Taking a look at the two kanji on the right hand side of this picture will answer this question.
Together, they are “sottaku.”
Yesterday, one of the fellow teachers at my high school saw me practicing my daily kanji (Chinese characters in Japanese writing), and said he had a homework assignment for me. Surprised and curiously I said sure, and he then instructed me to go to the front of the school where there was a large paper with kanji on it; I was to try and read it.
I was optimistic about the assignment until I saw the kanji. My homework was written in beautiful but inelligible calligraphy. I reported back and said “zenzen wakkannai” (I have no idea.) He laughed, but quickly took a serious tone and explained very carefully the meaning of these two kanji that greet the students and teachers of Sakurai High School every morning. Below I will display what he wrote to me in quotations. I think my own attempts at this point would only dillute it’s meaning.
The top right character can be read as, “From the inside of an egg, a chick bird is going out of egg, pecking the egg from inside.”
The bottom right character can be read as, “A mother bird is giving hints to a baby bird with knocking the egg to show the direction and strength.”
Sottaku is a noun and a metaphor, which shows the good relationship between an educator and an educatee.
An educator gives not so many hints to the educatee while an educatee is yearning. A mother bird never breaks the egg for a chick, because the chick needs the self confidence and independence. In the same way, an educator never solves the problem, nor gives the solution because the educatee needs the self belief. This word, also shows us that, the quality, the amount, timing of hints are important. Sottaku is the ideal state between teachers and students.”
This was given to me written in these exact words from a math teacher, who has spent some time in the States, studied English for a long time, and is the head of the kendo club at school. I speak to him daily, but like many people we see and work with everyday, I had no idea that he would give me such information.
The fact that so much meaning can be drawn from only two Chinese characters is absolutley amazing, and a testament to their importance for students of Japanese language.
What comes to my mind right now when I ponder this kanji is the difference between teaching methods between American and Japanese martial artists. To generalize, Americans often seem to want and expect all the objective information and answers to their questions immediately upon being taught, irregardless of time spent training. I don’t think this is necessarily bad, and if there’s knowledge, it should be free to everyone, right? Maybe to generalize on the Japanese side, students are expected to obey completely without asking questions, and teachers teach by simply performing the techniques on the students.
Perhaps dwelling somewhere between these extremes, there is an eggshell to be carefully cracked.