Written by Jonathan Osorio
Mr. Osorio teaches English at UWC ISAK Japan.
The glossed over blank stare. As a teacher, my greatest nightmare is the look of a student who has disengaged. On the flip side, I find immense satisfaction in helping my students further their understanding of the world through their passions. My students’ incredulous expressions when I tell them, “For class, I want you to go read an article about your favorite sports team, travel spot, musician, or any other interest you may have” bring me much amusement. Of course, there are a few strings attached as to the analysis they need to do, but nevertheless as an English teacher, I have the unique opportunity of assisting my students in their exploration of their interests as they further their ability to understand how messages are conveyed in the world around them. What has truly impressed me as a teacher in the UWC movement is how engaged our students are. It fills me with great hope and excitement for our future to see these incredible students engage in topics that are real to them and that they are passionate about.
For example, it has been fascinating and impressive to discuss the homesickness people feel, the awe at the beauty of our campus, and the shift of perspective that has come from all of the different cultures on campus through our study of poetry. As the students tap into their personal experiences, they are making powerful connections to the content and showing a true understanding of how language impacts our perception and how we think. Our campus has given us a wonderfully unique academic environment to study the natural poetry of Robert Frost. What better a place to understand the intent of a poem about nature than in the gorgeous natural setting that surrounds us here at UWC ISAK Japan? Indeed, reading the students poetry about the morning dew lifting from the heavy-laden branches, or the cool, crisp, cutting breeze, has opened my eyes to the talent and abilities that lie within each of our students here.
The idea of a UWC ISAK Japan education is that we empower our students to become the changemakers they want to be, not the ones we want them to be. In our study of The Handmaid’s Tale, students each chose a topic from the work that interested them and research it. It was great to watch them became experts on a topic and learn how we can all grow our knowledge as a community through focusing on our individual interests.
In the end, at UWC ISAK, we aim to ensure that students gain the skills they need to have a positive influence in the world. As we help each student to embrace their interests, I’m excited to see how they become changemakers in their respective spheres and ultimately in the world.