Tuesday, June 8, 2010
I have been so busy recently, but I will try to make an update soon.
I'm not complaining, I prefer being busy, but man I have no free time.
Friday, June 04, 2010
I’m making a short film with 8th and 9th
graders. One is a version of 24 and the other is a horror “movie”.
Both are going ok, but the students that aren’t filming parts have
nothing to do and I don’t know what to have them do. I can’t have them
watch because that makes too many people around the “set” and they
simply have no volume control. They truly cannot hear that when they
are talking to someone it is full volume. Either that or they are
simply ignoring me, but I doubt it.
My adult English class is going well too. I made up an
activity on the spot last Tuesday and another one while going to the
class and the students loved them. Something I am going to try next
week is called “steps in a process”. They will have to think of the
steps in a process like driving a car or something, but they can’t
write anything down. Whenever I make an activity that I think will be
right for them it ends up being too easy. We played Taboo once and
that was fun and another category game as well. I think my friend
Megan will be doing the one in September. Maybe I’ll invite her to the
end of class party on Friday the 18th.
Other than that I have been tinkering with Adobe After
Effects more and more and have made a few cute little vids. I’ll
upload some of them later if I get them looking nice. Right now my
topic is playing with masks and making things appear to move behind
something in the video. I’m masking out Prime Minister Hatoyama so I
can walk behind him at a press conference. It’s not too bad since PMs
and Presidents don’t wiggle much at the podium.
My cousin Ben is going to be in Tokyo next week and I am
trying to find a way to get down to see him. I might be able to get
down there on Friday the 11th for the night and come back
Saturday. He leaves on Saturday so maybe we could do something Friday
night and have breakfast Saturday then I could catch a bus.
Today is somewhat lame. The elementary school kids are all
on a walking field trip to the nearby lake so I have no classes with
them and only one class with the 9th graders. We are still
filming the horror movie and today we have a few more parts to do.
Maybe we can wrap up in a few weeks.
No Time At All.
Friday, June 11, 2010
I have been so busy lately that I have been going to bed at 8-9.
Sometimes I wake up around 5-5:30 and try to go jogging, but other
days I am just too exhausted to get up. There’s a party tonight for
the school downtown and I almost said I wouldn’t go, but then they
said the school teacher’s club would pay for all of it, save $5 so I
figured I would go. The reason I didn’t want to go was partially money
and partially since I would be so tired as I have been all week. I’m
not complaining since I prefer being busy to having too much free
My first cousin once removed was in Tokyo this week, but I couldn’t
get down to visit him. The plan was to go down tonight and come back
tomorrow before his flight, but he found out he was leaving earlier
than expected so I couldn’t make it down.
I have taken on a small English conversation group once a
week for some extra money. It’s only an hour and rather easy. I’d like
to do it a few more times a week which would really help since the
money comes in a week before payday which is usually when I am the
poorest. If I had 3 classes a week I could get about $3-400 at the end
of the month and that would let me send that much more money back to
pay down the stupid school loan. We’ll see how that goes.
The BoE still casually mentions that the landlord wants us (the
foreigners living in a certain building) to join something called a
chou-nai-kai. Chou is neighborhood, nai is within, and kai is
association so basically a neighborhood association. It costs $50 for
a year, but no one will tell us what it is, why we have to pay, what
it involves, who gets the money, etc. We just get told “you don’t have
to join, but the landlord said he would be happy if we joined”. I
assume the landlord gets the money from each of us and that’s why he
would be happy if we joined. I simply want to know what it involves,
but no one seems to know. I’ll consider joining whenever someone seems
to figure that out.
I got to school early specifically to prepare for some things and now
we are having this impromptu meeting where they are showing us the
proper way to put trash in the trash bag. How many different ways are
there? The really annoying thing is I REALLY need to make some copies
since it's about 5 minutes until class, but all they are doing is
READING MEMOS to us. They aren't even time sensitive. What is the
point in giving out memos and then reading them to people? THEN the
meeting leader will say "anything
then........anything........" which literally takes over a minute and
at the very last possible second someone will say "oh I have
something" and then that something will take another 5 minutes. Then
he repeats the ending part.
I give stickers to my 1-3 classes after each class. I gave them all a
booklet to put them in. Well, all but one class, the 2nd
years at Konan. I simply cannot print the booklet for them. I have
printed hundreds for all the other 1-3 students I teach with no
problems, but I have had consistent difficulties with this one class.
Not with the class, just printing the booklet for the class. AND I
have used the same configuration to print it for everyone, but when I
print the booklet for THIS class, it won’t work. Once it just wouldn’t
print. Once it printed, but every other one was messed up. Today it
printed half in a weird way for no reason. I really don’t know what
the problem is.
I just got back from cleaning trash around the lake in Konan. It’s the
first time in 5 years that I have been able to do it. Either it rains
or I was at another school or whatever reason. It was fun and we
actually made a decent impact although we cleaned an area people never
go to. The trash got there from being washed up I suppose since most
was tangled in other trash and branches. There were 3 students, myself
and another teacher and we filled about 10 bags full of garbage. It’s
sad there is so much trash out there, but what do you expect when
there are ZERO trash cans anywhere in a country.
I was looking at my schedule next week and saw that once
again at Ohse I have 2 morning classes and then I sit around all day
doing nothing with no computer. Last year was so great because the
kyomu (guy that makes the schedule) was an English teacher and wanted
to use me as much as possible. His plan was 3rd years and 2nd
years on Thursday then 3rd years and 1st years
on Monday. Each grade has 2 classes so that was 4 classes a day each
time I went. That’s considered a full load and is great. Next Thursday
I have the 3rd years in the morning and then 2 empty
periods and then lunch and then nothing from 1 to 4:15. UGH.
Monday, June 14, 2010
I come to a very small school sometimes. By ‘small’ I mean 21 students
in 5 grades, TOTAL. 7 students per class and 1-2,3-4, and 5-6 are
together. So clearly I can only have a few classes per day at this
school. Then I do a lot of sitting. But today when I got there the
vice principal pointed out there was a computer allotted for me, in
fact this very one I am typing on now. Granted it is a dinosaur with a
10gb HD and 240 RAM and, this is the best, a 1.0Ghz processor, a
single processor no less. I wonder how my video software would run on
this…never mind it takes up 15gb of disk space. I’m not complaining, I
do have access to MS Word and the internet so I can make prints or
surf the web rather than sit here and doodle for several hours.
Today I am leaving early and going back to Konan so I can
film the skit contest students and take the DvD to the BoE for them to
review. If we place in the top 2-3 we can go to the Fukushima finals
(and then Sendai championship) again like last year. There’s a chance
we can go, but we don’t have the girl that was the star last year. She
was in the skit contest and the speech contest and ended up winning
the regional speech contest. In essence, she beat out several hundred
other JHS students. She could have won a national contest, but the
recitation contest stopped at regional.
We are Both Laughing.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Students are writing sentences with “he is, she is” and as usual there
are mistranslations. One of my favorites is “I played baseball very
hard last night. I was tired and went to bed. This morning I was very
hard.” He meant it was hard to get up. Today a girl drew a character
she made and then described it such as, “she is nice, she is easy.” I
remember one kid wrote, “my mother is nice, everyone in town likes
her, she is easy.” I would imagine they would.
I had some students practice writing their names on paper.
When they finished one student asked if he should write his name on
his paper before he turns it in. Write his name on the page with his
name already written 10 times. I told him I would have no way of
knowing whose paper it was if he didn’t write his name, but I forgot
there is no sarcasm here so he wrote it again at the bottom of the
I was talking with the JTE about a student who never shows
up for school. He ended up saying part of the reason was she felt
uncomfortable in groups (although she had no problems in ES) and
another was she felt stressed by learning English. She has been out
since April. My favorite line of that conversation was “well she comes
to school occasionally, of course she came for the school trip.” I
told him you can miss about a month at most in the US then you have to
repeat the grade. He couldn’t believe it and laughed a bit then said
“wow, the school systems are very different aren’t they?” The thing is
I was laughing since the school system is so weak here. Come to school
or don’t, either way you will graduate when the time comes, just don’t
stress yourself. He was laughing that the American school system was
so strict and insensitive to students. There is no punishment here and
it’s a bad thing to stress a student in any way. We were both laughing
at how silly the other culture was.
Friday, June 18, 2010
My 6 week Advanced English Adult class finished on Tuesday and tonight
is the farewell party. The people who run the International Salon
(strange name) can’t attend because that would make the party seem
official and it’s just a casual gathering. I invited some foreigners,
but only 2 can go. I wanted some other accents rather than my American
accent and I got an Australian and an English chap. I invited two
females, but one couldn’t go and the other gave some lame response. I
said “do you have plans on Friday?” and she said “I don’t know”.
Either you do or you don’t. Answering anything else means “I don’t
want to commit to your plan in case something else more interesting
comes up.” I remember trying to plan a New Year’s Eve party for 2000
and several people replied with “we don’t know what we are doing yet.”
That also translates to “we don’t want to commit to your plan because
it doesn’t sound too interesting and we think something better might
come up. “ So as you can see, I don’t like that non-response very
Anyway, 11 of the 16 students will go tonight (or at least
said they would) and then myself and 3 friends and then one English
speaking friend of a class member. It’s going to be fun I think even
though it will be in a small restaurant. But balancing that is the
fact that it is an Mexican restaurant. WOO HOO. Also, I just got paid
for the class so I am going to buy some Negra Modelo.
Today I had 3 classes which were good overall. One was
with the demon class, but they have been getting better. I made a
sheet that I stamp each class and after 6 good classes they can play
my computer games. I think I have two more classes and then the
computer games, which I have to put on 30 CDs since school networks
are worthless pieces of #$%&. Then I had a class with the JHS 3rd
years, but it wasn’t a filming class for their horror movie. It was a
regular English lesson. I was getting tired of filming and half the
kids aren’t involved in the current scenes anyway. Then I had a ES 1st
grade class which started 10 min late for some reason, but overall
went ok. I gave them another sticker and a penny from the US.
Now it’s after lunch and I have nothing major to do until
4:15, but I will do some stuff on the computer. There’s some old
fashioned “thing” exhibit in the big hall and I might walk by that and
disturb it. I always disturb things when I go into to see them since
all the kids point and say “look it’s Ryan”. The younger they are the
worse it is. The older kids don’t care anymore and just nod, but the 1st
graders will go berserk pointing at me, so I try to stay away from
some more important things.
It’s really strange how after school sports are more
important than actual school stuff. I told a teacher I would happily
stay after school and help students with an upcoming English interview
and he said “that sounds good, as long as it doesn’t interfere with
their club activities.” So in opposite world that makes sense, but no
where else. Club activities should not interfere with school
activities, not vice versa. I’ve had that happen several times with
school conflicting with some club activity and of course school lost.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
The party went fine-ok-whatever. The place was really small and it’s a
tad expensive, but the food was good and I had two friends to go and
ease the burden of talking to everyone in English. The meal was $30
and I was still hungry afterwards and then I drank about 6 beers so it
was an expensive night, but I was just paid from doing the class so I
had some extra money. Almost everyone came except a few people. One of
which was a high school girl and I didn’t expect her to go since it
was a party with beer.
No Free Time.
Friday, June 25, 2010
I no longer have that weekly class, but I do have another one. Even
still I somehow have no free time. When I get home I have to plan
lessons or I am working on new After Effects projects. I am about to
start getting much better at it. Well that was a vague sentence. I am
getting better, but shortly there should be a noticeable improvement I
think. Also I am seriously considering getting a new Mac, one that can
handle the intense video editing stresses I place on it.
Yesterday I went to a school and had 2 classes and then 6+
hours of sitting doing nothing. AWESOME. Then the teacher said “next
week you will have 2 classes and then you can rest in the teacher’s
room.” IT’S NOT REST. I didn’t come to Japan to sit in teacher’s
rooms. ARGH. Then the teacher said “we only have 2 classes on
Thursdays, I will call the BoE and see if you can come on a different
day when we have classes.” So it makes more sense to disrupt the other
schools’ schedules (the schools that have more than 2 classes), but it
doesn’t make sense to simply adjust your OWN schedule to have more
than 2 classes on the day I go to that school.
Here’s my favorite bit. There are other teachers that only go to the
schools on certain days, once a week, and you can DAMN WELL BET YOUR
SALARY they have more than 2 classes. I asked one if he ever comes to
school and has no classes and he laughed and said “no that was be
wasteful.” But it’s not wasteful for the English teacher who came from
10 million #$%&-ing miles away to sit and do nothing ?
Sorry for that and for cussing, but this is getting so old. Not just
having too few classes, but the blatant discrimination. If a Japanese
teacher were to go to a school once a week he/she should have 4-5
classes. If a foreigner were to go to a school once a week it’s fine
to have between 0 and 2 classes. English is held with such disregard
here it’s not surprising no one actually speaks it.
Well, that was fun.
Today I have 2 classes at Konan because all the elementary
kids are going to watch some play in town as they do every year. I
don’t know what the play is this year, even though it was explained to
me. Last year it was “12 Angry Men” which doesn’t seem too interesting
for young kids, but who am I am think like that.
Here’s something else I just noticed about Japan while in
the teacher’s room (sitting doing nothing), a student walked in with a
notebook and walked toward me. I asked if that was her English
notebook (homework) and she said no. She was too busy writing in her
volleyball “reflection” notebook and didn’t have time for her
homework. That’s amazing to me that A) they put so much emphasis on
sports activities in JHS in Japan, and B) it’s perfectly acceptable /
expected for a student to spend more time thinking about his/her
feelings regarding some extra-curricular activity than doing homework.
This still fits my way of thinking “when faced with a question or
problem, figure out the rational/logical/common sense choice, then
think of the opposite.” Nine times out of ten that’s how it goes.
I am soooooooo ready for a break. I am nearly burnt out
and every little thing is annoying the hell out of me. The current
thing is I am trying to print the names of the days of the week on the
color printer and then laminate them. When I teach every class I run
through the DOTW with little mnemonics and then slowly ween the kids
off the mnemonics and move them toward the words themselves. So now
I’m trying to print the words such as “Wednesday” with a small Wa
Japanese letter above the W. That way the kids can see the word and
read “wa” and know that a weekday is called Wednesday and start to
associate that word with the day of the week. The next step would be
to lose the “wa” and have the kids just know the words.
So the problem is 1) the color printer prints little
specks all over the sheet. FINE I can live with that and white them
out and then red them out on the red letters (the first letters and
upper readings). Then 2) There’s no laminating paper, but then I find
some AND 3) the laminating paper is so absurdly thin it wrinkles and
bends and looks like crap wrapped in a donkey’s stupid face. ARGH. So
I throw all the parts away and will print it at home using MY paper
and lamination stuff that I bought on my printers. ARGH. Please can we
have even cheaper stuff at school? Why is there even a school
building, let’s just teach in the woods.