I’m in the News!



It’s always exciting when you make the news, even in a small way. Here’s my 10 minutes of fame:

Front page article featured on July 15, 2012 – Culture Shock: Exchange helps teachers understand customs, by Brad Kadrich – Link:

Click to access 07-15-2012.pdf

and see full article below.

Mention of my “Evanovich Fan Fun” event at the Canton Public Library – featured on September 2, 2010 – Costume Party a “Plum” event for fans of  Janet Evanovich, by Brad Kadrich – Link:


July 15, 20

Culture Shock: Exchange helps teachers understand customs

Written by
Brad Kadrich
Observer Staff Writer

July 15, 2012

One of the things Maggie Wunderlich noticed when visiting schools during her 12-day sojourn to Japan was the complete dearth of both cafeteria staff and custodial workers.

In their place, the Canton resident noticed, were the students themselves, dishing out the food and cleaning up not only after meals, but before and after school.

It’s one of the remarkable differences Wunderlich saw during the trip, a cultural exchange for educators entrusted with dealing with Japanese students and other foreigners in their home districts. Wunderlich, an English paraprofessional at DodsonElementary School, was part of the program with more than 30 other educators from the U.S., Belgium and Canada.

Maggie Wunderlich of Canton presents Principal Yutaka Hoshino of Tachiai Elementary School in Tokyo with an aerial photo of Dodson Elementary School spelling out the school’s name.

“They clean up inside and outside, every single day,” Wunderlich said. “They all have their jobs assigned and they do it very willingly. They know what to do, and they do it. It was very impressive.”

Wunderlich took part in the trip after applying following an open house she attended at Ringokai, the DetroitJapaneseSchool. She heard a pitch about the program and thought it sounded interesting. She has a brother-in-law in Japan, and knew of a couple of Japanese families who had attended Dodson, so she thought the trip would be valuable.

Worth the trip

And after observing and participating with Japanese students and schools, she believes she got her money’s worth.

“Just being more aware of where (Japanese students) are coming from will help me have patience with them,” Wunderlich said. “They’re dealing with culture shock, and now I know how different it is. That will help me, too.”

Wunderlich and the rest of the group got a taste of that, too. After landing in Tokyo, they were taken to stay for a couple of nights with a host family in ToyotaCity, since 1960 the sister city to Detroit. While they did a lot of the touristy stuff — shopping and sushi bars and the like — they also began getting their education in, well, education.

While in Japan, Canton’s Maggie Wunderlich sat in on a calligraphy class by a Japanese Culture teacher at Wakazono Junior High School in Toyota-Shi Aichi. She painted the word “peace” in Kanji.

Wunderlich strolled to middle school with the 14-year-old daughter of her host family, joining the teenage student in yet another major difference between the countries: walking to school.

“They walk to school, no matter where they live,” Wunderlich said. “Here, they take the bus. It’s a huge change for them.”

Critical pairing

As the director of instructional equity for Farmington Public Schools, Naomi Khalil oversees the district’s English Language Learning and diversity programs, so the trip to Japan was of special interest to her.

Khalil called a lot of Japan’s school practices “phenomenal.” She said teachers work from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and don’t take breaks.

She said the relationship between teacher, student and parent is a critical one in Japan.

Teachers are held to the expectation they’ll help mold the future generations of Japan,” Khalil said. “Parents are also held accountable for being responsible for (students’) learning. They work in unison. The teachers are in charge of imparting the knowledge, but it’s up to the student and parent to master that knowledge. It’s not up to the teacher to do that.”

It’s something made perhaps a little easier by the uniformity of curriculum and policy across the country, according to Wunderlich. Books, curriculum and practices are the same wherever students go to school.

Unlike American schools, where curriculum and even textbooks can be as diverse as the culture, she said, Japanese students get the same education wherever they go.

“Theirs are across the country exactly the same,” Wunderlich said. “Here there are so many choices. I think that would be really difficult for a kid who is used to following a routine.”

Khalil said such practices are possible because the Japanese culture is so homogenous. That sameness, she said, allows the country to “still function as a very united society.”

“That’s a challenge (the U.S.) will always have as a country of such diversity,” Khalil said. “The ability to take away and apply things (learned on the trip) here becomes a challenge, because we are not dealing with a homogenous society.”

While acknowledging teachers in the U.S., and particularly those with whom she works in Plymouth-Canton, Wunderlich said she was impressed by the level of involvement of the teachers with their students in Japan.

All in

They eat lunch with their students, and take part in both before- and after-school activities.

She went to a Saturday basketball game for one of the host family’s daughters, and there was a teacher, coaching the team.

“The trip made me aware that, in both countries, we have teachers who are passionate about teaching and caring for their kids,” Wunderlich said. “They’re very dedicated.”

Khalil said teachers in Japan are “very revered and respected” for their vocation. And the level of responsibility everyone takes for their children’s education is impressive, she said.

“What screams loud and clear is that we do a very noble job in this country of trying to educate everybody as best as we can,” Khalil said. “There’s far more inclusion of all types of children in our schools, but I think we could learn a lot about humility and responsibility from the Japanese culture. They’re very humble and willing to learn from others, and they value high levels of personal and communal responsibility.”

Wunderlich got a taste of the Japanese culture while she was there, too. The host family — father, mother, two daughters and even grandparents, who lived nearby — schooled her in customs such as tea time, eating and living habits (removing shoes and donning slippers, for instance).

And she may have started a career in voiceover work. A friend of her host family was looking for an English-speaking female to voice an application called “Let’s Talk,” designed to help non-verbal children communicate.

“They needed an English-speaking woman, so now I’m a voice on an app,” she said, smiling.

Khalil said her biggest lesson might have been how to help the considerable number of Japanese students in Farmington schools, particularly those who are transient. For while they’re learning here, they’re also going to be responsible for learning the curriculum they’ll need back home.

“Understanding their educational system better has allowed me to understand where they put importance in their activities here,” Khalil said. “Upon returning, they’re responsible for the mastery of all that Japanese curriculum that they may not be getting here. I get it now. It allows me to figure out how to better support them here, rather than bending them toward our way of doing things.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: