In my veins still runs some Marketing-tinted blood and this partially justifies the attempt I have made to relate my experience at MY Kindergarten, Yamagata (Japan) through the prism of the 3 Ps – Product (Service), People, and Place.
Last week, I had the privilege of paying a visit to and immersing myself (as an immersion kindergarten teacher) at MY Kindergarten for a day while experiencing firsthand the dynamics of being part of such a progressive institution. One thing I was assured of at the very end of the day was that this kindergarten, by the means of all its physical and human resources, truly succeeds in nurturing and heightening children’s natural drive to learn. The management is compassionate and approachable, hence they have established a collaborative and trusting relationships not only with the teachers but also with the parents. The teachers are passionate and committed to a vision of igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for language learning. The school environment is welcoming and comfortable while the methodology adopted to instill language skills in children is entirely based on how children naturally acquire knowledge – through observing and imitating speech and behavior. The synergy between the 3 Ps results in the pronounced motivation of students to learn the English language with the support of a community of professional educators and within a safe learning environment.
The Product/Service – Teaching English as a Foreign Language through Modeling
In an immersive English-language experience, labeling the words in accordance to their category is entirely irrelevant. The teaching is structured around the ideal of modeling as a way of facilitating the internalization of words and expressions. Like Maria Montessori attested – children at this age have a highly absorbent mind. Children’s minds have the ability to absorb or “soak” all the information they are surrounded by without the need for the newly presented information to be rationalized. Provided that children are exposed to the target language through the right manner and within the right context, they intuitively and effortlessly pick up words, sentences, and expressions. The manner of teaching (or delivering knowledge) determines to a great extent the motivation and eagerness of children to take part in the construction of their own knowledge. What I witnessed in the course of my two lessons with different-aged kindergarten kids was their profound interest in the English language. When I was explaining things, kids were literally clustered around me and when they were assigned a task, they were fully absorbed in the activity. And even though I was given 30 minutes to conduct my lesson, I could not wrap it up on time due to the desire of the majority of children to take part in the formative assessment and demonstrate their knowledge. I was simply astonished and left speechless.
The People – a team of passionate and compassionate professional educators
The people behind MY Kindergarten radiate genuine care for the overall development and well-being of children (and for each other) and kids cannot help but “pay them back” with love. It is an impressive symbiosis where students receive personal attention while teachers’ efforts are fueled by the evident desire of children to learn (or absorb) more. Apart from delivering my own lessons, I got to observe the lessons of other teachers and I noticed how passionate they are about what they are doing and how this passion translates into children’s eagerness to learn. Passion and compassion are the two characteristic traits carried by the members of MY Kindergarten. I won’t ever forget the advice I was given by the management when I expressed my concern about my poor Japanese skills. She said: “Your Japanese is not a major issue. You simply need to surround the kids with love and attention. Once you connect with them on an emotional level, you will intuitively understand what they say without even knowing the language”. I was simply astonished and remained speechless.
The Place – warm and welcoming home-like learning environment
The physical building comprises of classrooms, main hall, storage area, teachers’ room, and MY School (an English language afternoon school for graduates of MY Kindergarten). The main hall has enormous windows allowing plenty of natural sunlight for children to run around, play, and exercise within the area (whenever the weather isn’t supportive of a play-time in the open space). From the slippers that visitors need to wear when exploring the surroundings to the natural wooden walls and doors, this place does feel like home. Moreover, it feels like the walls and doors are there to keep the warm air in when temperatures drop and to isolate the sounds when students have lessons rather than to build barriers between spaces and people. Kids feel welcome everywhere in the school and whenever they want to enter the teachers’ room to take a drink from the refrigerator, for example, they confidently step in and ask for permission to do so.
If I can be entirely honest, it was my first time meeting and learning from educators whose enthusiasm and generosity is literally contagious in such a short period of time. And to wrap it up in a Marketing manner, if MY Kindergarten was to have a slogan, the most suitable one would be “Family of Learners”.