  The place has a special agreement with a mobile company and only if you are one of their subscribers can you use it.  So, I asked where there was another place that I might go.  The church just behind school on a hill has a coffee shop and wireless connections so off I went.  They were very nice, gave me a pass code and I also had Carol Mayer’s cell phone so that I could call her if I needed help….I did. I really had no idea what I was doing…or so I thought.  We tried the eyeball cameras to conduct a test web cast.  She could call me, but I couldn’t call her.  We had a problem!  I scurried by to Clay to have the whole set up looked at again.  Wednesday morning we tried the same thing again, only we went to Panera, where they have free wireless and was accompanied by a tech person from our administration building.  Same problems!  They were going to take the laptop and really work on it.  It would be ready for me on Friday!  I met with Gary Huddleston, my principal at Clay MS, where we discussed the trip and about our educational goals—not just for this project, but about the Science Department and making sure that all the official paperwork was submitted to me for I leave. At last, I finally finished grading the essay tests, got the final 9 weeks grades figured and at last all the sub plans in place, with a lot of help from other people. I stopped by AAA Hoosier Motor Club a coule more times.  I picked up a couple of Indiana maps and maps of USA.  I also ordered $300 worth of Japanese Yen  (Y) on Thursday afternoon.   It’s Friday, two days to go.  I made a last early morning stop at Dunkin’ Donuts under the auspices of getting something as a treat for my sub, which I did, but also got a box of Munchkins to take home and a filled donut for me right now!  My sub for three weeks is Helen Campbell.  She is a “super sub” having subbed at Clay quite a bit.  Her area is in technology!  Carol Mayer is to train her this coming Monday to learn how to access the various parts of the website and how to use the projector system and a few other things.  I received a call from AAA that the Yen had arrived and that I could pick it up anytime, which would be on Saturday morning.  The laptop arrived and all things seem to be in order. We will soon find out!  A requirement of this program is to review and make changes to your “follow on plan” or proposal that was made during the application process a year ago.  I reviewed my materials and made the necessary and appropriate changes.  I spent a good portion of the night and early morning changing and the cleaning the classroom animal tanks, feeding, a few odds and ends.  I received an email from Senator Lubbers wishing me success on this adventure!  Saturday, the day before departure, shot by like a rocket!  I had several errands to do, run to the banks, go to AAA, purhase some things at Wal-Mart like socks, stop at Office Depot to get some 1.0GB SD cards for my camera and then started packing about 6pm!  Whew!