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Being A #PhysEd Shokunin

This post is part of ThePhysicalEducator.com’s Summer CPD Series

“The Japanese word for shokunin is defined by both Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries as ‘craftsman’ or ‘artisan,’ but such a literal description does not fully express the deeper meaning. The japanese apprentice is taught that shokunin means not only having technical skills, but also implies an attitude and social consciousness. […] The shokunin has a social obligation to work his/her best for the general welfare of the people. This obligation is both spiritual and material, in that no matter what it is, the shokunin’s responsibility is to fulfill the requirement.” – Tasio Odate

I was recently drawn to a documentary named “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi”. The movie is about Jiro Ono, an 85 year old sushi chef who, from his tiny Tokyo restaurant, has influenced sushi worldwide and earned the prestigious 3-Star Michelin Review.

To be honest, when I first saw the documentary, I had only rented it because I love sushi and was curious to see how the world’s best sushi is made. I never thought that “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” would have such an impact on me or encourage me to reflect on my own passion towards teaching physical education.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buF540VBwAE?rel=0]

Throughout the documentary, we get to see the meticulous training that Jiro puts all of his apprentices through (including his own two sons) to help them develop into shokunin. As Jiro puts it:

“Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honourably.”

In many ways, “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” isn’t even about sushi at all. It’s about dedicating your life to a career that you love and always striving to elevate your craft. In the movie, Jiro tells us that he has been making sushi for 75 years and, even after all that time, he wants to continue to improve on himself by doing the work that he loves:

“I’ll continue to climb, trying to reach the top… but no one knows where the top is! Even at my age, after decades of work, I don’t think I have achieved perfection. But I feel ecstatic all day… I love making sushi. That’s the spirit of the shokunin.”

When it comes to #physed, we too do not know where the top is. We hear about “Master Teachers”, but can a master teacher keep that status if they do not dedicate themselves to continuing professional development?

I believe that being a “Master Teacher” is not an end goal but rather a process. What I learned from Jiro is that even though the process will be meticulous, extensive, and draining at times, that does not mean it will not be enjoyable.

I teach physical education. Have there been times where it has been difficult? Absolutely. But I’ll keep at it, keep trying to improve, keep trying to find new ways to engage my students, and keep trying to elevate my craft because I absolutely love my job.

What Jiro is to sushi, we should want to be to physical education. We should all strive to be #PhysEd shokunin.

What do you think? Do you dedicate yourself to your teaching the way Jiro dedicates himself to his sushi? In what ways are you a #PhysEd shokunin? I’d love to hear your answers in the comments below!

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Joey Feith is the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com. He currently teaches elementary physical education at St. George’s School of Montreal in Quebec, Canada.

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