Hokkaido Highlights from Michael Holden

Michael Holden July 2018


This June, I travelled to Japan to visit our partners at the Hokkaido University of Education (HUE) and learn more about Japanese culture and teacher education. Now that I am back, I agreed to share some highlights from his trip and the impact it will have on my work here at Werklund. Having the chance to visit Tokyo, Sapporo, and Hakodate was a great way to see the different sides of Japan.  All three cities are globalizing, but also have long histories that they’re proud to share with foreign visitors. It’s common to stumble across old buildings right next to skyscrapers, and there’s as much focus on the history of the Imperial Palace as there is on getting students and citizens to think about big questions at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.

I also had the chance to meet with faculty, staff, and students at HUE about their programs. One such meeting began with another big question: “What are the issues Canada is facing in education right now?”  It was a great chance to exchange ideas about what is important in education and how teachers and teacher educators tackle those issues. We had a long conversation about Reconciliation in Canada and Japan’s history with the Ainu, one of the Indigenous people of Japan. I especially appreciated the chance to hear what issues are most important at HUE and how those connect to our work in Canada. I also had the chance to visit two of HUE’s Affiliated Schools – schools run by both the government and the university – and to chat with teachers and students about the work they do there. Like our Partner Research Schools, HUE’s Affiliated Schools have a close relationship with the university. The staff have dedicated release time for research, and are encouraged to work with other teachers to learn about their students and improve their practice. The schools regularly host conferences for teachers across Japan – sharing the work that they’re doing for teachers who might not have access to the same resources.

Back in Canada, I am looking forward to seeing how this year’s TAB students do while they’re in Hokkaido. Our friends at HUE are consummate hosts. They go out of their way to share what they do and give visitors a better understanding of what teacher education looks like in their programs. Connecting with the HUE team also strengthens an already strong relationship, including when Werklund hosts HUE students each February. Connecting with our partners also matters for the work we do here in Calgary – a big part of this trip was listening and learning, to understand what other people mean when they describe the work they do and why it matters. That’s important in my work with schools and organizations here in Alberta. Werklund has many partners across the province, and it’s so important to what we do to be able to understand what drives their work forward and how we can work together to make a difference in the world.

Michael’s trip was supported by the Staff Development Grant for International and Cross-Cultural Competencies. Staff or faculty working in administrative roles can apply for similar opportunities through University of Calgary International and the university’s ongoing internationalization efforts.