Friday, May 11, 2012

Seek and you will find

"Seek and you will find..."  On the farewell card, the assistant principal's handwriting was the traditional Japanese style.  The inspirational impact of each letter is beyond its artistic value.  Sadly, over 20 years ago, I had no clue what it meant and what to do with this phrase, simply because I wasn't Christian. I groaned.  What I didn't realize was that I have been in the process of searching during that time.  A high school world history teacher once said, "You wouldn't notice if you were in the transition period.  People after that time period could name it as a 'transition period' by analyzing the historical events."  True, I have been in the long transition period.  Thinking back, although it is not a world famous historical transition, I was searching, searching, and searching for what I was really looking for.  As I leap over each hurdle, I experienced a taste of accomplishment, such as internship, graduate school, teaching jobs,  National Board, citizenship, and curriculum related committees.  Every accomplishment turned out to be another challenge that makes me in the situation where I have to be ready for another hurdle.  In other words, it has been so difficult for me to feel the concrete satisfaction or confidence.  If you say it is just because of my personality, it might not be far off.  But why do I have to constantly leap hurdles, over and over, while others are totally relaxed?  Funny, but I kept searching for my answer.  Thanks to the technology, researching activities became easier over the years.   

About one year ago,  I was frustrated about my lack of knowledge, lack of communication, and lack of opportunities particularly in writing.  One day, a teacher addressed me, "What do you think about this writing curriculum?  The curriculum department is looking into this right now.  Take a look, and tell me what you think."  Here is a heavy stack of brand-new curriculum in front of me.  I turned page by page, thinking, "It looks good, but is it good enough?  Is this a solution for our students' writing improvement?  Is the district going to spend a big bucks to purchase it while I am not sure it is good?"  I visited and asked several teachers these questions.  Everyone shrugged her shoulder in one way or another, "I don't know."  I wondered, "So, does it mean you don't even want to discuss about it with me?" I was too shy to ask that question directly.  After a few shrugged shoulders, I was e-mailing to the State Writing Assessment Specialist about my frustration and concern,  hoping she was familiar with this new curriculum and could answer my questions.  A few weeks later, I got an e-mail from her, "Can I talk to you on the phone?"  

One year later, I flew all the way to the Mid West where scares travelers (not local folks!) with an occasional twister alert.  I was sitting on the same table with her along with four other professionals in literacy.  In addition, there were people representing for the State contracted writing assessment company.  The traditional Japanese calligraphy appeared in my head, almost out of the blue.  "Search it shall be given".  This was what he wanted to tell me.  And I did, although it took me a long twenty years.   I was given the opportunity by a fairy god mother.  As the story goes, once upon a time, the fairy god mother found Cinderella.  Why?  Although Cinderella was a hard worker, she couldn't be successful or happy in her life because of one fatal reason.  Lack of opportunity.  In fact, her destiny climbs up to the top of the mountain with a dramatic tempo after she has the magic wand swung over her head.  I, too, am a lucky person who was found by the fairy god mother and given the opportunity.

What an incredible one week!  All of the scattered dots began to connect one another.  When a student comprehends and enjoy feeling of togetherness of the story, his literal knowledge reflects on the writing with elaboration that creates "wholeness".  Literacy is the beautifully and cohesively tied knot of reading and writing.  The meaningful and delightful reading experiences open the door to the creative writing world for young students.  The Common Core is going toward that direction.  That is exciting itself, but I recall the Japanese Literacy curriculum.   The Japanese Literacy instruction has seldom separated reading and writing.  Particularly for writing, their method is to utilize mentor text in the most part.  Using the voice, dialogue, unique openings, and etc, they are introduced and applied along with the mentor text, so that students see the picture in their mind of where they are going to reach.  Memorizing two different Japanese alphabets, Hiragana and Katakana, is hard enough, students must master a few hundred Chinese characters, Kanji, in each grade level; however, an efficient and effective instructional strategy helps Japanese students successful.  I couldn't have noticed or thought of that when I was teaching in Japan.  

The magic wand that swung over my head had surely more power than Cinderella's.  My fairy god mother should be proud of my new chapter.  Seek and you will find.  

This is the special thank you note to Nikki.