Two teachers from Wauwatosa West High School will have the chance to apply some real-life experience to their curriculum this school year following a summer trip to Japan.
Psychology and global studies teacher Padi Kong and Ana Baker, a social studies teacher at the high school, traveled to Japan in late June through the Foreign Policy Research Institute. The institute educates the public, teaches educators and students and offers ideas to advance U.S. national interests based on a nonpartisan, geopolitical perspective.
Kong and Baker were each selected by the institute to travel to Japan for two weeks to learn about the country's politics, economy and culture in order to incorporate their findings into lesson plans back in Wauwatosa. The duo joined a group of about 20 teachers from across the country who went on the trip.
It was Baker's second excursion with the Foreign Policy Research Institute; she also traveled to Asia in 2015.
The teachers said that Japan was an ideal place to travel to because the country is among the top destinations students express interest in.
The group started its journey in Tokyo and ventured to the U.S. Embassy where they spoke with U.S. diplomats. The group later traveled to Hiroshima, a city on Japan’s Honshu Island that was largely destroyed by an atomic bomb during World War II. The educators heard from a survivor of the atomic bomb.
Among the group's extensive travels, the Wauwatosa West teachers found their visit to local all-girl private Japanese schools especially interesting. The students attended classes for long hours Monday through Friday, plus some class time on Saturday, and helped clean facilities as part of their education. The students were very well-behaved, the teachers said, and there was a lot of pressure to do well on tests.
"it was definitely a great experience," Kong said, adding others on the trip told the Wauwatosa teachers they were fortunate to see the sights with a friend.
"It helps you come our of your shell more," Kong said of traveling with Baker. "(Other travelers) said 'You guys are so lucky you are here together.'"
Kong and Baker, of course, also encountered their fair share of challenges on the trip, including fatigue from the long traveling hours and getting wedged in a Tokyo subway with a large suitcase in tow. But the delicious food, interesting sights and kind, hospitable temperament of the Japanese culture outweighed any hiccups, said the teachers, who also spent a few days traveling in Thailand beforehand.
The teachers have big plans to incorporate what they learned overseas into their respective classrooms. For instance, the teachers run a lesson called "Cultural Wednesday" where they discuss various communities and practices from around the world. Now, Japan will be added to the list. Findings from the stops in Hiroshima and the Japanese school will also be relayed on to the students.