I had a bout of Ryan Syndrome a few weeks back and it has caused me
some stupid pointless problems since then. I was booking my flight
from Bangkok to Phuket online. I checked the dates and doubled checked
and triple checked. For kicks I walked away and came back and looked
at it fresh. Yes, leaving on the 11th and returning on the
12th (month apart). Everything was perfect and if my life
depended on it I would swear that it was perfect. Then I booked it and
suddenly realized I booked it a day early. I had booked the flight on
the 11th to overlap with my flight from Japan. Suddenly it
was clear, previously it seemed perfect the way I had it. Now I have
to call several times and fax various forms and call back and pay a
July 2, 2008
The 8th grade students were learning “I want to be a ____,
I want to ____” today and then they had writing practice. During the
writing practice they had to make up their own sentences about their dreams.
Students are always writing about their dreams, even though most have
such low desires. Half the girls wrote “I want to be a housewife”.
Awesome, we you should be the best you can be… Anyway, one kid wrote
that he wants to be a pianist (there’s that stupid word again). He
wants to be the most famous one on the world, but he couldn’t really
think of the correct adjectives so he said “I want to be a big
pianist”. That got a laugh out of me since I hadn’t checked it in
advance. The one that was better and made me step out for a minute
was, “I want to be a ball boy. I want to play with their balls”.
Another girl, a nice girl actually, looked up and then wrote “I want
to be a madam”, hmmm not sure what she means by that.
During the preparation to this activity they had to listen
to a track of two people talking about what they want to be. One
wanted to be a doctor so she could help sick people. One kid thought
she wanted to be a doctor so she could help six people, which was
funny. Another boy, not having any idea what he was saying said she
wants to be a doctor so she could house stick people. Then after the
activity one student copied another student’s answers. The student
whose answers were copied flicked him a bird and said “bitch”. The
best part was these were really good kids just imitating something
they heard on TV or in a comic. Things like that aren’t rude and are
likely on TV.
After school I played with some kids on the playground.
There’s one girl that always cries. Several kids cry at the drop of a
hat, but a few more often than most. She was on the slide blocking
some kids from playing and one boy said “come on, crying again, it’s
like everyday with you”. Of course it was in Japanese, but that was
the general vibe of it. I was glad he said it since she cries at the
smallest thing. I understand it sometimes, but when you constantly cry
that no one will play with you maybe you should think why they
won’t…because you’ll start crying almost immediately most likely.
Later I went into the darkened computer room to write a
text message and generally be alone for a bit. There was another girl
in there in the dark. I assumed she wanted to be alone so I didn’t say
anything to her. After I typed it I noticed she was making a paper
airplane so I went over and made one with her. I made the standard
long wing jet style. Then I threw it and it went through the window
and into the library…Oops. No harm done so no big deal.
Tomorrow is the farewell party with the BoE and the
Koriyama JETs that are leaving. I think it’s going to be interesting,
but I’m not going to say anything until ex post facto. That’s Latin I
think for “after the fact”. I should learn more Latin.
A dedicated reader requested I add an RSS feed to the site so she
could tell when I made an update since I do them so infrequently.
Others have asked in the past, but I’ve never seen this as a worth “blog”.
It’s really just my day to day ramblings that I will read with my
grandchildren in 2038, even though the world is supposed to end on
December 12th, 2012 according to the Mayans (who didn’t
even manage to predict their own total destruction). But anyway, I was
curious about RSS so I Googled "how to set up a basic RSS feed"
and figured out how to do it and I did it. The RSS feed is at
so if you know how to receive an RSS feed then go for it. I’ll try to
update it as infrequently as I update the journal.
We finally got the test scores from the June standardized
English test. They were about what I expected. Of the 18 that took the
test only 9 passed. A few girls were too competitive and took a level
that was too high. They failed, but did get close. They should pass if
they take it around October or whenever the next one is. A few kids
who failed were ones that I really wanted to pass, but they will
definitely pass the next time. In September I plan to overhaul my
online test so it tracks their scores.
Tonight we have the farewell party for the Koriyama JETs
that are leaving. It’s either going to go smoothly or be Jerry-Springeresque
involving the police showing up. I’m really leaning toward the side of
it going smoothly, but one never knows. I don’t want to elaborate
until ex post facto.
I got a package today with some shorts, deodorant, and
blood pressure medicine. The doctor’s office in Atlanta said they
cannot renew my prescription anymore until I come in for a check up.
Hmmm, that would cost around $3,000 so I asked my doctor here if he
could give me some medicine. He had to change the prescription, but so
far it seems to be doing fine. The Atlanta doctor knows I live in
Japan as we have talked about it several times, so I don’t know what
the deal is with that. Though I have called before (and been put on
hold for 5 minutes) and had to explain the same thing to three
different nurses since they are incapable of talking to each other. Oh
well, hopefully I can just lower my BP myself by eating better and
Superhero, of sorts.
I have super powers in a way. Not like Superman or Spiderman (Batman
was a regular guy with a super belt), but I have some limited powers.
The first one is I can change the weather on demand. If it's raining
and I decide to wash my car, it will suddenly stop and clear up just
as I have the car completely soapy.
Last July's entry regarding this.
Then today I decided to work on a crafts project for the August
English camp that I am co-leading with two other people. We are doing
a Pirates of the Kori-bean challenge where they get a treasure list
and have to go find various things. The treasures are somewhat vague
so they have to think creatively. One item might be "something from a
samurai" and they have to figure out how to do that. We did this last
July and it was a hit, but I didn't like the treasure list on plain
white paper. I wanted to make it slightly more authentic. So here's
what I did:
waited until the sun was shining bright and there were ZERO clouds in
put the plain white paper down and wiped coffee all over them.
When they dry they look 100 years old. I ripped the edges for an added
the sun disappeared and a wall of clouds came in. Like instantly there
is no sun and
no cloud opening for a million miles in every direction.
NOW IT'S THUNDERING AS I TYPE THIS.
I am the master of all weather. I AM WEATHERMAN!
Son of Jarel, kneel before ZOD.
If this were a one time event I would chalk it up to Murphy's Law, but
it always happens and not even on a small scale. There were NO clouds
in the sky so I went ahead and laid them out. Now the sky is JET black
and I can see rain in the distance. BAG OF POO.
I went to the 7-11 this morning around 7:45 this morning to get some
quick breakfast since I wanted to take my medicine with breakfast and
not lunch. There’s this one employee there who is a moron. He might be
a bit slower than normal so I should be careful, but he still annoys
me. The reason is that he says dumb stuff to me. First, when I come up
to the counter he stares as if I were a 10 foot tall alien. Then I say
“can I buy this?” and he starts to ring it up. Then he says “wow, you
are so big” which by itself is a bit rude, but perfectly acceptable in
Japan (as long as the recipient is a foreigner). But the part that
really irritates me about it is that HE is taller and bigger than me.
No you moron, you are “so big”. This has happened about 5 times and I
just grin and nod. Today I was in an annoyed feisty mood so I replied
with “yes, it is amazing isn’t it” in Japanese.
At school I walked around before classes started and
chatted with the kids. The weekend usually recharges me and I can get
over the annoying kids. One girl won’t even look at me so I say good
morning a billion times to her. Other kids come up and hug me and a
few poke me in places that don’t need poking. The hugs and poking
usually balances out and I usually look forward to seeing them. Around
Friday things start piling up and I start getting annoyed, but the
weekend usually washes that away.
This week (the 30 minutes I have spent in it so far) I
have realized I am ready to get to Thailand. I am ready for a change
and ready to start working on my CELTA course. BTW, I won’t be making
any substantial updates, or really any at all, until the end of
August. I will probably make a big summary type at the end of August,
but it might be early September. Exactly 12 hours after I land back in
Japan, I have to go to English Camp for 3 full days. I’m leading it,
but all the participants are doing their share so it’s not like I have
too much to worry about, but I still have to worry about the overall
details of making sure everyone knows when and what they have to do.
As soon as that is over I start school and will probably not feel like
typing much. Anyway, the point of this paragraph was that I just want
to be gone already and get into the Thailand scheme.
I didn’t really do much worth mentioning over the weekend. I stayed in
Saturday and cleaned the car as well as the apartment a bit. Then
Sunday I went to Koriyama to have Starbucks coffee and do some small
time shopping. It’s been probably 6 months since I have had a Caramel
Frappucino and I really had a craving for it. Partially for the
feeling of sitting there overlooking the street sipping a frozen
caramel treat. Then I browsed at cameras and manly stuff at the
electronic shop and finally I went to check out this store called
Donkey Hody or Don Quixote. I am looking for a Pirate outfit for the
above mentioned super power thing. No such luck, but I bought some
Tabasco for 98 yen as opposed to 268 yen at all the other stores. Then
I went to Aeon town (a shopping center) and had sushi for lunch and
looked at tents and sporting stuff. I would like my spicy curry Mird or Super Mird please.
The vice principal and secretary spent an hour trying
translate something into English about me going to the hospital to
have the monthly blood test. I have told them repeatedly to just say
it in Japanese since I can usually figure it out in context, but they
wrote it in a 3rd language that was totally unintelligible
to me. It used English letters and had some English words, but there
was no order or grammar or point. It was like “hospital go have yes do
kanji form take if there is one and blood it is no. some blood a form
it’s done”. I asked to see the Japanese original and realized they
were trying to say “when you go to the hospital write this kanji on
the form instead of that one”.
The seniors have been working on little puppet show skits.
My plan was to take three weeks for them to write a little skit,
translate it into English, make little puppets, and have an end of the
year fun little puppet show in English for their class. It was a
foolish effort and I’m not going to do anything like that again. First
they didn’t write much. Then they lost the papers that they wrote it
on and had to start over the next week. Then they couldn’t translate
anything into anything that is remotely comprehensible. Finally, they
spent all of the puppet making class goofing off or making really
complicated puppets and didn’t finish. So this is the last week and I
had planned to do the performances today, but they need another class
to keep making more puppets. I really wanted to have this be an end of
the year thing and start with a new style of classes in the fall after
my CELTA, so…
I think I am going to do a bad thing. I am going to tell
them they have to finish their puppets today and then give them to me
so I can keep them since they always seem to lose papers and stuff.
Then I am going to toss them out in a way that no one will notice.
Yes, I am going to throw them away effectively wasting three classes.
I’d rather do this than have their first class in the fall be a
mixture of “oh we forgot those things, what should we do” and “we need
one more class to finish this”. I’m sick of it all and want to put it
all behind me and start fresh in the fall.
What I’ve learned from this as well as from the elective
class (which ironically has the top seniors) is they can’t write a
creative skit on their own. You either have to feed it to them or
write it for them. We had students write some ideas for the fall
school festival and they were all the same. The same within each group
and every year. It’s like their default skit is “my dream”. They all
wrote these boring memories and how they fit into their dreams. So
what I’ve learned is to just write it for them and say learn it. I
should have written the puppet skits in English and had them spend 2-3
classes making the characters. Some kids made really cool puppets, but
most made disproportionate characters. One would be 6 inches tall and
the other 1 inch. What is this a Godzilla skit?
I’ve asked the BoE if I can have two schools from next
April. I am considering renewing, but there is no way I can renew if
things stay the same. I need something new and a second school would
be a good change. There’s one school that’s semi close and has 3
classes per grade as opposed to our one class per grade here. I would
also like to move into Koriyama, but there are no Koriyama JET
apartments open now. I think if I were to move into Koriyama and have
Konan 2 days a week and another school (or schools) 3 days a week, I
could stay 2 or 3 more years. It’s an easy life and the money, though
never going up, is decent. I should be able to save a fair bit this
next year. I would love to pay off my last big fat totally pointless
loan before leaving Japan. That would let me relax and find some job
where I didn’t have to worry about money so much.
July 9, 2008
I helped the ladies put the lunches out from the baskets to the trays
today. I just put the bowls and plates down anywhere on the tray even
though I should have known there is a precisely exact place they go.
Any deviation will result in utter confusion.
I put the rice bowls and soup bowls on the trays. Some
other teachers did other things. When we were ready to eat one teacher
gasped as if there were a severed finger in a bowl. Then some started
pointing at the imaginary finger. “Oh LORD what will we do?” Then a
few started talking about what should be done. Finally one teacher
rearranged some trays so the bowls were in their correct position
according to GPS. Then a few laughed and tried to speak their Japanese
pig-Latin so that I wouldn’t understand, but I heard them saying it
must have been me who violated this sacred rule. The truth is, I care
more about common digestive disorders of African elephants than I do
about where stupid bowls go on stupid trays. It’s honestly not
possible for me to care any less about that.
While I am ranting, I love how it is totally acceptable
around the world to laugh at an English speaker trying to speak a
foreign language, but it would be rude if we laugh at others
slaughtering our language. Believe me there are plenty of people
learning English who sound like horse choking on a carrot, but I could
never imagine laughing at someone trying to learn that. When I go to
Thailand people will chuckle when I try to use their tones, but I
would never tell a Thai person it sounds like two ducks fighting when
I hear them talk. Japan is the same way just slightly more polite
about it. I’ve heard Chinese people are the same way and some places
in Europe will just ignore you or ask you to flat out stop speaking. I
would love to try that sometime in English “what…what…stop…just
stop…if you can’t speak perfectly like a native of 30 years with a
Linguistics degree, then just stop”. AWESOME.
We had a seminar today about what to do if a deranged criminal enters
the school through any one of the dozen wide open doors and windows.
We take this thing called a sasumata (sah sue mah tah) and restrain
said individual. When we practiced the assailant wouldn’t resist, just
stand their posing with a fake knife. I know it would be 100%
different if someone were struggling to get out or avoiding it all
together. Luckily that only happens about once every two years in
Japan and it’s rarely that bad since I doubt we could restrain anyone
with those things, unless they were posing like when we practiced.
Someone mentioned how "green" Japan is recently and I have
making fun of that statement ever since. The reason I make fun of that
is Japan is coincidentally green because they only heat the room they
are in and don't heat hallways at school. They do this more for
self-torture than to be environmentally safe. But when it comes to
reducing paper or chopping down trees, it's like a free for all. Here
are all the papers that have come across my desk since April 1st. Not
even all of them since many have to be thrown away in a certain basket
so I couldn't keep them all. I'd say this is 90% of them and only
about 10% were necessary. The rest could have been internal web pages
or just one sheet hung on a bulletin board. We don't need one copy
each of notices and advertisements.
That's about 6.5 centimeters which is a few inches. It's not just my
school, it's Japan. They love paperwork almost as much as they love
meetings. Anything official requires tons and tons of triplicate
paperwork with no copies. They must all be originals. ARGH.
Off to see the Wizard.
I'm off to
Thailand for a month for my CELTA class. The teachers think I am going
to party and travel, but I kept saying it was not going to be fun. Oh
well. I doubt I will update much, but there is a chance I will have
internet access and might make one or two updates. Either way, over
Sunday, July 13, 2008
typing this in Phuket in my month-long apartment hotel. So far things are going
more or less as planned, though there is one small annoying thing. Technically
it's not small at all. They stamped my passport with a 30 day visa. I will be
here 40 days. Hmmm, I have to either extend it 10 days or leave the country and
come back. I think they have made some changes to the "visa run" option so I had
better check that before I leave. Other than that, things are running as planned
though I should have planned some things better. I'll just start from the
Konan Friday morning (after waking up at 5:30am) and drove into Koriyama. There
I did some last minute errands and parked my car at the Koriyama JET apartment
complex. I caught the bus to the station and bought some new headphones since my
old ones broke. Then I went and waited for the bus. It came right on time and I
rode for just under 5 hours to the airport. I love the bus since it drops you
off directly at the door to the check in counter. The shinkansen-Narita express
option takes you to a lower level where you have to walk a while. That's not too
bad, but the bus only costs $48 for a 4.5 hour direct route. The shink takes
under 1.5 hours from the station to Tokyo station where you then walk for 30
minutes to the basement subsection and wait for the N'EX to take you another
hour to the basement of the airport. Depending on the timing of the trains you
can get to the airport in anywhere from 3-5 hours at a cost of around $120. So
the bus is about the same time at half the price and it drops you off right at
the door. Well that's settled.
shinkansen (Bullet Train) in Japan is really amazing and convenient. The most
convenient thing about it is how quickly you can get from point A to point B.
Someone can go virtually anywhere in Japan minus Hokkaido (top island) and
Okinawa (lower islands). It runs the full length of Japan and there are a few
branch off points as well. I didn't realize how convenient it was until I flew a
few places. When you go to an airport, even a domestic flight,
* First you book a ticket well in advance,
* Then you wait in a line to check in,
* Have your bags scanned and examined,
* Have to worry about how much baggage you have and how much it weighs and
what's in it,
* Have to worry about how many ML of liquid you have in your carry on bag,
* Wait for a specific plane and hope there were no problems which would then
delay your flight for hours,
* Then you board and find your seat which might be in the middle of 5 seats with
no leg room,
* Possibly sit on the runway for a while waiting to take off
* Endure the turbulence and bad weather
* Arrive, get taxied to the gate, wait to get off the plane
* Wait by the baggage claim for your bag which always seems to be last.
* Then you have to catch some form of public transportation to get to the city
just for a domestic flight. With international flights there's a whole other
section on immigration and what not. But with the shinkansen you can rock up and
buy a non-reserved ticket and then get on a train 5 minutes later. No worries
about your baggage or liquids, no worries about specific trains or leg room or a
bad seat (seats have plenty of leg room), no turbulence since it's like floating
on air, no waiting when you arrive since you have your bag and you are there in
the center of town already. Granted airplanes go much faster than trains, but
the processes are so different and they shouldn't be.
[End Slight Tangent]
Ok, so I
am at the airport and I check in painlessly since I got my ticket online and did
the web check-in the day before. I give them my bag, look at the clock and see I
have plenty of time and go wander around the store area. Then I realize it's
3:45 and my flight is at 7. I have over 3 hours to kill. Oh poo. I get
something to eat and watch the planes land and take off from the observation
deck. That was fun for about 3 minutes, but once you've seen a plane take off
and land, they are pretty much all the same. Then I go to the gate and read for
a bit and chill out. Finally I get on the plane.
plane I realized I am growing toward hating people in general. Most everyone
annoyed me for some reason. I know I can be easily annoyed, but most of the
things were stupid. There was a guy who wasn't looking at the seat numbers and
walked past his, then he had to get back upstream and got mad at people in his
way. There was the guy constantly talking on his mobile phone after the flight
attendant told him to cut it off 10 times. He wasn't even talking about anything
important either. Then the people behind started talking about stupid things and
being loud. I've noticed Americans have no volume control in general. We have to
talk loud and then we have to talk louder than the people we are talking to. The
people behind me were laughing and being loud and talking about high school
things. Then they started laughing at something that wasn't even funny, but they
couldn't stop laughing at it. Finally at the end of the flight I found out they
were Christians going to Thailand to do some missionary work. It's funny how the
people you would think would be the most well behaved sometimes aren't. I
remember the rudest most aggressive team in the intramural softball league in
college was the Baptist Student Union.
we land in Bangkok around 11pm and I pass through immigration and customs. The
immigration guy stamps my passport for 30 days which is a problem as I
mentioned, but I'm sure it will work out somehow. Then I got my bag and passed
through customs and had to fight with all the people trying to get me to take an
overpriced taxi to the city. I told them I was looking for a friend and they
kept saying taxi and I kept ignoring them. That's one thing I hate about
Thailand is the greedy beggars for scams and overpriced services. Their taxis
are about 800-1,000 baht whereas the city taxis are only 300-400 baht. I chose a
special bus which was 150 baht and more or less worth it, even though it drove
past the road I wanted and made us walk a bit, but it was fine for the price.
check in and get something to eat and relax a bit. Then on Saturday I had
several hours to kill so I had breakfast in the hotel and then had a morning
massage. Later I bought a new bag since mine was old and already overstuffed and
I now had 4 new short sleeve shirts to stuff in it. So I bought that and had
another massage and then got a taxi to the airport. The hotel overcharged me for
that, but it was only a little. They charged me 400 baht and then the taxi meter
said 300 or something close to that. I'm actually losing my love for that place
even though it's still a good place and I do recommend it.
Ok, I am
at the Don Muang and I check in and decide to get some nice Thai food for
lunch. But then I notice there is a Burger King at my gate and I have an hour to
kill. I eat and then read some and finally we board. There were more annoying
people on this flight, but it was only an hour so it passed quickly. We landed
and went through the whole waiting for our bag thing and then I had to fight
through all the taxi people again to get to my hotel pick up. He drove me to the
hotel in the usual Thai way which was to accelerate until there was a car
directly in front of us, then to honk and flash the lights, then to speed up
again. The white lines in the road are only suggestions of where to drive.
People were in our lanes, we were in the oncoming traffic lanes, we passed on
the part of the road that is called the grass. I just look away and know they
always drive like this and must know how to handle it.
to the hotel and I check in. It is a rather nice place, even though my room is
not quite as nice as the images on the website. It's still nice and well worth
the US $450 I paid for a month on Phuket, but it's a bit funny how it's not
quite like the photos. When I took a shower I thought it was going to be
cold water and I nearly panicked. I don't take cold showers, which is the sole
reason why I don't want to go to prison. Finally it heated up and was nice.
There was a nice water flow and the shower was spacious. This morning I woke up
at 6am since my body thinks it's 8am in Japan. 6am would be fine actually since
I wouldn't mind going to a fitness center in the morning for a bit if there is
one near the hotel. If I got up before 6-ish and got there around 6:15 I could
work out for an hour or so and get back here by 7:30 and shower and get ready
and then eat breakfast at 8am (when it opens) and then start walking around 8:30
and get to the CELTA place before 9am which is when it starts. That might be
pushing it, but it depends on where the fitness place is, how much it is, and
what time it opens. Even if I don't do that every morning, I am going to get a
bit of a workout from the 15 minute walk in the sun. Plus the food is generally
lighter here. I had a fat breakfast this morning, which is fine since that's the
meal one wants to have carbs and general garbage. It gives you energy for the
whole day. I might even skip lunch, but I doubt that. I don't know how long our
lunch break is, maybe 1-1.5 hours.
pretty much brings us up to this absolute now. I had breakfast at 8am and now
it's 9:45. I've been typing this and watching TV as well as organizing a bit. I
realized I don't have much to do today and I should have left Saturday and flown
down to Phuket today, but I didn't want to be rushed. I like to have a day to
prepare a bit before starting something new like this. Today there is a 4-hour
meeting to prepare us for tomorrow and the rest of the course. Four weeks of
solid English language teaching learning. That sounds like a lot of fun doesn't
it. Narrator's note: The shift key doesn't work so I have to hit caps lock to
make a shift letter. Note ended. Anyway, today I am going to meet the 30+ people
I am going to work with for the next month. As all groups, I'm curious about the
drama that will unfold. What will everyone be like, who will dislike who, which
personalities will clash, who will hook up with who... And so the drama begins.
10am. I think I am going to try to find that gym, eat lunch, nap a bit, watch TV
since there are dozens of English channels here, and then head over to the
meeting around 1:30. I'll update this after said meeting.
And so it begins.
Monday, July 14, 2008
meeting yesterday went great. There are only 6 people taking the course so it's
just one group of six. There is a guy from the US who has never taught, a guy
from the UK that has taught some, another American who has taught in Nepal, an
Indian guy who is teaching now, myself, and a girl from Poland who is traveling
around teaching in various places. It seems like a good group, but there will be
some drama along the way. There were hints of it yesterday. I think one area
that will be an issue is with the dress code. A few people were not pleased with
having to wear a dress shirt and tie all the time. I agree especially since the
regular teachers at the place don't seem to wear ties, but I'm not going to
cause a stink.
night there was some loud noise in the hall. It sounded like someone shooting,
but I realized it was some moron knocking. I heard people talking loud and
realized for once it was not some Americans being drunk and loud. It was someone
from one of those cultures where the world revolves around them. They were
talking full volume in the hall and slamming doors and knocking loudly. I
couldn't identify the language, but it wasn't English or Thai. I hope they don't
stay a full month. Though they did seem to get quiet shortly there after.
have my first teaching lesson. It's only 15 minutes and about a short reading
bit so it should be ok. It's going to be a challenge for me since I'm never told
what to teach, I always pick it myself. I think having us teach on the first day
is a bit much. I would have preferred one day where w watch the tutor teach so
we could make notes. It's not a huge thing for me since I have taught, but for
the guy who has never taught it's a big deal. He was outwardly sweating in class
when he got his assignment. The next time I teach is Wednesday and that will be
35 minutes. That's a big jump I think, but again it should be ok. We have to
teach for 6 hours total over 4 weeks so I should have two lessons at 35 then a
few at 40 then some at 55. I'll add it up later. I have to prepare for my less
And so it continues.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
lesson went ok. There were about 13 students and I heard maybe 20 will show up.
I really felt like it was too much info for the 15 minutes, but I got through it
in about 20. Some teachers went for 25 minutes and one was going at 30 and tried
to start a new activity when the tutor cut him off flat. He way over planned. I
over planned as well, but I had made my lesson with check points where I could
continue or stop as needed. After the 6 CELTA candidates taught the tutor gave
us feedback. It was all balanced and accurate and I know a few things to change
next time. I really didn't like teaching on the first day as I thought it was a
bit too much at the beginning. It's like teaching someone to swim by throwing
them in the pool and then telling when what they should have done after they
dog-paddled for 15 minutes. I can understand why they did it, but I would have
preferred to watch a lesson by a tutor and then have our first lesson on the
morning we had some interesting classes about learner styles and teaching ideas.
A few of the things really helped and I plan to use them in my future lessons
back in Japan. One in particular was to give clear directions then ask what the
directions are. It makes people repeat the plan and you can verify they
understand. We also went over how students learn and I found out (well I was
reminded) that I am a visual and kinesthetic learner. I have to see something
and also do an activity for it to stick. I verified that several times when he
would give us oral directions and I wouldn't remember what to do.
the lessons a few of us planned to go to this pizza place owned by an Italian
guy. Luckily it is near my hotel so it was a 5 minute walk. Only one guy showed
up, but we saw one of the tutors there though we didn't chat. The guy that
showed up was a real estate agent for 14 years and gave it all up and sold
everything to move to Thailand and start teaching. He has no teaching experience
so he is a little nervous in front of the students, but he has a natural
easiness about him that the students like. He is noted to have said the first
funny thing in class. When he was teaching them irregular past tense verbs, he
wrote some infinitive forms on the board and was about to explain how they were
irregular when the students said the answers and he didn't have to do anything.
He said "well I can go home now" somewhat under his breath.
typing this at 6:30am which seems to be to the time I am going to do work or
write this stuff. I know where a gym is and I might join after this weekend and
start going either in the morning or after school. I also plan to stop going out
for a long dinner with the other candidates since I need to save money. I can
eat for under $3 a meal when I try, though the pizza dinner was $15, which isn't
a bad price, but I need to eat better and save money. Around 7:30 I will start
to get ready and then eat breakfast promptly at 8am and walk over to ECC-Thai
when I finish. The breakfast is great and it's also on the roof patio outdoors.
The sun rises behind the building so the patio is in the shade. I'll get a photo
of it sometime.
have no lessons to teach today. Three candidates do it today and three others
tomorrow. Then I teach again on Friday. The lessons today and tomorrow are
35 minutes, which is closer to an actual lesson life cycle and should go much
better. With the 15 minute lesson if you tell them to work in pairs for 5
minutes, that's 33% of your class. I think the Thurs-Fri lessons are 40 and then
they are 45 or 55 minutes after that, but only about twice a week. I think the
students signed up for 2 hours a day and there would be a break. Man the "e" key
on this keyboard doesn't work well and not at all with the shift. I have to hit
caps lock and then the "e".
I got tired of tying to configure my computer to connect to the wireless network
so I asked for a cable to hook into the LAN. As you can see I have access to the
internet now. This might be a bad thing since I sat down to check email and
looked at the clock three minutes later to see 3 hours had passed. Anyway, I can
make updates now and you can follow my progress on the course. Also, I plan to
add photos soon, but I don't have the SD card adapter now. I have to plan my
lesson for tomorrow about "Adverbs of Manner".
I thought so.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
I knew there would be drama and personality conflicts
and they are starting to appear. I've also realized I am probably the reason I
seem to be cast as the outsider when a group forms. Rather than saying "I am
going to eat at _____" I ask other people where they are going. I let them know
they are in charge, they are decision makers, and I am the follower. I think I
do that so I won't have to eat alone even though I don't entirely mind it. I'm
going to try to start making decisions based on what I want rather than what
My 2nd lesson which was yesterday went much better. I made some major changes
and most were received well. One was a bit much and as mentioned above I reacted
to a student's facial expression and shouldn't have. We were taught to give
clear directions and then check the directions by asking follow up questions,
but we overdid it and it came across as demeaning to the students. When I went
in the middle spot and started checking my instructions one guy rolled his eyes
like "we are not morons" and I over-reacted and stopped checking altogether.
Other than that it was much better and I received "To The Standard" as a mark.
The drama and personality conflict thing isn't really so bad and I think it is
due to cultural differences. The people that are having problems (that aren't
really problems) are not from the same continent. One person doesn't really like
any negative feedback and disagrees with certain people when they give it, even
if the positive feedback outweighs the negative. One person has a distinctively
different style of teaching based on where he/she grew up and was taught.
Something I find odd is how I might think a lesson was horrible and another
person (not from my continent) will think it was wonderful and vice versa. I'll
go into more detail after the course. For anyone interested in taking a CELTA
class, and those interested in doing so specifically from
ECCThai, I am going to
separate my CELTA thoughts to a different page and give
a running record of what happens and how I felt about it. I'll also set up a
separate page on the hotel that I am staying at,
and maybe some sites around Phuket town. I will make this happen in a now like
During lunch today I went to find the
gym and did so
successfully. I took a tour and plan to sign up since it is much better than
most gyms in the US and Japan. There were tons of free weights and a huge
aerobics room and spin room as well as a spa and some machines and a pool. It
will be $35 a week or $100 a month. I can't sign up for the month since I won't
have the money for that until next Tuesday or Wednesday and I want to sign up
before then. They open at 6:30 so I could get there then and work out until
7:30, then shower and eat and be at ECC by 9. I think I could make it happen. I
doubt anyone will be there at 6:30 and I do like working out in the morning.
down, three to go.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I taught on Friday and it went better, though I still
had some bumps. You can follow that on
my CELTA thoughts page. On Saturday I did some shopping
and bought some slip in smart casual shoes that I might be able to wear in class
as well as a belt and some underwear. Seems odd that I would buy that in
Thailand, but I have special needs underwear. I like the boxer-brief style,
which means it goes down my leg a bit and keeps my legs from rubbing against
each other. I also like them a little tight so I can't wear loose boxers. I have
trouble finding them in Japan or at least affording them. I'm wearing the undies
now and they fit fine.
Then I wandered around more near Robinson's and Ocean Department Store and found
a theater with "The Dark Knight" which I will probably see sometime. I found a
few other interesting stores and I found out McDonald's and KFC delivers to your
door. Wow, that's both interesting and scary. I might eat there once, but not
often. I mainly lounged around the apartment Saturday since I needed a "me" day.
I had dinner at the restaurant-bar in front of the hotel and thought about
getting a massage, but I didn't. I might do that today if I finish my CELTA
written assignment soon. By "soon" I mean today.
Today I had breakfast and am now typing this. It's rainy outside which is
perfect since I need to stay in and work on this paper and my Tuesday lesson. I
was feeling a bit rushed and overwhelmed teaching so much back to back and then
having so much other stuff to do. I'm not overloaded since I have taken Japanese
classes that were as long as this and all in Japanese. My brain was literally
fried after those classes, whereas this is just so much to do at once.
Now that the first week is over I realized that it feels like we have been doing
this for two weeks or more. It really feels like we have been teaching more than
3 times and taking classes for more than 5 mornings. I feel like I've known the
other trainees for months and have been here for a month. It's strange to think
we are only 25% of the way into it.
I finished the written assignment and I will look at it again later. I'm not
really sure if it's what they want since the assignment was so specific it was
almost vague. I had lunch at some small place nearby. It was average so I
probably won't go there again. There are better places I could eat at again or
new places to explore. I've looked at my new lesson for Tuesday and I hope to
plan it by tomorrow and ask some questions about it. I also organized my
notebook since I had been stuffing things into random folders and then losing
them. Since then I have lounged around watching Saturday Night Live on TV (a
re-run) and just relaxed. If I can rewrite the paper soon I might have a
massage after dinner.
And then there were...
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I thought it would maybe come to this, but I had hoped
not since we only had 6 CELTA trainees. One guy walked out around 10am while we
were on break and never came back. He missed his teaching practicum that
afternoon and the tutor had to teach on the spot to cover him so I'm pretty sure
he's not coming back. We guess if he were sick or had some family emergency he
would have mentioned something to someone as he left, but nothing to no one. The
sad thing is I really liked him and will miss him. It actually feels like a
death since he left without any farewell.
I had a class on Tuesday that I absolutely hated and thought it was awful, but
everyone said it was fine and I got a "To The Standard" grade. I felt bad since
I was given several micro points to include whereas I usually prefer a topic
that I can build up with my own things. I have another lesson today, but it's
reading comprehension and I feel better with it. Plus it's from an authentic
text and I am building all the exercises. We'll see how it goes.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
I got "Above the Standard" on my reading skills lesson on Thursday. It was great
even though I was actually expecting "To the Standard". I felt like I had some
great areas, but some areas were slow and seemed to drag on. He made a note of
that, but also that I followed the steps well and more things were right than
were wrong. Well that's great. I also turned in my second paper and I'm pretty
sure I won't be getting it back for a re-submit since I made sure I hit all the
criteria this time.
I was having some major computer problems with my 6+
year old laptop so I decided to do a non-formatting clean reinstall of the OS.
That didn't actually do anything productive and made several things work less. I
then did a reinstall where it wipes all the programs and data off the drive, but
puts them in a special folder. So now things are running much better than before
and I have all the old data and programs. I spent all morning getting back
online then around 2 I went and joined the gym and worked out for 2
Later tonight I will go to Centrale (the central shopping mall) with
Anthony unless he backs out. He always has some wedding party
to go to with one of his old buddies. "This old buddy of mine is
having this party and I gotta go" because if you don't they
will.....what exactly? You've known these people casually for 2
weeks and they are your "old buddies"? If he backs out I am still
going. I didn't come to Thailand to go to the same two bars EVERY
SINGLE NIGHT. He has seriously been to more wedding parties in two
weeks than I have gone to in my entire life.
I bought a USB card reader and transferred some images from the
camera. I will create a page for my time in Phuket to show anyone
interested. [later] Ok, I've made the page about my room at the
Sino House Apartment hotel, please check it out. I will continue
to add photos of the area as well as any places I find of general
interest to possible interested parties.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Anthony didn't back out entirely, but.....Well we did leave as expected and
found the Sizzler which was great. I had a big steak dinner with the free salad
bar. It was a truly filling meal and well worth the $15 we each spent. Then we
walked around the ultra nice mall (which is called Central Festival not Centrale)
and I bought some T-shirts and some underwear. I was going to buy long pants,
but the salesman said something to two other clerks who looked at me and laughed
and I just didn't feel like buying them after that. It's perfectly ok to laugh
at western foreigners, but if we made fun of people in the US we'd be racists or
Then, instead of seeing the movie, Anthony said he felt like he
needed to get back. This turned out to mean he wanted to go straight
to Michael's bar and sit and drink and talk to some Thai girl. This
ended up being he and I were talking while she was talking to her
friend in Thai. Then we went to another bar owned by yet another
"buddy of his" so Anthony and the bar owner could jam out to
Grateful Dead songs. I left after two songs because it was a little
odd. There was no one in the bar except me and I was more interested
in the TV.
The T-shirts I bought were too small as I should have known. I guess
I will donate them to
Baan Dada when
I visit in two weeks. They would be well received by some of the
older boys there I'm sure and I don't mind since I don't wear tight
T-shirts. At least not while I am still fat. The underwear should be
alright though. Today so far I have watched some Sanford and Son and
then I ate breakfast. I have a lesson tomorrow, but it should be an
easy speaking practice with the target language "used to". I'll have
to find a way to stretch it out to be 40 minutes though. Luckily
it's the first day of class with the new students so I can have a
game where they have to interview people and find out what they used
to do or used to like. I noticed it was ok in British grammar to say
"I didn't use to go skating" whereas that sounds wrong to me in
American English. I would just say "I never went skating". Anyway,
I'll plan those and I might see a movie if I get some major work
I thought I had been in this
elevator before and sure enough it is the same elevator.
Bigger, Faster, Longer.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
My lesson went fine yesterday. I received "To the Standard" which didn't
surprise me. Receiving above the standard wouldn't have surprised me either
actually. I felt that it was a solid lesson. Anthony went after me and had a
solid lesson as well, though it was leaning towards below standard since he had
some things out of order. He got onto me early on by saying I speak too slowly
to the students, which is true since I talk to Japanese kids in Japan, but then
a student asked him to slow down TWICE so that argument was pretty much shot.
One of the trainees that taught yesterday got below the standard. I
like the guy and I think he is a good teacher, but this lesson
deserved that grade. He didn't do a decent intro (and it was the
first class with new students), the took too long with some points,
he argued with a student who was correct in a grammar analysis, then
he went over 5 minutes. At the 5 minute over mark he still hadn't
taught the grammar point I was following up on and the tutor said
"ok stop now" so he replied with "can I have 5 minutes" to which the
tutor said "no, time's up" and then he still went on for 5 minutes
more. When he tried to start a new task after being 15 minutes OVER
the teacher shut him down immediately and clearly. This was the 3rd
time that has happened and he received "To the Standard" on the
other ones, which really annoyed me.
I have to teach today as well which is somewhat of an annoying point
with me. The reason I have to teach is because one of other trainees
quit so we have to fill his spot. I'm not mad at him, what irks me
is that the tutors won't step in and fill the gaps. I would really
like to see some lessons by them so we could see what we are being
taught, but for some reason they are resisting. The other odd thing
about that is I have talked to several people who have done CELTA in
the past and they ALL say the tutors not only teach regularly, but
on the first day as well. We had to teach more or less unprepared on
the first day and it was a flop I think. I truly did not and do not
understand why we had to teach with no preparation or no lesson to
model. So now I have my usual lessons to plan as well as these extra
unobserved things. I did coin the phrase for them, which means
nothing in the long run. I called them CT - Creative Teaching. I
actually said that to be silly, but the tutor loved it and it stuck.
The Pressure is On.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Some people are showing signs of frustration and...some other adjective similar
to that. I understand it even though I'm not there. The reason I'm not there is
because I have already entered my defense mode which is to not worry about
taking in everything we are told, but to make sure certain things are stated and
written in certain places. I know what it takes to pass and I will focus on
those things and hope I can assimilate the info later.
Then again some of the reasons certain people are stressed are
easily preventable. One is someone misspelled a word on the lesson
plan several times. Why didn't spell check pick it up? Because
he/she hand wrote it. Oh god I would never do that for several
reasons, this being one. Then he/she made some mistakes and had to
draw arrows and mark out words and fill in other words and it was a
little sloppy and hard to follow. Then he/she simply didn't follow
certain steps they have told us over and over.
On another occasion one student wrote a weird character on the board
for a "J". This person insisted that was how he/she was taught,
which was irrelevant to me. At no point did it even remotely look
like a J. It was a Y at best. The students thought the word was
Adyective which is almost how it is pronounced.
Then a few people simply don't look at the time when they start and
teach as long as they feel is needed. I have no real sympathy for
people who simply choose to not look at the clock. Turn your head
and look don't say things like "I'm just not used to doing lessons
that fit into X minutes".
A few students still don't make copies of their plan and sheets and
turn it in to the tutor before the lesson. How many more times can
we be told that? I have done it since the first day because they
said it and it simply makes sense, but some people still forget and
get flustered when he asks for it in the middle of the lesson. One
person didn't make enough copies for class and I had to run get
some. I don't know, there are just some things that seem self
I had a lesson on Wednesday and it went fine, but it was a barely
"to the standard". I knew that since I didn't do a few nit-picky
things. We have 582 things to remember to put in a lesson. When we
put one thing they knock us for missing another. It is stressful in
an unnecessary way to me sometimes. We are told we must follow a
certain order even if the students learn the objective. Most of us
think as long as A) the students learn the aim (or even learn
something), B) the plan was logically ordered, and C) the lesson was
well planned then the little bits shouldn't matter so much. But they
do and we get "scolded" leaving out point #837 even though we added
28 other things this time.
Then we have these FOUR "academically irrelevantly annoying" papers
as tangents to take our mind off actually learning what we are being
taught. Then we have the nearly assured resubmits on the papers and
about 10 other forms to fill out before a lesson. It's like I am
applying for a license to open a nuclear reactor. On top of this we
can't even relax and enjoy watching the other people teaching
because we have all these busy work touchy feely self discovery
tasks to do because GOD FORBID we have one minute of free time. I'm
trying to watch someone's lesson because he is presenting grammar
and I have to do that tomorrow and the tutor says "are you working
on your observation tasks?" Observation tasks = busy work to stop us
from having any down time. So instead of watching the lesson and
seeing something we are learning I am answering questions like "What
did the trainee say when the student asked a question? What was the
trainee's facial expression? How did that make you feel? What are
some other ways of responding? How would those make you feel? Do
they make you feel happy or sad? Are you comfortable with your inner
student? Do you need a hug? What are some other ways of comforting a
friend in need?"
I DON'T KNOW
WHICH IS WHY
I'M TAKING THIS
If I already knew all this stuff or if it were easily possible for
me to find it inside myself, I WOULDN'T HAVE PAID $4,000 to come to
Thailand for the summer. I want to be taught, not directed to find
the truth within my own knowledge store. My Knowledge Store is out
of stock. It's closed for remodeling. I am an American, who wants
things laid out and actually taught, in a course that is British
where they use so much SD to find answers. I think I could teach
Astro-Physics using SD. "So what do you think about the speed of
Jupiter? talk about it in groups and then teach me...I mean tell me
your answers...Ok that's great, now how do you feel about what you
Ok, that rant was needed. I'm going to the gym at 6:30 am.
Ok, it's now 6:35 PM. I went to the gym this morning and then made
it to class. We had input sessions in the morning and then teaching
practicum in the afternoon. During lunch Anthony and I ventured to
the immigration office to get extensions for our visas here. Wow
that was fun as one would expect. The fun part was mainly with the
tuk tuk ride there. Thailand has taught me to be cynical and ignore
people and that most Thai people related to cheap public
transportation will jump at the chance to royally screw a farang
At 12:30 Anthony went to his hotel to get his passport and I went to
get money and then to meet him. There are always
tuk tuks sitting outside his place and they always try to pull
us into one (which is why I have learned to simply ignore people).
So we asked one guy and he said a slightly high, but fair, price to
drive us there. It's a bit out of walking distance especially during
lunch. He takes us there and says "oh no it's closed from 12-1 for
lunch" which is true as it is in Japan. It was 10 til and I thought
about waiting, which we should have done, but he said he could take
us to lunch just around the corner and have us back in no time.
Fine, we agreed. 10 minutes later we are arriving at a beach front
place. I could tell right away it was place that gave him a
commission for bringing us there. They took us into the nice seafood
area and we said we were in a hurry and just wanted some Thai food.
They sat us by the water and took our order. I ordered something
that should be 60 baht ($1.80) and he ordered something that should
be 80 baht ($2.40). The waters should be around 10-20 baht each so
we were expecting about 180 baht. I knew it would be more and it was
480 baht. I actually laughed when they brought the bill since it was
such a blatant "rip off the foreigner" price. I knew how to say
"foreigner price" at one time. It's something like farang khaa.
Then we go back to the place and of course they require copies of
forms and passports and photos and yadda yadda. We do all that and
pay some lady in a shack for photos and copies (I felt like I was
buying crack) and then go back and wait in line. It's already 10 til
2 and they are at number 601. We were number 615. Then some clerk
asks us what we want and I said a 10 day extension. He said they
only give 7 day extensions and so I said we should leave and ask for
details later with a Thai girl that works at the school. So we get
to go back tomorrow and deal with it again, but this time no lunch
excursion. We spent $30 and didn't get anything accomplished.
Sometimes I can handle the mark ups and price hikes for us
billionaire foreigners, but sometimes it just gets old.