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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Japan's Best Teacher

Takahashi Kazuya (surname first) is cool.

There is perhaps no better way to describe the 36-year-old English teacher at the Junior High School of Kogakuin University were stacking LEGO blocks — during an English class.

Waitaminute... "Junior High School of Kogakuin University"? Is it a junior high school or is it a university.

As near as I can tell, it is a junior high school that is under the Kogakuin University moniker.

Anyhow, Takahashi-sensei uses LEGO in his teachings, a fact that helped him get recognized globally as one of the world's best teachers.

Ya'll know I likes my LEGO. My kid has reached that point in time where he isn't interested in it as much, but I am. It's just difficult to buy LEGO now knowing it isn't for him (and me), and just for me.

Anyhow... Takahashi, during an English class for first-year students at the school (located in Hachioji - the western part of Tokyo) back in March of 2015, asked his student to create a story in English... and then come up with a way to show that story via LEGO.

Says Takahashi: “(the) Students’ hesitation to speak English will gradually vanish as they try to communicate with each other while building things.”

As Bill Cosby used to say back in the days when he was just a comedian and hosting the Fat Albert Show: "... and if you aren't careful, you just might learn something."

So... Japanese kids had FUN learning English WITHOUT an assistant English teacher AET)?

Who would ever have thought that possible?

You only think I'm being sarcastic, but I'm not.

Japanese teaching—even though it was 25 years ago—was pretty rigid.

I do know that some teachers with a sense of humor made the lessons more fun (and my role as an AET on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme was also to make learning English more fun or more cool)... but seeing someone be original like Takahashi, well... I bow deeply in his direction.

I have no idea how such things get out there, but out there they got, and Takahashi, who calls himself a "producer who provides opportunities to students to enjoy studying while playing" became recognized for his unusual teaching method(s).

In February of 2016, Takahashi became the first ever Japanese person to be nominated as one of the Top 10 finalists for the prestigious Global Teacher Prize, which pundits call the "Nobel Prize" for teaching.

There were over 8,000 applications sent in by students, from over 148 countries for this, now in its second year of awarding.

Well... despite Takahashi's Japanese origins and Lego's Danish roots, Takahashi appears to have been inspired in the U.S.

Born in Akita-ken, Takahashi graduated from Keio University before doing some studying in the U.S., where he learned of an education theory: "activities that involve making things enhance childrens’ ability and knowledge.”

Making.... making.... that's cool. Takahashi actually began to use LEGO in his classes four years ago.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

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