To the Editor:
Ganbatte means “Do your best,” in Japanese. For a year I lived and taught in a Japanese village on the coast of Toyama. I still remember the first time a fellow teacher said “ganbatte,” and told me that it is not luck that helps one succeed, it is effort and fight. Ganbatte is a word that comes to mind when I view footage of the devastation in Japan. While the evening news captures flooded houses and lost family members, it also shows a society of people who are doing their best by working together to fight for each other and their community.
I found this sense of society to be true in the schools, as well. While I was a gaijin, or foreigner, I was welcomed into the small town by my students and their families. As a sensei (teacher), I was one of the most revered people in town. It was not long before I noticed the strong sense of commitment to education and a majestic effort put forth by all to educate the community’s children.
In Japan, school is a second home for the students. Students arrive early and leave late. They start their day excitedly and thank the sensei for teaching them. Parents come in and out of the school to participate. Cleaning and cooking are done by students and teachers together. There is a joyous enthusiasm for the community of learners.
While I watch the bravery with which the Japanese are handling the effects of the tsunami, I am also reminded of the effort and sense of society that encompass their educational system. As an educator, I am inspired to revive the life lessons I learned in Japan within today’s classrooms. Through effort and community, much is to be accomplished.
Heather Rogers Haverback
A version of this article appeared in the April 06, 2011 edition of Education Week as Effort, Community Will Aid Recovery in Japan