Author Archives: Merch

Roles and Responsibilities of Schools, Part 3 of 3

During morning reflection on Monday, students were charged with responding to the role(s) and responsibility(ies) of schools to individuals and society in a rapidly changing world. We’ve had the opportunity to experience three different schools since we’ve been in Japan, and Porter’s students considered their classroom and community experience in light of our visits to all three schools.

The discussion was framed by the historic events that begin–and conclude–this week in the United States: honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and anticipating the Inauguration of our nation’s 45th President. How do schools play a role in the vision and imagination of building a peaceful, compassionate neighborhood of humankind?

Here’s Mariana Vargas Lacouture on the conversation…

“The Japanese system tries to create extremely capable women in various career fields and in athletics and other physical areas. Since the students choose to focus on a specific field of study early in their schooling, they reach a high level of understanding and capability before university. They also do not change their after-school clubs (sports and other activities) for several years. Dedicating such a long time to the same sport or activity for so long creates excellent players, meaning they could pursue intermural sports or even longer term commitments later in life.

Maddy (Emily and Georgie in the background) during our conversation with the Senior 1 group.

Maddy (Emily and Georgie in the background) during our conversation with the Senior 1 group.

In Japan, the percentage of women who work outside of the home is very small, particularly after starting a family. Success and high-level positions are usually occupied by men, leaving women with two options: they must be incredibly skilled in their field or they must be willing to endure criticism. Culturally, people are not expected to be outspoken, so skill and endurance are the main ways for women to gain success and respect.

Kenzie with the English 1 students, many of whom had just arrived from PE class.

Kenzie with the English 1 students, many of whom had just arrived from PE class.

Even though the education system does not give students much freedom, like choosing their classes or trying different activities, it helps to create the kind of skilled and intelligent women that will be able to achieve success in their careers. I think that this system is pretty amazing. Being able to focus and achieve high levels of mastery before university is impressive.

Maggie (Tina in the background) with the students in her group.

Maggie (Tina in the background) with the students in her group.

I do think that many other education systems, like that in the US, should learn and consider implementing some qualities of the Japanese system, like organization and dedication, because I feel that they are clear paths to success.”

Ikebana

After school on Wednesday, we were lucky enough to participate in a special after-school session. The teachers used a guiding text, written by Akane Teshigahara (the fourth Iemoto of the Sogetsu School), to introduce ikebana, the art of flower arrangements.

The flowers and plants chosen for us offered the perfect combination of texture, color, and seasonal flare.

The flowers and plants chosen for us offered the perfect combination of texture, color, and seasonal flare.

Students learned the basic upright style, moribana, which begins with the shin, soe, and hikae elements. These foundational terms describe the architectural basis for the structure and form of traditional floral and plant arrangements.

Porter's students listening to the sensei before the cutting and arranging began

Porter’s students listening to the sensei before the cutting and arranging began.

Children as young as 4 or 5 years old begin to practice this art form which combines height, width, and depth to create three-dimensional expressions of the heart and mind. Materials include flowers, branches, leaves, and other elements from the natural world (gourds, vegetables) that blend together in color, harmony, and design to reflect the feelings of the person who arranged the composition.

Here’s Elizabeth Davis on the experience…

“Today at Kichijo, we had the opportunity to take a flower arranging class! It was something that many people in our group, including myself, have wanted to do from the start.

In addition to the fun and excitement, the process was very surprising to me. There are so many considerations that go into flower arranging of which I was unaware. It is all so precise.

Flower arranging takes an eye for simple beauty. Here's a Kichijo student quietly working on the angles in her kenzan.

Flower arranging takes an eye for simple beauty. Here’s a Kichijo student quietly working on the angles in her kenzan.

Every piece is placed at a certain angle in order to have a strong and beautiful structure to the creation. We were also told that the outcome should portray its creator in some way, making all of the flowers different and beautiful in their own way. Even though we each had a slightly different arrangement at the end, they all looked wonderful.

This small exposure to such a surprising and different art form was definitely an incredible experience and I know we are all so grateful for it!”

Extra! Extra!, Part 2 of 2

On Tuesday, four Porter’s students were interviewed by members of the Kichijo School Newspaper for their spring edition, out in March 2017. The school paper is published five times a year.

Here’s Maddy Pavlovich on the experience…

“After a day of classes at Kichijo School, we sat at one large table and everyone quickly introduced themselves to the group. The three Kichijo students asked us many questions about the differences between Porter’s and Kichijo, Japanese food, our impressions of Kichijo students, and many other topics.

At first, the interview discussion was very organized. One student asked a question and each Porter’s representative took their turn to answer. By the end of the interview though, my favorite form of chaos had emerged: a comfortable and fluid conversation. It reminded me a lot of the conversations we have in my classes at Porter’s.

The students wrapped up the interview by asking some travel advice for America. If a Kichijo student was going to America, where would we tell them to go? After naming some big cities like New York, Boston, and D.C., I told them that they should go somewhere unexpected. See the big cities, but at some point visit a small town just outside of the city.

As I reflected back on this advice, I realized that some of my favorite things in Tokyo so far are the things I have found just outside the popular streets and shopping areas. There is a beautiful shrine down the street from my host family’s house and a restaurant that serves delicious udon and soba just outside the train station. But my favorite place in Tokyo is a small, narrow street with tiny restaurants that always smells so amazing as I walk past on my way home from a long day at school.”

Roles and Responsibilities of Schools, Part 2 of 3

During morning reflection on Monday, students were charged with responding to the role(s) and responsibility(ies) of schools to individuals and society in a rapidly changing world. We’ve had the opportunity to experience three different schools since we’ve been in Japan, and Porter’s students considered their classroom and community experience in light of our visits to all three schools.

The discussion was framed by the historic events that begin–and conclude–this week in the United States: honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and anticipating the Inauguration of our nation’s 45th President. How do schools play a role in the vision and imagination of building a peaceful, compassionate neighborhood of humankind?

Here’s Tina Feng…

“We started off the conversation with accumulated observations and superficial judgments based off of those details that we noticed with our 16 host families. Almost everyone’s comments on the Japanese lifestyle and education system were in comparison to the American ways and portrayed the Japanese culture in a negative light.

Finding simple beauty in this very large city is is easier than we might have previously thought. It's everywhere you look, from the street art to the efficiency of the trains.

Finding simple beauty in this very large city is is easier than we might have previously thought. It’s everywhere you look, from the street art to the efficiency of the trains.

We covered topics such as a women’s role in the household, which seemed to solely be “housewife” (cook, caretaker, and janitor) within our small sample population. With minimal information (our observations were mostly visual since the language barrier prevented most of us from having in depth conversations) on moms from a non-diverse (only host families from Kichijo School) group, we assumed that that was the image of a typical mom in Japanese households.

However halfway into the discussion, a couple classmates mentioned how many of the families who could host us had stay-at-home moms because they would actually have the time to take care of us. This comment was followed by many other bias-breaking and eye-opening comments on how limited our perspectives were. Soon enough, it seemed like we realized that we had made inaccurate assumptions and stereotypes, and we immediately started to challenge those assumptions.

I’m really glad that we were able to bring it back and stick to our Porter’s 2016-2017 school year theme of challenging assumptions, even if those assumptions were ones that we created about other people.”

Extra! Extra!, Part 1 of 2

On Tuesday, four Porter’s students were interviewed by members of the Kichijo School Newspaper for their spring edition, out in March 2017. The school paper is published five times a year.

Here’s Audrey Wallace on the experience…

“On Tuesday we met with three Kichijo students from the school newspaper.  Our interview began with the questions anyone could have predicted: ‘How do you like it here in Japan?  Was there anything that surprised you?  What are some of the differences between Miss Porter’s and Kichijo?’  These were easily answered. We loved it in Japan, and almost every day had a new surprise and difference in store so there were no shortages of stories and examples to share. 

Saho, Maho, and Nozomi prepared their questions and sat for the interview with a scribe, a recorder, and a full panel of questions.

What I only realized after our interview session was that we never considered all of the similarities of the two schools.  Of course the schools are on opposite sides of the world so the differences will seem overwhelming. I wasn’t lying when I said we had no shortage of stories of things that surprised us in Japan. 

Lots of conversation at Kichijo today! #mpsintermission #missporters #porters #portersinjapan #kichijo

A photo posted by MPSIIMJapan (@mpsiimjapan) on

Here though, Kichijo teaches young women to be successful in their country and in the workforce.  Isn’t that one of the goals of Porter’s? It was evident in our conversation with the Kichijo students interviewing us that they were very intelligent and preparing to go out into the ‘real world’ just as we are.  Our countries are different, and there is no one way to prepare us to go out into them, but it is clear that both of our schools are the same in that they ensure their students will have amazing opportunities to grow and become the person they want to be. All in all our similarities may be why it has been so easy to connect with Kichijo students, teachers, and especially student journalists.”

Come back soon to see the second part in the series!

Role and Responsibilities of Schools, Part 1 of 3

During morning reflection on Monday, students were charged with responding to the role(s) and responsibility(ies) of schools to individuals and society in a rapidly changing world. We’ve had the opportunity to experience three different schools since we’ve been in Japan, and Porter’s students considered their classroom and community experience in light of our visits to all three schools.

The discussion was framed by the historic events that begin–and conclude–this week in the United States: honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and anticipating the Inauguration of our nation’s 45th President. How do schools play a role in the vision and imagination of building a peaceful, compassionate neighborhood of humankind?

Here’s Emily Howell…

“Because today is MLK Day, we had a conversation on the role of schools in a changing world. We quickly got off topic and started talking more about the similarities and differences between Porter’s and Kichijo, and what they said about the US and Japan.

Lanterns seen above a restaurant in the Ueno neighborhood of Tokyo.

Lanterns seen above a restaurant in the Ueno neighborhood of Tokyo.

I think that the most interesting thing said was that both schools are preparing young people for a life of success in their extremely different ways.  Kichijo seems to prepare students by giving them a very specialized skill set for their interests, which will help them gain respect in the world. Porter’s prepares students by giving us the tools and opportunities to learn how to be balanced and confident in our abilities. I think both methods seem to work well, and prepare graduates for the post-high school world!”

Emily also shared during the conversation that perhaps each school is, in their own way, preparing the young women that their society does not want. Jillian spoke up to add that patriarchy and misogyny are not simply American phenomena. Emily went on to make the point that the outspoken Porter’s graduate and the highly capable Kichijo graduate shatter the expectations of their societies in different ways. This is something for us to keep thinking about in our last few days in Tokyo.

Come back to see parts 2 and 3, coming soon!

ISAK, Part 3 of 3

Following our afternoon in Old Town Karuizawa, we went up Mt. Asama to ISAK, The International School of Asia, Karuizawa. We were privileged enough to visit the campus and meet with a group of students for some discussion time and fellowship over a meal. The IB (International Baccalaureate) program requires students to engage in a CAS (Creativity, Action, and Service) Project. We met with students who had named theirs “Project Iridescent.”

This is the third in a series of three posts where MPS students will share their impressions of the relationships between MPS and ISAK, the mission and vision of ISAK in relation to that of MPS, and the content of the conversations they shared.

Here’s Charlotte Bombara on student conversations…

“On Friday at ISAK, our main purpose of visiting was to meet with a group of girls who are part of Project Iridescent, working to achieve equal rights for women in Japan. We sat down with them in the common area of one of their dorms.

Students lives feature prominently on the walls as you walk around ISAK. Here are some written introductions, a nice way to get to know fellow students despite your class or activity schedule.

Students lives feature prominently on the walls as you walk around ISAK. Here are some written introductions, a nice way to get to know fellow students despite your class or activity schedule.

The conversation began with basic facts about each others schools: co-ed vs. all girls, 150 vs. 300 students, living in the mountains vs. in the center of a small town, being part of school founded 3 years ago vs. almost 175 years ago, larger international student body etc. Then, the members of the project shared their work. These students in less then a year of work have already hosted a community day to discuss topics such as gender, race, socioeconomic status, and other identifiers. In addition, they have begun spreading the importance of gender equality in Japan by creating social media accounts, zines to share around campus, and future plans to host a podcast with a local radio station.

The creative expression, the ability to have a role in the direction of the school, and the feeling of community were apparent at ISAK, even during our short tour.

The creative expression, the ability to have a role in the direction of the school, and the feeling of community were apparent at ISAK, even during our short tour.

Porter’s students shared similar work they have done at school such as alliances, Red Zone Forum, Research Methods, and various discussions commonly held in classes. Both schools were excited to hear future plans and goals for their communities and see the similarities in their work.

After discussing various important topics, we shifted the focus to gender roles because that is Project Iridescent’s main focus. ISAK students told us about gender roles from the countries they are from as well as in Japan. Porter’s students were shocked by the expectations to become housewives, something many of us do not experience living in the US. We learned that over 60% of women in Japan leave their jobs when they become pregnant. We then shared the gender roles we have noticed staying in host families. Most of us have host mothers who stay at home and shared what we have noticed about the household being run this way, comparing it to our lives at home.

The map in the library shows the country of origin for the books and authors in their collection, along with call numbers!

The map in the library shows the country of origin for the books and authors in their collection, along with call numbers!

We also shared what women’s rights and expectations are like in the various countries we come from. After, we continued to talk with ISAK students over dinner. All of us loved getting to spend the afternoon at ISAK. The campus was beautiful and every student brought lots of valuable insight to the community.

More student artwork - what can we accomplish if we combine our creative and critical thinking skills?

More student artwork – what can we accomplish if we combine our creative and critical thinking skills?

It is rare to find another community so passionate about the same topics we are and have the opportunity to do valuable work towards it. When the day was over none of us wanted to leave, but we certainly hope Porter’s grows their relationship with ISAK in the future.”

If you missed parts 1 or 2, scroll down through our blog to read more about our visit to ISAK.

ISAK, Part 2 of 3

Following our afternoon in Old Town Karuizawa, we went up Mt. Asama to ISAK, The International School of Asia, Karuizawa. We were privileged enough to visit the campus and meet with a group of students for some discussion time and fellowship over a meal. The IB (International Baccalaureate) program requires students to engage in a CAS (Creativity, Action, and Service) Project. We met with students who had named theirs “Project Iridescent.”

This is the second in a series of three posts where MPS students will share their impressions of the relationships between MPS and ISAK, the mission and vision of ISAK in relation to that of MPS, and the content of the conversations they shared.

Here’s Annie Wertheimer on the mission…

The Miss Porter's School mission is one that stands out in the independent school world for its commitment to present ways of thinking and being as well as action in the future.

The Miss Porter’s School mission is one that stands out in the independent school world for its commitment to present ways of thinking and being as well as action in the future.

“The opportunity to visit ISAK was an amazing experience. I could see so many similarities between Porter’s and ISAK.

The mission of ISAK is very similar to that of Porter’s because it encourages students to go beyond the community where they live and to create change. We saw at ISAK how they really follow through on these words. All of the students participate in a CAS group project about a subject of their choice, something about which they are very passionate.

Sitting at dinner in a cafeteria (or dining hall!) after a long conversation in the dorm -- our afternoon at ISAK felt very much like being at home.  We hope to continue thinking about how to live out both of our mission statements, through our school work and lives outside of the classroom. As you read in ISAK, Part 1, we will probably be doing this in concert with one another, letting social media bridge the distance.

Sitting at dinner in a cafeteria (or dining hall!) after a long conversation in the dorm — our afternoon at ISAK felt very much like being at home. We hope to continue thinking about how to live out both of our mission statements, through our school work and lives outside of the classroom. As you read in ISAK, Part 1, we will probably be doing this in concert with one another, letting social media bridge the distance.

It was so amazing to see and experience a slice of life at ISAK. I know we all loved visiting the school and meeting the students in Project Iridescent as well as others in classes and at dinner so much!”

Come back for the third part of this series soon!

ISAK, Part 1 of 3

Following our afternoon in Old Town Karuizawa, we went up Mt. Asama to ISAK, The International School of Asia, Karuizawa. We were privileged enough to visit the campus and meet with a group of students for some discussion time and fellowship over a meal. The IB (International Baccalaureate) program requires students to engage in a CAS (Creativity, Action, and Service) Project. We met with students who had named theirs “Project Iridescent.”

Over the next three posts, MPS students will share their impressions of the relationships between MPS and ISAK, the mission and vision of ISAK in relation to that of MPS, and the content of the conversations they shared.

Here’s Jillian Landolina on relationships…

“The students of Project Iridescent at the International School of Asia Karuizawa, and the student body as a whole, welcomed us with open arms.

On our arrival at ISAK, we entered one of their brand new buildings - the tables and walls can be written on, the furniture is easily transformed, and the fluidity of classroom, study space, and leisure space were all signals of the culture and mission of the school.

On our arrival at ISAK, we entered one of their brand new buildings – the tables and walls can be written on, the furniture is easily transformed, and the fluidity of classroom, study space, and leisure space were all signals of the culture and mission of the school.

We spent a week navigating our new lives with our host families. The excitement we felt at being able to really communicate combined with the kindness the ISAK students showed us and the content of our discussion – women’s rights and gender stereotyping in Japan and beyond – led to almost instant friendships.

We sat with the students in Project Iridescent, a CAS project devoted to investigating and eradicating gender inequality in Japan.

We sat with the students in Project Iridescent, a CAS project devoted to investigating and eradicating gender inequality in Japan.

As a group, we talked and laughed for hours, sometimes discussing the topic at hand, sometimes sharing facts and details about our respective school lives, and we concluded our evening with a meal together. Facebook, snapchat, and instagram names were exchanged, and we found ourselves not wanting to leave ISAK when the time came.

At the end of our afternoon, we shared every way we could to stay in touch!

At the end of our afternoon, we shared every way we could to stay in touch!

I know we students intend to keep in touch, and we hope that our schools maintain our newfound friendship as well. ”

Come back to read parts 2 and 3 and see more pictures from our time at ISAK!

Bullet Train to Karuizawa

On Friday morning, we boarded the bullet train out to Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture.

The gang's all here! We took the Shinkansen out of Tokyo.

The gang’s all here! We took the Shinkansen out of Tokyo.

The town is known for its beauty in the summer time, with lush greenery, a luxury resort, and a cute downtown area with boutique shops and restaurants. Some come during the winter to enjoy the slopes and winter sports!

We were lucky enough to spend the late morning and early afternoon touring the town and eating at a local cafe.

We also had an interview with a local news reporter! We talked about the history of our accommodations – Harmony House was founded by a female Christian missionary interested in promoting the development of musical and artistic talents in young people – and our experiences so far in Japan.

Our story will appear in this paper. Too bad our Japanese lessons won't be much help reading it!

Our story will appear in this paper. Too bad our Japanese lessons won’t be much help reading it!

Our tour included St. Paul’s Cathedral and the main drag in town.

At St. Paul's in Karuizawa! #missporters #mpsintermission #portersinjapan #porters #karuizawa

A photo posted by MPSIIMJapan (@mpsiimjapan) on

We did some shopping and then headed to ISAK, the International School of Asia, Karuizawa. Come back to hear more about it!