Wed., Oct.18@Safety Harbor Middle School

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In the afternoon of the third day, we visited a middle school. It was the first visit to a middle school for me as a junior high school teacher, I was so excited. We were welcomed so much, such as the welcome display outside.

Outline of the School (from my note)

This school was built in 1962, and it has 1,400 students ranigng from 6th to 8th grade.

The emphasis of this school is to develop students' responsibility. There are a lot of networked computers, video equipment and a studio for the students to think and learn using them.

The students are supposed to learn social studies, math, science, reading, language arts, health education and P.E.. And there are selective classes such as family and consumer science, Spanish, band, chorus, science, technology education, career exploration, computer, and business education. Each student take 6 classes a day. The first class starts at 9:40 a.m., and the last class ends at 4:00 p.m..

A special program for the gifted to teach math, science and technology, language history, advertisements, archaeology, architecture, and invention exists in this school.

The school building is also one-storied and has 71 ordinary classrooms and 15 special rooms.

@To the web page of Safety Harbor Middle School

On my exciting way to the middle school, our bus got lost and the bus driver asked a police officer the way to the school. I took a picture of the patrol car (w/o permission, though...). The school was in the middle of quiet residencial section.

As soon as we entered the school building, we entered a room which has displays to welcome us with Japanese letters saying 'welcome,' and with some typical Japanese scenes. While the welcome celemony, a group of students who had nice TV cameras and professional-looking microphone were recording the ceremony. I heard it would be broadcasted to all the students the next day. Then, a boy of the student council introduced a T-shirt that he designed. It was nicely designed with American/Japanese national flags along with the date of that day. The T-shirts were given to us when we left the school. It was so impressive that the Principal was saying 'I'm proud of all of my excellent staff in my school,' and that the teachers in the room were nodding with a smile. I was wondering if any Principals in Japanese schools would say that kind of words ?

Three students including the one who mainly explained us took us around inside the school building. The corridors were so wide enough that made me think of all the students move to their next classrooms in a few minutes. I also noticed that personal lockers exist along the corridors. The library was open-space. Since there was no walls, it seemed me pretty wide.

Then we moved around various classes. I felt that the students in each class seemed similar to the students of the same age in Japan. It made me glad and relaxed.

The left picture is a mission statement of the sixth gifted class. It says, 'We will learn to communicate in foreign languages by knowing how languages developed, how English is related to other languages, and how some languages have been developed for specific purposes; so that we will increase our word power in the English language and through experiencing other languages will be able to decide if we want to study a foreign language in the future.' Also, I found a list of scores in a classroom. It shows that 100 points for A+, 94-99 for A, and so on. It seems that many schools in the U.S. use absolute evaluation which would make students motivated more, because the harder they work, the better score they can get. On the other hand, in most Japanese schools take relative evaluation. This is good to select better students to enter uper schools, but not very good for students' motivation, because they might not able to get the highest score because the percentage of the number for each score exists.

We entered a hall which is used to presentations or even classes. In the front, there were more than 20 computers.

The guide students worked so hard to explain many things to us. Sometimes I noticed we might have even disturbed the classes. But thanks to them, we could learn a lot of things there.

An announcement from the student council telling about the Halloween Cance party was on the wall of a corridor. It would be held Friday afternoon, for $2 charge. We were also taught some rules of using the personal lockers. This kind of 'lockable' lockers don't exist in my school in Japan. So there sometimes happens that personal stuff get lost in my school.

School was over, and all the students came out of their classrooms to go home. The wide corridors were very crowded. When I was taking some pictures of the students going home, some students came to me and said 'Take our pictures !' and paused in front of me. It made me smile so much because Japanese junior high school students do exactly the same thing ! How pretty they were !

We took a team picture outside the school building. I was so surprised to see the guide students came out to see us off. This might never happen in Japanese schools !

On our way back...

I found a school bus in the town. Our translator said that about 50-year-old school buses are still used.

We stepped into a super market. Orange juice is so cheap. I bought a half gallon bottle of orange juice for only 99c. In Japan, ... let's forget about it !

I found a fire engine in the town. The roads in St. Petersburg are wide and not crowded.

After getting back to the hotel, four teachers including me went out for a walk. We walked toward the sea enjoying a Halloween doll in front of a flower shop, and an orange (or grape fruit ?) tree on our way. It was a very relaxing time for us.

When we arrived at the shore, there was a huge marina. We found a display teaching us the basic skill to watch manatees using boats. I heard a lot of people came to St.Petersburg to enjoy observing manatees.

We went to a park with a lot of palm trees, then to sea shore with white and fine sand all over. It made us realize that we were in the subtropical zone.

I took a picture of a licence plate of a car parked on a road. The state of Florida has a nickname 'sunshine state.' Even in October, the sun goes up very high, the sand is very white. So we really needed sun glasses. On our way back to the hotel, we found a convenience store. We already noticed the existence of 'Seven-Eleven' in or around St.Petersburg, but there were not so many convenience stores like in Japan. In Japan, there are too many !

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