Saturday, April 17, 2010

Budget Cutting Blues

, originally uploaded by Ineducation. I believe this is Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction.  I wonder as I look at this photo whether he could read the text on the beautiful artwork.  Would he want Indiana students to have a chance to learn to read it?  Japanese and Chinese language programs around our state are being cut left and right.  When, if ever, will Hoosiers see that education in world languages should be a priority, not a frill?
Message sent to Dr. Bennett...
ベネットさまへ、 この間は大変でした。私の高校は日本語のプログラムが廃したかったですが、私は頑張っていて、勝ちました。万歳!来年もフランス語と日本語も教えています。今、へとへとです。 ブラックフォード高校のパランボより
I have been been feeling a bit sorry for myself on this sundappled Saturday since I'm stuck indoors writing a grant to keep a program that is in danger of being cut -this program that I've been lovingly nurturing since 1988, my Japanese language program for my students at Blackford High School in Indiana.
Every spring I face the same battle, but this time I had to fight harder than ever before. Our corporation cut sixteen teaching positions this week. My heart is breaking thinking of the youngest teachers in our midst forced to make heartwrenching decisions about what new career to choose.
Our administration likes Spanish better than French and Japanese. The whole world doesn't speak Spanish! Yes, Spanish is important, but there is more, much more for our students to learn. I can see the idea they have of eliminating first one and then the other language I teach, thinking they will force out a teacher at the top of the pay scale. They think they could hire two young Spanish teachers for the price of an older, experienced teacher like me. Do they think I'll just roll over and play dead! No way! I've already begun my Spanish minor years ago and will pass the tests to become certified this summer. Will I make a good teacher of Spanish? Probably, but not as good as I am at teaching my first loves, French and Japanese.
You might think our Japanese program, possibly the longest running in the state of Indiana, would be a source of pride for our school, but I am constantly fighting to keep it. Both our French and our Japanese enrollment numbers are excellent (too many to accomodate in French!), and the school is getting two teachers for the price of one in my case. I teach four levels of French and four levels of Japanese every year. Most teachers have two or maybe three different classes, but I count on preparing for eight, and I'm not complaining, just wishing I could do it without having to fight to do it every single year! Here is a bit of the history of our Japanese program...

Excerpt from the grant I'm writing...
Blackford High School is located at the heart of Blackford County, one of Indiana's eastern-central counties located northeast of Indianapolis. Blackford High School opened in the fall of 1969 when the high schools in the two largest towns in the county, Montpelier High School and Hartford City High School, were merged. This consolidation came about because the county leaders believed that pooling their resources would better serve all the students of this county. With this consolidation came opportunities to take a much more varied, extensive and intensive choice of subjects. Upper-level courses in a broader range of academic areas were newly available. It was a difficult merge, as former school rivals had to learn to be on the same teams athletically and academically, but the leaders of that time did not give in to those who wanted to dig in their heals wallowing in the status quo. The leaders of that time moved ahead, determined to give their students the best education possible to prepare them for successful lives in their own communities and far beyond.

Today Blackford High School, of the Blackford County Schools corporation, continues to serve all the county's students in grades nine to twelve. Generally the school has an enrollment from 675-700 students and a certified teaching staff of nearly forty. This is a public school in a rural setting. We have a very low percentage of non-white students (~4%) and a high percentage of students with free and reduced lunch assistance (38%). Nearly half of our graduates go on to further their education after high school.

The Japanese-as-a-foreign-language program was implemented by the current Japanese language teacher, Jill Palumbo, in the fall of 1988. Mrs. Palumbo was one of fifteen world language teachers from Indiana selected to take part in a three-year intensive and accelerated Japanese language and culture program sponsored by Ball State University (Muncie, IN) in partnership with the Monbusho, the Japanese Government Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. By 1991-2 Mrs. Palumbo had completed a minor in Japanese and had added this certification to her teaching license. During the 1992-3 school year a full four-level Japanese program for academic credit was in place at Blackford High School with students enrolled at each level.

We have continued to offer four years of Japanese study to students for more than two decades at our high school. Students from these classes have gone on to study in Japan, to earn scholarships to study Japanese in both the US and Japan, to participate in national speech contests, to become missionaries in Japan, to test out of classes for advanced credit at universities and minor or major in Japanese, and to become executive officers in Japanese-owned businesses here in the US. Our Japanese program has been supported by the United States Government in the form of FLAP grants (Foreign Language Assistance Programs) in order to purchase a computer laboratory for the school, support several Japanese/US exchange programs (hosting and traveling), and provide Blackford High School with its initial Internet access and service. Our Japanese club has been active participating in trips, cultural demonstrations, career fairs and charitable activities such as organizing a benefit dinner and program to raise a sizable amount to donate to the Red Cross to aid victims of the Kobe earthquake in 1995.

Over the years many individuals have given their time, their expertise and a helping hand in building and supporting our program. In 1991 Ms. Yuriko Takamura came to assist in teaching Japanese through the International Internship Program. From 1992 to 1996 the Japanese Language Exchange program sent us Ms. Rie Fujiwara, Ms. Emiko Morishima, Ms. Junko Igawa, Ms. Manami Mikami, Ms. Atsuko Nishi, Ms. Mayumi Hamano, and Ms. Eri Isomura. They assisted in the classes at the high school, at both of our corporation's middle schools, and in each of the elementary schools. They also introduced Japanese culture to the community by giving demonstrations and talks to organizations, clubs, and church groups. Our school hosted five Japanese teachers who were sent to our school by the Monbusho through a program called Young Japanese Teachers Exchange Program in 1997. Mr. Eric Garringer and Ms. Tomoko Kanna completed their student teaching requirement in Japanese Education degrees in our program. Between 1999 and 2002 Kasei Gakuin University of Tokyo in conjunction with Earlham College sent Ms. Kaori Iijima, Ms. Akiko Ishimaru, Ms. Ryoko Ueno, Ms. Saeko Tsukahara, Ms. Yukari Shimizu and Ms. Toshiko Inoue to assist our program, providing the students with activities and lessons to pique their interest and enthusiasm and encouraging their study of Japanese language and culture.
Mrs. Palumbo has continued her own studies in Japanese education by earning more than eighty credits beyond her bachelor's degree and by doing summer internships in area Japanese companies, Keihin Aircon North America Inc., Muncie IN, and Jatec Inc., (now FCC Inc.) Portland IN. She is active in her professional organizations in Indiana, a member of the Indiana Foreign Language Teachers Association and the Association of Indiana Teachers of Japanese. On April 24, 2009 she was a presenter at the IUPUI workshop for K-16 teachers of Japanese. The subject of her presentation was content-based instruction as developed for her Japanese classes to help students learn through the use of up-to-date authentic materials including Japanese songs, poetry and films.

My closing comments on this blog...
Cutting our Japanese program makes no sense. Is it about age discrimination and politics? -a provincial mindset, maybe even racism or a lack of vision? Possibly, but I've worked too long and hard to lose the program now, so fight I must, and fight I will!
I WON THE BATTLE, now on to the everyday war in general to keep the programs on the front burner so that administrators and politicians can see some value in what we are teaching the language students at BHS. 

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad the superintendent sees how valuable and vital you and your program are! You are wonderful, Jill! Keep your chin up :-)