Living in the Gray

Weird weather outside.  Surrounded by the gray.  This is typical of Tokyo in September. Will typhoon hit us?  Will school be canceled?  Is it indoor or outdoor recess?

Just finished reading World Without Wall: Learning Well with Others

I’m  an elementary school counselor at an international school in Japan, and often in the gray; many questions, few clear answers. Articles like this add to the questions and doubts, but hopefully point to some answers too. So I’ve decided to ponder in public, and learn well from others — what the article is all about.

Students in my elementary school receive 14 guidance lessons per year, from me. Basically, the instruction is what Richardson says not to do. I talk, the kids listen, or not. After that, the kids do a worksheet or activity alone.  This can’t be the best way for them to learn, arguably not even a good way. It’s almost totally one-way, barely interactive, and those kids who do respond are mainly just parroting what I want to hear. Interesting enough, the one lesson where kids genuinely contribute, far more than any other, is cyber safety. Kids love talking about what they do on-line, and I really want to connect to that in my lessons, but still unsure how.

The easy way is to continue doing what I’m doing — it’s worked good enough for the past 15 years.  Why change now? Well, pretty much for the reasons in World Without Walls — learning and the exchange of information is changing dramatically, and educators need to change along with it.  For me, an added twist is not just how classroom teachers can change, but how does a school counselor integrate technology into lessons and guidance.

So, things today seem as gray as ever, but let’s dive into it,


About Naho Kikuchi

Elementary school counselor at The American School in Japan. Living and working in West Tokyo since 1997. Forever trying to figure out how to balance work, family and time for myself.
This entry was posted in 21st Century School, School Counseling. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Living in the Gray

  1. Carl Knudsen says:

    Well it is another gray day in Tokyo. No rain, but overcast and humid. I guess we can all feel a little gray on days like this. Trying to clear the clouds and look ahead can be a challenge for all of us. When you have so little time with kids it can be very difficult to present lessons that are meaningful and resonate with each student.

    After reading World Without Wall: Learning Well with Others, one can maybe see a sliver of blue sky and things can start to change. When I read the article, what really stood out to me is that in the digital world collaboration has such a huge role to play in it. When you put yourself out there you stand a good chance of getting a response. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you are publishing work, writing on a blog, putting together a slide show or sharing a lesson plan; it seems as if somebody out there will respond to what you have done. What you do with that response will be up to you.

    Using the different forms of social media will only help you get out there faster. You can get all the information and resources you want and when you need it. You no longer have to face the stigma of going up to a colleague and asking to borrow a lesson or project that they had created and worry about what they think. When somebody puts there work out there it is often free to use and you can use it anonymously. Sharing and collaborating has a whole new meaning in this digital era. We just have to learn how to use it all.

    The other day we sat talking about doing an integrated unit about emotions. We both have so little time with the kids that whatever you do, you want to make sure it has value. In the article it says we have to start with small steps. Today I went to Google Blogs and found some blogs posted by ES counselors. I then went to You Tube and found a video on emotions and lastly I used Google to find a lesson on teaching emotions. I quickly looked over them. Some of the information is better than others, but it is a small step forward and it may help both of us. All the links are posted below.

    You know, maybe the digital world won’t be so gray and hazy for long. Small steps can lead to new discoveries, collaboration, people and hopefully a new view of teaching.

    • shinjukuwest says:

      Carl, thanks for responding to my blog. Even though we work at the same place, and see each other everyday, we never exchange ideas like this. We can use blogging to exchange ideas with people from all over the world. Thanks for finding the school counselor blog. I have never seen that one before. It is now bookmarked.

  2. mrbrenlea says:

    Your post is reassuring to me. As I was reading other posts by students in the program I felt my stomach start to churn. While, I am no stranger to using technology, I feel as if I am just at the starting point of my journey with using technology effectively in the classroom. It felt reassuring to me that someone else is asking the basic question “where do I begin?”

    The fact that you are a counselor intrigued me, as this is a field I hope to pursue in the future. Upon reflecting on your post and noticing the comment and links provided by Carl (wonderful advice), I would like to offer my own thoughts on one resource that could be used by counselors:

    VoiceThread ( If you are doing a lesson on emotions (this could be adapted to suit any topic that you are focusing on) you could create the VoiceThread with a variety of emotions and ask the students to comment on what emotions are being showed and why. This could be set up as a homework task prior to the lesson to establish prior knowledge. It could then be presented in class, along with their comments, to discuss further what people thought and why. VoiceThread could be used after class to allow students to reflect on what they have learned and help you to determine what points need to be reviewed.

    The great thing about this site is that it allows everybody to participate in a manner that they feel comfortable in. I had one student last year that simply blossomed on the site and showed me a side of herself that she wasn’t comfortable with in class. It truly was amazing and I almost cried.

    Also, perhaps there is a student you are working with who doesn’t feel comfortable opening up in person, or is unable to, by creating a private VoiceThread between you and the student, they may feel the sense of security to open up and thus allow you to gain further insight into the student and what they are thinking.

    Remember we can only do so much in a year (especially when you only have 14 lessons in a year) and we all need to start somewhere. Celebrate the fact that you are questioning your practices (as we all should be doing) and celebrate the fact that you are asking the question “how does a school counselor integrate technology into lessons and guidance?” I may not know the answer but I am definitely interested in exploring it further with you.

    More free tools that may be useful can be found at

    • shinjukuwest says:

      Hello there,
      Thank you for reading my blog.
      The document you shared with me is great! I had no idea such a document existed. How did you come across it?
      I will definitely look into voicethread.

      • mrbrenlea says:

        I was so intrigued by your post, that I thought I would spend a few minutes on Google searching for counselling and technology. While it was difficult to find much that was relevant, I did feel that would of use.

  3. Brutally honest in your self assessment. I admire it! I can totally sympathize with the “it’s worked good enough for the past 15 years.” I haven’t been working for 15 years, but that feeling of “why change something that’s working” is hard to shake.

  4. Kim Cofino says:

    Love this post Naho! You are so honest and thoughtful in your reflections. Maybe you can start by trying to add/change one thing – even just one lesson with one group of kids and see what works. I have a set of lessons I do about cyberbullying too (as part of an introduction to blogging), and I’ve been doing them for years. I like them, they work, I’m not so interested in changing them, but maybe I should…

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