Synopses & Reviews
When we look beyond lesson planning and curriculaand#151;those explicit facets that comprise so much of our discussion about educationand#151;we remember that teaching is an inherently social activity, shaped by a rich array of implicit habits, comportments, and ways of communicating. This is as true in the United States as it is in Japan, where Akiko Hayashi and Joseph Tobin have long studied early education from a cross-cultural perspective. Taking readers inside the classrooms of Japanese preschools, Teaching Embodied
explores the everyday, implicit behaviors that form a crucially importantand#151;but grossly understudiedand#151;aspect of educational practice.
Akiko Hayashi and Joseph Tobin embed themselves in the classrooms of three different teachers at three different schools to examine how teachers act, think, and talk. Drawing on extended interviews, their own real-time observations, and hours of video footage, they focus on how teachers embody their lessons: how they use their hands to gesture, comfort, or discipline; how they direct their posture, gaze, or physical location to indicate degrees of attention; and how they use the tone of their voice to communicate empathy, frustration, disapproval, or enthusiasm. Comparing teachers across schools and over time, they offer an illuminating analysis of the gestures that comprise a total body language, something that, while hardly ever explicitly discussed, the teachers all share to a remarkable degree. Showcasing the tremendous importance ofand#151;and dearth of attention toand#151;this body language, they offer a powerful new inroad into educational study and practice, a deeper understanding of how teaching actually works, no matter what culture or country it is being practiced in.and#160;
andldquo;Teaching Embodiedand#160;is well written and clearandmdash;a delight to read. It does a beautiful job of illustrating, persuasively, culture as tacit, embodied, and intercorporeal.andrdquo;
andldquo;In the wonderfuland#160;Teaching Embodied, Hayashi and Tobin remind us that teachers have bodies and that those bodies are formed in and are expressions of culture. Teaching is a cultural activity, but explorations of teaching remain abstract, disembodiedandmdash;more mind than body, or heart. Any preschool teacher, as I was for a dozen years, understands the physicality of teaching. Hayashi and Tobin take the reader inside this wonderfully physical world. In this watershed study, they make visible what every teacher knows implicitly. The body is integral to understanding teaching.andrdquo;and#160;
and#160;andldquo;Hayashi and Tobinandrsquo;s study is an exemplar in contemporary psychological anthropology that builds upon and expands Tobinandrsquo;s classic video ethnographic methods to paint a compelling portrait of teaching and learning in Japanese preschool classrooms as embodied, collective, and intercorporeal. The book offers a welcome antidote to overly rationalized efforts to quantify and manualize the daily lives of children and teachers in preschool classrooms.andrdquo;
Japanese two-year-olds are indulged, dependent, and undisciplined toddlers, but by the age of six they have become obedient, self-reliant, and cooperative students. When Lois Peak traveled to Japan in search of the "magical childrearing technique" behind this transformation, she discovered that the answer lies not in the family but in the preschool, where teachers gently train their pupils in proper group behavior. Using case studies drawn from two contrasting schools, Peak documents the important early stages of socialization in Japanese culture.
Contrary to popular perceptions, Japanese preschools are play-centered environments that pay little attention to academic preparation. It is here that Japanese children learn their first lessons in group life. The primary goal of these cheerful--even boisterous--settings is not to teach academic facts of learning-readiness skills but to inculcate behavior and attitudes appropriate to life in public social situations.
Peak compares the behavior considered permissible at home with that required of children at preschool, and argues that the teacher is expected to be the primary agent in the child's transition. Step by step, she brings the socialization process to life, through a skillful combination of classroom observations, interviews with mothers and teachers, transcripts of classroom events, and quotations from Japanese professional literature.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 201-204) and index.
About the Author
is a postdoctoral fellow in education at the University of Georgia.
Joseph Tobin is professor of early childhood education at the University of Georgia and the author of several books, including Preschool in Three Cultures Revisited, also published by the University of Chicago Press.