Michael McVey teaches a Japanese student
how to build a wooden bench
Last spring, Teacher Education faculty member Michael McVey went to southern Japan. The initial goal was to prepare the way for a study abroad section with a focus on education in Japan but McVey had a personal connection with the place. Twenty years before, he taught there as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. He was looking forward to seeing old friends with whom he had kept in contact. Additionally, he was excited to see how the schools had changed from his days there.
In some cases, beautiful new buildings had replaced the old ferro-concrete breezy structures. They were now airy and open with honey colored wood, open stairwells, and inviting classrooms. Through his connections with a faculty member at Saga University, Michael also toured schools in some very rural areas. Schools nestled high in the mountains of rural Saga prefecture boasted the same quality facilities as did the schools near the larger cities.
One afternoon, McVey assisted a team of instructors who were providing vocational education services to one of these remote schools. On that day, he and the entire class of ninth graders, all twelve of them, built wooden benches.
Of course, throughout the trip, the topic of the devastating tsunami was never far from the conversation. Although it did not directly affect Saga, 800 miles to the south, the tragedy inspired waves of support from people all over Japan in the form of clothing, blankets, food, and labor.
Soon after his return, McVey was asked to write an "encouraging essay" for the people working on reconstruction and cleanup of the damaged part of Japan. That essay was published in a large national newspaper, The Kyodo News, late last summer. The article appeared simultaneously in several other newspapers across Japan.