Soka Gakkai Educators Report on Applying Humanistic Education in the Classroom
The Soka Gakkai Education Department sponsored its 29th "All Japan Rally on Practical Application of Humanistic Education" in Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture, on September 24. Some 1,300 educators and guests attended the rally, titled "With Education from the Heart, Let's Ensure a Future Where Children Can Shine--Aiming for a Society for the Sake of Education." In a message, Soka Schools founder Daisaku Ikeda emphasized that education is humanity's most sacred undertaking, and those who are thus engaged are "irreplaceable treasures." The Kojo Chorus gave a rousing performance, singing "Mother" and other favorites. Following words by Education Department Secretariat Hajime Miyamoto and a presentation on the development of Soka Education, four educators gave reports.
Elementary school teacher Nobuyuki Oka from Kanagawa Prefecture shared how he fostered children's potential through introducing drama and play-acting in the classroom. When he initially taught first-graders, the idea for a play arose naturally during their language lessons. On another occasion during a lesson on fostering international understanding in a higher grade, the class became interested in doing a play on the topic. Also, as a special education coordinator, he and his staff put on a show for children with disabilities using handmade sock puppets. Mr. Oka realized that such natural student-teacher interactions involving genuine communication and expression lead to positive learning experiences.
Keiichi Ito, a junior high school teacher in Iwate Prefecture, reported on how he and other teachers worked together to achieved "zero truancy" in their school. When the number of students refusing to attend school reached 27, Mr. Ito and his team came up with an outreach program in which teachers persevered to visit students and their families, focusing particularly on new, incoming students. They got the entire faculty involved in the project, assigning study advisors and school life counselors to support students. Their tenacious efforts led to the school achieving its goal of zero truancy. Mr. Ito and the faculty intend to share their ideas with other educators facing similar problems.
Preschool principal Kiyoko Ida of Aichi Prefecture introduced the poignant struggles of a mother whose child has developmental problems. Ms. Ida sponsors a child-rearing study group in the local community, along with her responsibility as a preschool principal. She was spurred to action by an encounter with a young boy suffering from pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), which, like autism, is characterized by neurological disorders affecting a child's ability to communicate, understand language, play, and relate to others. The boy's mother came crying to Ms. Ida for advice. Ms. Ida began working with the boy while encouraging his mother. Through trial and error, she was able to help the child overcome various barriers and learn to change his own behavior. The boy succeeded in graduating preschool. Ms. Ida reflected that working with the child was a test of her character and an opportunity to reflect on her personal attitudes. In fact, her relationship with the boy and his mother became the starting point of her philosophy towards childcare.
High school principal Kazufumi Ito of Hokkaido reported on his successful bid to work with the local community to increase the number of students applying to his school. When he was hired as principal three-and-a-half years ago, the school was in danger of a closing because of a decline in enrollment--as direct result of Japan's declining birthrate. Mr. Ito developed a concrete plan centering on the community, creating flyers that announced, "Welcome to the town that engages in humanistic education." He visited junior high schools and expressed his belief in education that nurtures students who will shoulder the future. His efforts led to a 30% increase in enrollment. The Hokkaido Newspaper lauded his creative inspirations that attracted new students to his school. Enrollment has steadily continued to increase. Mr. Ito says he is determined to develop his school into one that places priority on children's happiness.
Morioka Education Board Chair Akira Kato said the rally's personal experiences infused the educators with fresh, practical ideas for their own students and classes.