I have been thinking about teaching and learning since second grade where I spent many hours under the teacher's desk where I was put anytime the teacher thought I was creating a disturbance. From this unique place of observation, and the many other places I have lived and learned over the past half-century, I've come to appreciate the fluidity of thoughts, philosophies, and perspectives available to us as thinking creatures.
My own teaching experience has been in various countries at every level - from kindergarten and every grade of elementary school when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sarawak, Malaysia to graduate school when I worked with Masters Degree students in the School of Education at Harvard University. For the past 15 years, I have been working at Doshisha International Jr/Senior High School, a special school in Kyoto, for students who are bi-lingual and bi-cultural because they have lived a significant portion of their lives outside of their native country.
Three teaching and learning experiences in particular have affected me: the first was in the Peace Corps. Living with Malays, Chinese, Indians, and Ibans in Sarawak, Malaysia for two years gave me chance to examine many of the values I had grown up with and had accepted without question.
The second experience is not a singular one, but rather a set that has affected me very deeply as a human being and as a teacher. When I was a college student, we spent many evenings over a four month period interacting with patients at a mental hospital. A few years later in Hawaii, I became a volunteer at a local Salvation Army Home, playing with young people with various handicaps. Together we created a variety of dramas, activities and settings for a yearly Christmas pageant. From these interactions, I became aware, in a very deep way, that definitions and boundaries K of sanity, of intelligence, of physical and spiritual wellness - were arbitrary and should never be accepted without thinking.
The third powerful experience I had was the chance to work as a researcher and interact with members of the Learning and Epistemology Group at the Media Lab at MIT, from 1989-1991. This was the first real "Learning Community" that I had been involved in as far as institutional education was concerned. Being a part of the E&L group at the Media Lab gave me hope that I could help create such a supportive, collaborative and energetic environment in my own school in Kyoto.
Growing out of these experiences, two of my prime aims of learning and working with others have been 1) to examine, challenge and create the definitions we live by, and 2) to try to do this within a community of learners.