Visualizing 17 Million People

Looking up at the Umeda Sky Building

One of the biggest adjustments for me in our move to Japan is living in a very large city. The metropolitan area of Osaka – Kobe – Kyoto has a population of over 18 million people. That is larger than Moscow, Cairo, Los Angeles, and Bangkok and ranks #14 in the world, just below Mumbai. The three cities are known as Keihanshin and the GDP of this area is roughly the same as London or Paris. There is a lot of people here and a lot of money. The most populous metro area in the world is Tokyo with almost 40 million people. It has a population density higher than Bangladesh. I will certainly be exploring Tokyo in future visits.

The view towards Osaka Bay from the top of the building

Although we live in a big metro area, we do not feel it on a daily basis. The school is located in the suburb of Minoh, which is 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) from the city center. By train it is about 20 minutes. We live only a few blocks away and it is about a 5-minute walk to school. Minoh is full of parks, wide sidewalks, bike paths, and is minutes away from the forested hills of a “quasi national park” so one gets the impression of living in the suburbs of any city. The only time we get a sense of the vastness of Keihanshin is when we take the train into the center or go over to Kobe. The apartments, houses, and businesses go on endlessly.

Our goal yesterday was to get to the top of the Umeda Sky Building. This is an Osaka landmark, built by Toshiba in 1993. During the heady real estate boom of the late 1980s they had originally wanted 4 interconnected towers, but only built two. In between the two towers at the top, there is an outdoor observatory, an escalator on one of the top floors leading across the open space, and modern sitting area with restaurants and cafes. The views are spectacular. They really helped me see how big Keihanshin really is. It goes on forever with hundreds of skyscrapers, all the way out to the Osaka Bay. Around the Sky Building, there are some parks, wide walkways filled with cafes, restaurants, and shops. It is very pleasant, except when one gets closer to the Umeda train station, as there are too many people for my taste in that station.

The garden next to the Umeda Sky building

We had dinner in the basement floor of restaurants. In Japan, it is common for entire floors of buildings or train stations to be devoted to restaurants and bars. There were probably 20 different restaurants to choose from. We chose an Indian restaurant and it was really good. I recommend a visit to the building. The architecture is interesting, it is a really nice area, and the views, especially at night or at sunset are beautiful. It gives one a good sense of the layout of the city.

Growing up in a small town of 900 people in a very rural and isolated part of northern MIchigan, living in a city that has twice as many people as the state of Michigan, is going to take some getting used to. In some of my previous postings overseas, I have lived in cities of around 2 million (Perth, Santa Cruz, Barranquilla, Belgrade) but never this big.

View looking towards our house – Yodo River in foreground

Transformational Leadershop – Fran Prolman

Another workshop from the CEESA Conference. The big idea of the workshop is the leader changes as the followers also change. Both leader and participant raise to higher levels of motivation.

Dr. Fran Prolman Led the Workshop


Transformational Leadership can be categorized into three areas.

1) Relationship Building – Getting outside of ourselves and seeing their point of view.  

2) Taking a Risk – I can re-invent myself in my work. I can re-invent myself all the time. Always growing.

3) Creating a Culture – I can create a culture of learning, whether it be a hostile environment or nice environment.

Part I. Relationship Building

Fran likes to give us authors and book titles.  Margaret Wheatley “Turning to One Another” and “Leadership in a New Science” – Water will always finds its way to the ocean. It has the power to reshape granite. It will always finding a way to the ocean. It is a nice metaphor.  

Ways to build transformational leadership and collegiality:

Teaching is an isolating experience. The key is to get teachers to observe one another, sharing expertise at faculty meetings, asking for help,

A nice idea to do is to build collaborative team time built right into the schedule. 

Another good author is Susan Scott with her book Fierce Conversations.

Another good book is the “Fred Factor” by Mark Sanborn.   “How can I be the best Principal you have ever had?” In this book, he writes about the “B’s”

  • Be real
  • Be interested (It is not about me, it is about you as a transformational leader.) Fran Polman interviews people at cocktail parties. Does the person notice they do not know anything about? When this happens, the other person is now ready for a two-way relationship. Another example is when a student comes into your office between classes.
  • Be a better listener

When someone comes in an asks if they have a minute, I ask them what the topic is. Then I either go for it or ask them to set an appointment.

  • Be empathic – I want to see things through your lens. 1/3 of any group of adults are dealing with something really hard (illness, divorce) – they need support 1/3 they are healing from the abyss – 1/3 in a state of illusion
  • Be honest
  • Be helpful
  • Reinvent yourself regularly – Increase you Implementation Quotient – increase your capacity

What I am taking from this session in the three categories?

1) I am going to focus on taking the viewpoint of younger teachers.

2) I like the idea of postponing a conversation by setting an appointment, but first asking what the topic is.

This is a strength of mine.

Part II. Risk-Taking

Another good author is Carol Dweck and her book “Mind Set” defines two mindsets, the first being a performance goal versus a learning goal. The first mindset, the people will not take risks because of afraid of failure. An attribute of success after school is to take risks. Michael Fullan wrote in “Implementation Dip” that there will be a big descent after the implementation to the abyss of change and teachers will play out according to their personalities and maturity. When the group hits rock bottom, they begin to think about what exactly support systems they need to get back up to the top. This is “creative tension” is what cranks up the creativity. You as an inspirational leader work the hardest at the bottom to bring them to a higher level.  This also applies to new families to the school. It is a big change for them to entrust you with their child and they will struggle at first.  The time frame is 3 – 5 years

The degree to which the leader challenges assumptions, seeks feedback from others.

Eric Weihenmayer is a blind mountain climber who leads blind children to high peaks. He used to be a MS teacher, wrestling coach, and the only blind person ever to climb Mnt. Everest.

Another transformational leader is Ben Carson, who was raised in the ghettos of Detroit and a single mother with a third grade education. Her mother made him to read a book a week and write a report on it. He is the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital at age 32.  He believes in THINK BIG (talent, honesty, Insight, Nice, Knowledge) and then (Books, In-depth learning, God) His most recent book is “Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk. He uses this decision making process with

What am I taking away from this session?

1) Talk to the teachers about the Michael Fullan descent and ascent change before we do the 1:1 lap top program.

2) Seek feedback AND data from the staff regarding the schedule.

3) Go with the filming of teachers

I would say I am more conservative and less of a risk-taker.

Serbian Parliament


Serbian Parliament Building, originally uploaded by bill kralovec.

I took this photo on last Friday’s field trip to the ivo Andric museum. Both the Parliament building and Andric’s former apartment on on Pioneer’s Park. It was a beautiful sunny morning. This week has been grey and rainy. Temperatures are in the 40’s and 30’s (F) and the sun is supposed to be back on Friday. It looks like temperatures will dip below freezing next week and I am hoping for snow. 

Serbia’s parliament has one house called the National Assembly consisting of 250 members. That is one representative for every 26,000 Serbian citizens. I don’t know how that compares to other countries, but it seems to be a bit of overkill. The school is planning on having some of our older students serve internships in the parliament next semester through an international NGO. I am looking forward to that. The public can visit the parliament on the last Saturday of each month. I would like to do that with the boys.