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So Busy.
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.

Filming Continues.
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 time.

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 else........anyone........anything........nothing 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.

Looking Up.
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 page.

            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.


Let’s PaaaaTay.
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 much.

            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.


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