1. Shiriuchi High School, Hokkaido Kumiko Nomura Sensei
Their feelings of fear and nervousness towards international exchange and using English have disappeared and they started to have strong desires to express themselves in English.
Global Classmates is truly an amazing program. Because of where our school is located, our students rarely have an opportunity to interact with people from other countries. However, through Global Classmates, they have been able to interact with American high school students online and exchange actual gifts through the special Omiyage Exchange Project to experience the joys and excitement of international exchange. This has motivated them to actively take part in Global Classmates. Their feelings of fear and nervousness towards international exchange and using English have disappeared and they started to have strong desires to express themselves in English. The students began to take initiatives in looking up expressions, asking teachers for help outside of class and imitating their partner classmates’ English to write English sentences. Through all of these experiences, the students also began to gain confidence. As an English teacher, I have felt so much joy seeing my students actively use English and enjoy themselves.
At the beginning, I felt a little worried about participating in the program. However, by working as a team with my partner teacher and assigned Coordinator, as well as getting support from the KAC staff, it has gone very smoothly. And through our exchange of information, we have become close and a new “kizuna” or bond was born between us. In addition, by sharing the joys and excitement of participating in Global Classmates with my students, my “kizuna” with them has strengthened. It truly is Kizuna Across Cultures. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to participate in Global Classmates.
2. South County High School, Virginia Nichole Mayfield Tsuruta Sensei
To my surprise and delight, the students struggling in my regular class were the most active participants, posting the most comments.
This is my third year participating in Global Classmates and I am so glad to be part of this program. For the majority of my students, this program is the only avenue for them to communicate in Japanese with someone other than me, their teacher. Also, they are able to speak with similarly aged peers. I am sure for them, that it is so much more enjoyable than doing conversation drills with their middle-aged teacher.
The most rewarding aspect of Global Classmates was how it affected the students who were not academically strong in Japanese. At first I worried about the struggling students doing Global Classmates. I thought that they would be reluctant to participate considering how challenging the course work can be for them. To my surprise and delight, those students were the most active participants throughout the year, posting the most comments, images, and videos. They consistently did more than what was required for a grade. I think the Global Classmates program allowed them to express their enthusiasm for Japanese language and culture in a way the regular class work did not. I was glad that the program had such a positive affect on these students.
3. Inagakuen High School, Saitama Prefecture Satoshi Kaneda Sensei
The students were exposed to expressions and phrases that they would never see in a regular class and by responding to those comments.
This was the first year participating in Global Classmates and my students and I both had a wonderful experience. At the beginning, I had some concerns about our PC set up and our technological capabilities but with the help of the Kizuna Across Cultures (KAC) Coordinator, we were able to start the exchange smoothly. The thorough informational video and handbook provided by KAC to the teachers also made it easy to take part in the program. It was extremely memorable seeing the excitement in my students when I told them that we will be participating in Global Classmates and showed them the program introduction video that KAC has created for the students to explain the purpose and to share tips on how to enjoy the program. Being able to actually engage with American high school students was truly a stimulating experience for my students. In addition, I believe that students using English and Japanese for the exchange was helpful academically for both my students and the students in the US. As an educator, my impression was that the students were exposed to expressions and phrases that they would never see in a regular class and by responding to those comments, they were able to enjoy engaging with each other while learning a lot from it.
At the end of October, the students took part in the Omiyage Exchange project, a special project where students exchange a small gift with their partner classmates. By sharing the video of the students opening each other’s gifts, they were able to actually see the students that they have been engaging with and that made the students eyes twinkle even more. From then on, the comments posted online increased and the students began to take the initiative and post comments from their computers and smartphones on their own time.
Working with my partner teacher was also enjoyable and it was great that we were able to exchange ideas and work together well.
As it was my first year participating in the program, it was not always smooth sailing, but I look forward to participating again next year and doing an even better job incorporating into the classroom.
4. Deerfield Beach High School, Florida William Collazo Sensei
Students are really becoming international students through the Global Classmates program.
I really like the student chosen topics that are a part of the Global Classmates program because then the students are really thinking about what they want to know, which is much more meaningful to them then if I tell them what to know.
There were several times we came across cultural things in class that I couldn’t fully answer for them, so I told them it was a great thing to ask their partner classmates in Japan. This allows great conversations that come from a place of genuine curiosity. It allows us to pull things together from one another in a community atmosphere, which is great.
Importance of being a Global Citizen is one of the components of the International Baccalaureate program at my high school. Students are encouraged to be inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk takers, balanced and reflective as global citizens. The opportunity my students get when putting together things for Omiyage Exchange is directly linked to all of these characteristics. I have them talk about what they can send, what they shouldn’t send, and why and why not. I have them think about what cultural things would and wouldn’t work. I have a lot of students who have talents that they want to use, such as knitting and drawing, and Omiyage Exchange is a great way for those students to be able to use those talents and have an audience who will really appreciate that. Students are really becoming international students through the Global Classmates program. It’s real. It’s honest. It’s peer oriented.
5. Akashi Josai High School, Hyogo Prefecture Kenzo Okura Sensei
It will foster them to become well-rounded world-class citizens.
My students had an amazing experience participating in Global Classmates. They graduated this past spring but I believe this experience will prove to be fruitful in 5 or 10 years from now. Connecting with peers their own age in another country stimulated them and I believe in the long run, it will foster them to become well-rounded world-class citizens.
In addition, the fact that this type of program grew at the grassroots level, rather than the government level completely impressed me. I was so moved to see people with aspirations and ambitions come together to create an organization like Kizuna Across Cultures.
The support provided throughout the program was also outstanding. Even though I am not strong with digital technology, I was able to enjoy the program with my students stress free.
6. Groves High School, Michigan Harumi Cooper Sensei
Using language as a communication tool!
“Using the language as a communication tool” is what I emphasize in my classroom. Students tend to become grade oriented rather than becoming performance oriented. Although I frequently compare the language class to the music/theater/PE class where the students’ final products are on the stage, I have been struggling to provide the authentic stage for my students to perform their skills. This Global Classmates provided the stage for us! Although I often gave requirements for the comments, students focused on the communication by making sure to respond to friends comments, asking questions, and making the communication personal. At the beginning of this program, it was interesting to hear my students asking me “What should I write?” instead of “How do I write this in Japanese?” Students’ brain froze when they thought that this needs to be done in a different language. They could not even think in English. Soon they overcame the fear and began writing freely. Their question changed to “How to say this in Japanese?” Their questions became personal and I was very excited to see that my students were using the language beyond the classroom setting.
Students also enjoyed the cultural learning from this program. We spent considerable time in class to discuss what they learned from our Japanese classmates as well as how to explain our culture to the Japanese friends. This was actually a very difficult task for my students. They thought they know about their own culture, but soon realized that they do not know much or they do not know how to explain it so that the audience would get a clear understanding. This practice was truly valuable to help students to become critical thinker.
We feel extremely fortunate to participate in Global Classmates. This program helped my students to look at the language as a real communication tool. It was my great pleasure to see some of my quiet students engaged in this and enjoyed it so much! It was also my great pleasure to have such wonderful teachers to work with from Japan. The support from KAC was very helpful.
We all enjoyed this so much. Thank you very much!
7. Yamashiro High School, Kyoto Prefecture Akihiro Omichi Sensei
Many of the students were able to realize that English is “a means to an end, not an end in itself.”
Our school participated in Global Classmates for the first time this year. Beginning in September, the students posted comments on a variety of topics. But what I was most excited to see was how the students became proactive in doing the work. Often times, studying ends up being a repetition of students following instructions and simply doing what’s given to them. However, with Global Classmates, it encouraged students to take the initiative and do it because they themselves wanted to. As a result, the students were very focused when writing in English and I was very impressed and moved to see the students actively take part in the exchange with American students without being given specific directions. There were some students who were concerned about making mistakes in English at the beginning. But after reminding them repeatedly that the goal is to communicate your ideas rather than write accurately in English, many students learned to write in English without fearing making mistakes. I think this is truly an amazing thing and I believe many of the students were able to realize that English is “a means to an end, not an end in itself.” During the 6-months, I felt that I wanted more and more students to take part in such a program. I am grateful for all of the staff that supported Global Classmates. Thank you very much!
8. Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Maryland Tetsuo Ogawa Sensei
I was able to see my students take charge and collaborate together on their own.
The Global Classmates program was fantastic for my students. My students don’t have much time to really use their Japanese and they don’t all have chances to speak to Japanese students. I think that it was a very eye-opening experience for many of my students who have not been to Japan. This program really connected the students and helped them gain a lot of confidence speaking Japanese. Now, I think many more of my students are more comfortable with their writing in Japanese.
Video Koshien, a program-wide competition where students create unique short videos, was my students’ favorite part of the exchange. Most of my students knew each other already, but through Video Koshien, they not only learned more about their partner school in Japan, but they also learned a lot about each other and their school. As their teacher, it made me most happy to see my students collaborating with one another when they would otherwise not do so. I was so proud of the fact that they were able to take charge themselves and not need me to intervene, just like adults in the real world. When my students were recognized for the work they put into this video, it was the highlight of my experience in the Global Classmates program.
Airi Ota (Shiriuchi High School, Hokkaido)
I was able to experience the joy of being able to connect with and share a mutual understanding with people my own age, regardless of our differences in nationality and race. In Omiyage Exchange, I was so happy to receive a gift from my partner student, knowing that they chose it thinking of me. In Video Koshien, I feel that the act of creating a video together with my classmates strengthened our bond, or “kizuna.” I wasn’t very interested in English class before, but thanks to this program, I started to look forward to the class. As we don’t have many opportunities to use English in Japan, this was a valuable experience for us.
Robbie Juriga (Groves High School, Michigan)
My participation in Global Classmates has been one of the most enriching foreign language experiences of my career as a student. The program’s environment provided an engaging and non-judgmental platform for students of all skill level to enjoy the program to its full potential. The open forum concept of the program allowed for a deeper level of education to be achieved through the communication of different cultures and languages. The experience was extremely beneficial in helping my foreign language understanding by reading and responding to the comments of my foreign and domestic peers. My favorite instance from our exchanges with Japanese students was comparing our household culture. I found that the conversations with my Japanese peers was not only culturally educating but also brought me to the realization of how much there is that we can teach and learn from this casual yet substantial communication.
Toya Matsumoto (Murasakino High School, Kyoto)
Since we are talking with students that are studying Japanese it makes it easier to talk to them in English. I don’t worry so much about my English being perfect as they aren’t perfect with their Japanese. Communication became important, not correct grammar.
Evelyn Christie (Groves High School, Michigan)
I really enjoyed Global Classmates. It really helped with my Japanese communication skills and grammar. It was interesting to see what kids my age enjoy on the other side of the planet. Talking to Japanese students and seeing what they do in their daily lives put a perspective on how I view other cultures and societies. Some things that they mentioned would be very unusual if I did them in American culture, but in Japan it is normal.
One of the best memories from the program is talking about our favorite music and TV shows. Some of the shows that they talked about were very similar to ones we have in the US and that was very interesting. I also really liked how language-wise everyone was using formal language in the beginning, but as we became closer friends talking came very easy and more casual to both sides of the conversation.
Asuka Kai (Nichinan Shintoku High School, Miyazaki)
It was a first time for us to chat with students in the U.S. online. In the first class when we posted our self-introductions, it took a lot of time and effort because I had to refer to a dictionary constantly and write a draft. But as the program went on, I remembered various expressions and phrases that I was able to write sentences easily. Also, learning words and phrases helped me broaden the discussion topics and helped me enjoy chatting with the students. When I met our partner students via a video chat, I could see and feel their qualities and hear their fluent English. Even though it was nighttime in Japan and early morning in the U.S. and I thought we all might be sleepy, we were so excited. We introduced Japanese items and culture as a quiz and learned about each other’s countries while having fun. In February, six students from our partner school visited our school on their school trip. I felt a bit nervous but excited to see the students in person with whom I had communicated with online. I hosted one of the students and I felt frustrated at times for not being able to communicate well in English. It made me want to learn English more and hope that when we see each other again in the future, we can talk a lot. If I have the opportunity, I would love to participate in this kind of program or homestay again.
Madison MacKenzie (Davis Senior High School, CA)
Global Classmates is fun because we get to talk to people in Japan that are our age. Because I am typing and not face to face with them there is a little less stress and I don’t worry about making awkward mistakes. I have more time to think about what I want to say. Also, I feel like I can type pretty fast in Japanese now, whereas before I only typed in Japanese to turn in a project.
Shunta Sato ( Ishinomaki High School, Miyagi)
My ability to communicate in English has definitely improved since participating in Global Classmates. I used to be nervous to communicate with foreigners in English, but now I can totally communicate with them; I don’t get nervous anymore!
Walter Davis (Groves High School, Michigan)
This program has been one of the best things for me in my learning Japanese. I have never been able to speak with anybody in Japanese other than my teacher so this allowed me to see how people actually talk. This program also showed me the differences and similarities between Japan and the U.S. by setting up a gift exchange, which everybody loved.
Nao Nakamura (Shiriuchi High School, Hokkaido)
Every time we worked on Global Classmates in class, it made me want to somehow find a way to communicate my feelings as much as possible. To do so, I wanted to learn the correct English expressions and began to look them up myself, or ask my teacher or ALT during class, break time or after school. Sometimes I even asked my mother to teach me some expressions.
With the help of my teachers, I began to understand how grammar and words that I learned in class are actually used. Through interacting with my teachers, I was able to dig up my English knowledge that had been tucked away and have fun using them to express my feelings in English. It was also fun to have my feelings be understood by my partner students. Now, even though it is still little, I am able to make sentences in English by myself.
In Omiyage Exchange project, I was so happy that my partner student read my comment and sent me my favorite Disney character stuffed animal.