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Oh, what a waste.
Monday, November 2, 2009

            Since around July we have been preparing for Monday, November 9th. It’s a public open house where a few hundred teachers come from all over Japan to watch our classes. I have been planning a special class with the elementary 2nd graders for several weeks. Well, I’ve been planning it since July and working with them for several weeks. We have been practicing certain things and playing some games and doing other things so that the open house will go smoothly. I might play a game with them and then the next week explain the game in English and they remember how to play and figure out what I am saying is to play the same game as last week. That way when I have them play the game at the open house I can explain it in English and they will do it and it appears they understood my English. It’s all about appearance here.

            So that’s going to happen on Monday, but it was just canceled. ARGH. I mean I don’t have to do it so that’s a relief, but argh since I have been working on it for so long and it was going to be a really nice class. The weird thing is I still have to do the class in case one or two people show up, but some teachers are saying no one will show up. Eh, who cares. I’ll do the class which will be fun for the kids either way.

Why do the windshield wipers smear something on the driver’s side, but not the passenger side?

            There is a nice lady who does the lunch stuff at one of my schools. For some reason she cannot understand that I speak Japanese. When it’s time for me to pay for my school lunches she invariably gives the bill to the English teacher who then gives it to me and explains, in Japanese, “you owe 2,000 yen for these two months”. To which I reply, in Japanese, “ok I will pay next week” and he then turns to her and repeats what I said in Japanese to her. That’s usually how it goes, but recently there was a slight problem. I tried to explain it to her, but since I “don’t speak Japanese” she ran over to the English teacher and had me explain it to him, in Japanese. He repeated exactly what I said verbatim to her and she replied in Japanese. He repeated that to me in Japanese. It’s just silly, but there are some people who are just set on the fact that foreigners cannot speak Japanese.

            I called in sick on Friday and the odd thing was I really didn’t want to stay home. When I was a Fukushima JET years ago I lived for the weekends and hated going to the schools where I sat and did nothing. Now I hate being away from the kids and being at home doing nothing. Over the weekend I was a little sick with a sore throat, but sadly felt fine otherwise. I really didn’t want to be home all weekend and hated missing the epic Halloween party, but I knew if I went I would feel worse Sunday. I still somewhat have the sniffles and a clogged nose. Though technically the nose is only clogged on one side even though the side alternates.

            The thing that gets me about flu season in Japan is a cultural thing. It's the Japanese way to always be at work. Unless you are deathly sick or diagnosed with the actual flu, you are expected to be at work. If you are a student that means being at school. Taking time off for any reason is considered a vacation. So when students come to school sick, in the winter, they then sit in this closed classroom for several hours a day with their germs swirling around. If it's cold then the heater will be on and the windows closed so there is no circulation. In the summer, apart from not being flu season, all the doors and windows are open so things get moved around and pushed out. In the winter, classrooms are worse than hospitals. If they had central heating and air there might be more circulation in the winter and less sickness. Starting Thursday to next week all JHS 7th grade classes are canceled since there are so many students absent.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

            I went to Ohse today and had 3 classes, but managed to stay busy in the afternoon. The classes were two with the seniors where they wrote "______ is the person who _____" about their classmates. One thing I learned is always be specific with directions because the clever kid will change "write things about people in your class" so that the last word has no C & L.  Then I taught the 7th graders along since the main teacher was out getting an award for being a teacher for 30 years. I showed a short video I made that ended up being too fast for them. It was a Seinfeld style talk using pronouns excessively.

          After lunch there were two more periods, but many teachers were gone for various reasons. There were only about 6 teachers there at some point and for a while they had their own things to do in other areas so I was alone in the teacher's room. A salesman came in and I was like "poor timing dude". Then the phone rang 48 times and I didn't answer it. Seriously, why do people let it ring 48 times before hanging up. Seriously. I wanted to pick it up and say "obviously no one is going to answer so hang up", but that would defeat the point. I don't answer it since the people ALWAYS speak full on and I miss something and have to pass it along anyway. Plus answering the phone requires über-polite Japanese.

           During the afternoon periods I filmed a video upstairs of me interviewing myself for the national standardized English test second part interview. At Ohse 3 people passed the level 3 part which has a follow up interview. Hopefully I can finish that soon and get it to the students. After that I ended up snorting mucus all afternoon since something made my nose go crazy. I wanted to take medicine called :Snot Begone" or "Mucus....S'not there anymore". I hate mucus. I wish there was a medicine that instantly eliminated all the mucus in the body except that which is needed in the intestines and what not.

           Near the end I went to the computer lab to work on some stuff using my flash drive. I couldn't get anything done because the computer was the world's slowest. I physically hate slow computers. When you click something and it highlights 10 seconds later. Then you double click it and literally like 1 minute later the program starts to open. I was going insane and had to figure out why, which I did.....

Slow Japanese school computers

248 Megs of RAM is so pathetic it's actually amazing. It's like they stole relics from a museum and brought them here.  XP alone requires 128, hypothetically, but most likely took up nearly everything. It was seriously the slowest thing I have ever seen and I thought it had locked up a few times.

          Tomorrow I am going 2 hours north by bullet train to see my student perform her English recitation speech in the National Finals / Semi Finals. It's the end of the line which would be the finals, but it's only the northern part of the country that is participating. We don't expect to actually win, but merely going is a huge honor for the city as well as the school. We are a small country school out in the sticks, why should we have someone to represent the whole prefecture? I'd love to take some credit, but she has actually done all the work herself.

Comedy Skit.
Friday, November 06, 2009

           Teaching Elementary school in Japan, and to some degree everywhere, is like a sit-com sometimes. I was teaching the 1st graders alone since the teacher had to go home for some reason. We did Animals and then I gave them some coloring sheets to do for Halloween. Yes, I know it was last week, but I had to miss that class due to an illness so I did it today. I told them they could copy the colors in their eBook or they could color their own colors. Someone then waved me over and asked if they had to copy or if they could use any color. I said any color was ok. Then someone else waved me over and asked the same thing. I repeated it and told everyone the same thing again. As soon as I stopped talking someone asked “can we use our own colors?” GOD YES. WHAT DID I JUST SAY? Seriously, ONE second ago. You can use any color you want. Then some kids kept getting up and showing me every little thing they colored. It was actually amusingly painful.

            Today I had a great class load with 3 classes. I prefer 4 per day, but three is fine. I think my idea schedule would be 2nd, 3rd, 4th periods, then 6th period. That gives me 4 classes with 1st being a prep period and 5th being down time after lunch. I had three at Ohse yesterday, but stayed busy by filming the interview stuff and preparing some ideas for today. I couldn’t do too much on the computer listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the slowest and most painful to use. I listed that in Facebook and some people wrote comments about it. My sister wrote “you could just be happy with what you have”. Ahhh, that’s sweet and totally unrealistic. I dare anyone to use a computer with 248 Megs of RAM for an hour. Honestly it took about 10-20 seconds to simply click on a window. Then another 10-20 to double click open a file.

            It seems the big public viewing classes planned for Monday, that was recently canceled and yet we have to do it anyway, was moved to the next week. Come on man, just let us get it over with, this flip flopping is ruining the schedule. Now I think I have no classes on Monday and I don’t even come here on Friday since we have some other International Day somewhere. This is the one where we teach the kids their regular subjects like math and science IN Japanese. Seems not very internationalizing, but whatever.

It’s been a while.
Monday, November 06, 2009

            It’s been a long time since my last confessional. I have been making notes of things to write about, but just haven’t had the time. I usually make updates while at Konan, but recently I have been swamped there. Tomorrow is no exception and it will be the first time I have been to the 6th grade English class this year. The usual English teacher will be gone tomorrow so he asked me to cover his 4 classes plus my 1 with the demon class. To be fair it’s only a handful of kids with one main (penis showing) kid, but the culture and the not-too-strict teacher make the class chaos.

            For the other classes I will do a classic “3-hint-game” in two of them. That’s a game where they get a card and have to make three hints. One vague like “animal”, then a bit more revealing like “brown”, then nearly give it away like “likes bananas”. It’s a good review and forces the kids to come up with and use things they have learned. For the 2 remaining classes, one will be the ever popular Typhoon Game review and the last one will be a preposition review. Since I don’t really go to these classes I don’t know their level. I don’t go to the elementary because we have to use this stupid moronic English Notebook that the ministry of education wrote and forced us to use. I hate it for so many reasons listed below.

1) There’s simply not much English in it. The directions are all in Japanese and most of the text is too. The best example is the explanation of Japanese culture such as sumo, tea ceremony, and Kyoto IN JAPANESE.

2) The CD takes the place of the ALT. Ergo, if I am in the room, my job is to press play on the CD.

3) The CD jumps around with no explanation. We are on page 50 and I press play and a minute later I figure out it is talking about page 90 which is an appendix. How hard would it be to say “Lesson 8, page 50”?

4) Some of the activities are blatantly too low level. In book 1 which is 5th grade, there is a part where students do “head shoulders knees and toes” which they previously learned in the 2nd grade. Seriously do you want to review stuff you learned in the 2nd grade when you are a 5th grader? They don’t want to either.

5) Along with #1 I rarely know what’s going on since the directions are all in Japanese and they never really explain exactly what to do.

6) The voices sound like mouse elves or stupid cartoon characters and are often hard for me to understand.

7) There are horribly painful stupid songs called “chants” in each chapter that make me roll around in laughter. The most recent was “what, what, what do you want to be…a doctor, a doctor, I want to be a doctor.” You can fill in the music with whatever stupid tune you can think of.

            I did go to the 5th and 6th grade classes for a while and ended up just standing there looking stupid. I hate that book and have nothing good to say about it. We have another book that some ALTs wrote years ago and the BoE published and provides for all the students called the eBook. It’s actually all in English and has great clip art and a website with print outs that make my classes so much easier.

            I spent last Tuesday at Kozu which is my smallest elementary school with only 28 students total. Next year they lose 11 sixth graders and gain 5 first graders so they drop to 22. I love the school and wouldn’t change anything, but 22 kids barely justifies having an entire school with nearly 1 teacher/staff member for every 2 students. My other school which is about a 5 minute drive could easily take in 22 more students. I hope they don’t since the school is like a family, but financially they would save so much money. The saddest thing is I saw a picture from 1900 or so and there were 400 kids at the school, now there are 28. Same with the extension of Tadano. There are 10 students in grades 1-4, but in 1990ish there were 30 kids.

            Anyway, at Kozu I had a class in the morning teaching numbers or something, then another class 2nd period. That class ended 5 minutes early so we could walk over to the park and rake leaves. That was a blast and I got to spend a few hours with my favorite first grader Lulu. That’s her actual name and she is adorable. She held the bag and I raked leaves into it. I helped other kids as well, but she is so nice and fun to hang out with that I spent a lot of time with her. She is always smiling and happy to see me. She’s like a little puppy dog.

           At that school all students leave at 2:40 which means I sit there alone doing nothing for nearly 2 hours, well an hour an a half, but it feels like 5 hours. Last week I decided to walk with the students part of the way home. I was only going to go to the light, but then I was talking and walked farther. I walked about 10 minutes out which meant I therefore had to walk 10 minutes back. So then it was a bit after 3pm. I sat down and did some planning for the next day and looked up to find it was 3:45. WOW time flew. The rest of the day I walked around and saw various signs in classrooms like "Norbember" and "Octorber". I want to correct them, but I don't want to offend the teachers.

            Something I noticed about Kozu which makes my day a bit strange is they play really trippy music while students clean. At the other schools there is either no music or some Edelweiss type classical song that everyone tunes out. At Kozu they play music that you would hear during a massage. It’s really new age type, but not upbeat like Enya, just flowing atmospheric style. It’s nice and relaxing, but strange seeing kids cleaning while it’s playing.

            On Thursday of last week I came to Ohse, where I am now typing this in the computer room. Last week I had 4 classes in the perfect schedule. 1st class, 2nd class, 3rd free, 4th class, 5th free, and 6th class. The teacher apologized for me having 4 classes, but I prefer that and especially one 6th period. Having a class 6th period when it’s the A-schedule day means we let out around 3:30 and then it’s just 45 minutes until I can leave. Unlike today where I have 2 classes today (although there are 5 English classes today) and one is 5th period. When I have no afternoon classes I have nothing to do from 1:30 to 4:15 and time drags on ever so slowly.  Today I wandered around a bit and then ended up just staring at the little clock on my desk until 4:15. I work too efficiently and prepared everything for tomorrow too fast.

           Last week on Friday I went to an International day at another school. During the planning process I was getting frustrated since we always have to do things the Japanese way, even when it's an international event. There must be an opening and closing ceremony and so on. For the most part it was great. The kids were fun and I got to plan my own class for the "shopping" one. The teacher had planned for some students to do it while the 4 foreigners in the room watched, but I 86'ed that and said we would be shopkeepers. I gave them money and a menu of things to buy and they came around and bought various things from us. They seemed to like it. Then we had lunch, which was semi-filling this time, and then there was 5th period.

           During 5th period we had to teach their regular subjects IN JAPANESE. Luckily I got music which seemed cool, but we ended up singing Edelweiss about 10 times. It was the first time I had seen the lyrics in English. I'm sure I've seen The Sound of Music, but I had forgotten that part (or blocked it out). What I didn't realize was I HATE that song, because that's the song they use to wake us up at English camp at 6am each morning. Then we go back to sleep until 6:59 and then get up for breakfast. We must all get up at the same time. There can be no one doing their own thing.

           Some people taught long division which would have been a train wreck if I were in there. I thought it would make more sense to have something.....useful rather than teaching them regular subjects in Japanese. How is that even remotely international? What if we flipped it around and had the Japanese teachers teach us in only English? I bet they couldn't/wouldn't do that, but for us it's ok. I wanted something like an interview game where they use actual useful English. I keep forgetting Japan is about the process not the end product.

5 to 4.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009

            I had 4 classes added by the English teacher to cover his load since he wouldn’t be here for some reason. So then I already had the demon class which would make 5, but surely that would be canceled since I had the 4 added, so I didn’t plan anything for it. Then I get to school and find it wasn’t canceled, but shoved in my one free period. BAG OF POO. So I start to frantically plan something for the demon class and then the vice principal says half the elementary school is out with the flu.

            Why are they out? BECAUSE everyone comes to school sick and wears a little useless mask (like surgeons wear during surgery, but not as nice) and then they are stuck in the classrooms with the heaters swirling around the sickness and there’s no ventilation. Central heating is a bad idea isn’t. Filtering the air, yea that’s stupid clearly this way is better. There are 50 kids in the elementary school today.

            I just found out there’s a student changing schools. This is her THIRD TIME changing. Seriously parents STOP IT. This is sad and pointless and you are doing her no favors. I could not care less what the reason is. Once was enough, then she was back and that was strange. Now she’s going back to where she went. I bet she comes back at some point later. I will miss her sister more. Her first grade sister is named Lemon. It’s going to be hard for her to change schools with that name. When she first got here and kids were giggling at her name I made a point to say “Lemon? Lemon? Wow that is the coolest name ever. I love that name. That is so awesome.” Then the giggling kids started saying “oh it is cool, wow, we like you now. It’s a cool name.”

One More Time.
Saturday, November 21, 2009

            My student that won first place in the Regional Speech Contest met the chief of the board of education. To me he's not a big deal since we see him at parties and we are rather casual with him, but this was big and someone told me no joking around. There were two reporters, the school principal, the English teacher, myself, and some other top ranking BoE people. I didn't wear a suit and looked like an idiot. It was a little wrinkled and I underestimated the importance of the event. I had a tie and a pullover thing and didn't look too bad, just not like everyone else in the room.  She met with him and he congratulated her and they talked a bit. Then she gave a little speech to him about how she studied and how the English teacher and I helped her (a lie) and then she gave her speech to the 10 of us in the room. At the regional contest, when she won, she said "oh last time, finally", but then she had to give it here one more time. When she finished the BoE chief was so impressed he suggested (which is like a command) that she give it to the entire Board of Education which was about 100 people. She went white, but then ended up doing a fine job. She's a natural performer and will be someone to watch one day. It was funny seeing everyone jump from their desk and run down to watch her because the chief snapped his fingers. There are more people to the right, but you can't see them in the photo.

              That was Thursday and then after that there was the annual BoE and AET bowling tournament. It's every November and always a load of fun. I bowled ever so poorly since I couldn't find a good ball that really fit and was a good weight. Then we had a small party with some of the BoE members and only 7 ALTs. I thought more people would have gone, but it was the night before payday.

              Then Friday we had a meeting from 9 to noon. These have become less interesting over the years. At first there were so many great ideas from people and I would leave with 10-20 new ideas and feel bad I didn't contribute more. Now people are chatting while others are talking and we are in the super small room where you can't hear someone 2 feet away. I got a few good ideas, but most people didn't bring anything tangible. As soon as the meeting was over I drove to Fukushima to A) see Katherine Doran a solicitor who was an English teacher near Fukushima years ago and B) to have the Indian guy who runs the Indian restaurant and a car dealership look at my noisy muffler. He said exactly what I predicted which was it would cost $200. Actually it's $180, but the toll road to get up there is $10 each way. Also in December I have to pay another $400 to have the timing belt changed. I love having a car in Japan. I LOVE IT.

               Today I went to McDonald's in the morning and then Starbucks. That's a Saturday or Sunday morning habit I have been doing for 5 years now and it's hard to break. I like getting out of the house, but I usually have nothing outside to do. I parked in the parking deck which is nice and convenient, but pricey. I noticed a car that was backed in to a space, but it was stupid to have done so. I'd say backing in makes sense about 80-90% of the time, but as a 100% rule it's stupid. This was a stupid time to back in since he had to stop and back in to get in the space, but the exit was a complete 180 so he would have to again stop and adjust to make the turn. You can even see the arrow on the pavement. After that I went to UNIQLO to get some socks and long underwear for the winter. There were cars stopped in the street just to pull in. I can't believe this is allowed. I took a picture, but you can't really see the cars.  There were 200 people in the store. I don't know if it was a sale or what, but they were all lined up for something.

Don't Even Think About it.
Monday, November 23, 2009

            I drove back up to Fukushima today to have the muffler installed and it went as expected, but was actually $20 cheaper than he predicted. It came with the bolts that were going to be extra. So that was good. While I was waiting for the repair I asked about having a roof rack installed as well as tinted windows. Both would cost about $250-300 each and I need the rack slightly more than the tinting so I might do that soon. Also they looked at my remote engine starter since it was beeping. While they were doing this stuff I walked around looking at cars. This was really a bad idea because my Pajero is really doing well and it's great for the snow. Plus buying another car would be my 4th in 5 years and that's sad. But....they still have the Legnum and another Subaru Legacy Wagon and they are both really cool and long and spacious. The Legacy turns out to be slightly cooler than the Legnum since it has a moon roof and some other nice features. It's also white and looks similar to this one. I really should stop thinking about it since this car is fine and I don't want another one. Although, the Legacy would be more spacious and I could carry 3 people with leg room and space in the back. The other evil thought is that they buy and sell things from the auto auction quite often and I could probably get around $2,000 for my current vehicle.

             Last night I went to a delightful dinner party at some friends' apartment. It was sponsored by a Japanese friend and held at the apartment of some Danish friends. It was a lovely party with great food as usual. We did a gift exchange and I got a thing of small chocolate bottles with liquor in them. I can stop eating/drinking them. It's really only a teaspoon, but they are great when mixed with the chocolate. Each time I eat one I think "oh I don't like straight liquor", but then the after taste makes me want to do another one. The way we did the present exchange was interesting at first and then a little strange in the end. We put them all on the table and two dies were passed out. We took turns rolling the die and if you got a 3 or a 6 you could take a present. Once we all had a present a timer was set to a secret time and we started rolling and passing the die again. Again 3s or 6s meant you take a present, but this time it was from someone.

              This seemed fun for a while, but then the timer went off and a few people (including myself) didn't have presents whereas a few people had multiple ones. I thought they could chose one to keep and give the rest out, but the rule was they won and we lost. That seemed a bit odd and I didn't like it and it didn't seem very Christmas-like. The game I really hate is where one person opens a present then the next person can steal it or choose another one. That seems really un-Christmas like completely.

[Generic Title]
Thursday, November 26, 2009

            Last night I had a nice birthday dinner with three friends. I was thinking about my favorite restaurant all day and planning to go there alone since I figured everyone else would be busy. I sent an email anyway and they said they could make. They didn’t know it was my birthday and I wasn’t going to say anything. When we got there and sat down we did the “kanpai” or cheers. The owner came over and said “oh it’s your birthday”. I was completely shocked and kept asking how did he know that. Then he said he was just kidding, but I showed him my license and he was surprised, as were my friends. They ended up buying dinner for me which was very gracious.

            Today I am at Ohse and had 4 classes scheduled and I planned for them. Then when I got here I was told, oh you only have two. ARGH then why did you tell me 4 last week knowing I would plan something. So now I am sitting at the computer typing this. I thought about leaving early, but it’s already 2:30 so I might as well wait it out. The 2 classes that were canceled were because that grade has a test tomorrow and they need to prepare by taking a near identical pre-test. My activity actually would have been a good preparation for the test. I’ve noticed classes get pre-tests that usually have the same or nearly the same questions as the actual test. When tests are graded students get a circle for correct and a triangle for “this answers needs more attention” instead of the direct X for wrong. You must be vague and elusive here. If students fail they can often simply write in the correct answers for partial credit. In Japan they care more about the process than the result which is really difficult for me to understand and live with. It’s quite often frustrating to be honest.

            Another example is the international day we had on Tuesday. It was at a local elementary school and the whole day was a blast. First we played “when’s your birthday” with the 4th graders where they asked us and tried to get bingo. Then the 5th graders tried to guess which country we came from during the next period. Then we ate lunch with the kids and my class sang happy birthday to me. Finally we had the grand finale and did this big airport thing in the gym. The kids were on the stage and first passed through passport control. Then they got on a plane (seats in the middle of the gym with a plane nose thing and wings and a pilot) and flew for a minute. Then they disembarked (or embarked) and went to a country booth to learn about that country.

            The whole day was great and was planned very well. So why did I say that was another example? When we played the birthday game there were a few teachers who would walk around and instantly translate anything we said. The kids would ask “when’s your birthday” and I would say November 25 and immediately the teacher would say it in Japanese. In class when I say something über-easy for the kids to practice listening they watch me attentively and then immediately look at the Japanese teacher (of English) to translate. It’s part of the society and a big reason why Japanese students can’t reach fluency in English as quickly as other students.

            Teachers are far less concerned with grades in Japan because they are the end result and are meaningless. Teachers care about the process of getting there. We made a plan and we followed that plan perfectly. Do the kids speak any English? Have they learned the lesson points? Are they better than they were last year? None of that matters. We made a plan and we all pitched in and took part in it and that’s all that matters. I am so much more about the end result and not having people worry about micro-managing me, but here that’s all they are concerned about and care nothing about the end result. Here the means counts more than the end.

One small issue I am having at two schools is that they are giving me lesson plans for my classes. Quite often these are way off from the norm and are really hard to teach. Yesterday I was teaching JHS level English to 5th graders who didn’t have the foundation to support it. In two weeks I teach “where are you going” and “where did you come from” to 5th graders and that’s going to be tough. Plus there are some things that should be taught early in the year so we can practice them each class all year.

We had an argument recently about planning an international day and I was suggesting WE plan it since WE have done them before whereas the teachers most likely have not. But we were told that the teachers would plan it and we would happily participate. The problem is when someone has never done something and that person cares more about the process than the end result, you might get nonsense. One example is when I was trying to plan the Konan Snow Day this year (and 2 years before). I thought it would be nice to do all the work so the teachers could relax, but to them they had to be a part of the planning and kept trying to insert nonsense activities into the mix. Honestly, their plan was a 20 minute intro/warm up/explanation/singing the school song and then a 10 minute activity and then 15 minute summary and break for each 45 minute class. That 10 minute time included finding your group, talking with your group, going down the hall and outside while changing shoes, and walking for 5 minutes to the area. That stuff ended up taking 30 minutes rather than 10.

In the end I got my way of not so many opening ceremonies and other general nonsense, but a few times the plan was hijacked on the spot and things ended up taking far longer than necessary. The teachers were more concerned that some student might feel stressed or worried that he/she couldn’t do an activity correctly so we had to review how to do each thing over and over and over again. No one ever connects the lack of fluency here with the cultural barriers to teaching a foreign language. Sometimes we sit for 5 minutes waiting for the student that NEVER TALKS to answer a question because everyone in the group is equal and the teachers won’t skip that person. It doesn’t seem to matter that he isn’t going to talk and that’s embarrassing, it matters that he was given a fair chance like the others. Seriously, that kid doesn’t even make noises, why would you call on him?

There’s a girl at one school who is nice and adorable, but has some weirdness where she just walks around either doing her own thing or hitting other students. I think she should be at a separate school for her benefit and for everyone else’s as well, but that would separate someone from the group and only the parents can do that. They live in a fantasy world and ignore that and don’t care that she causes the whole class to stop quite often. The teacher will go over and sit with her or hold her back from violently hitting other kids. She might come up and shuffle my papers (while smiling) or throw them on the floor. But there’s nothing we can do.

Tomorrow I go to Konan and have either no classes or 4 classes. I might have two classes in a row with the bad class. It’s funny how the classes I HATE going to are also the ones with kids I really like. Some classes are so-so, but the extreme ones are extreme in both ways. Some of my favorite kids are in the same class as demon-possessed kids who wander around or flash their penises (each boy has one). Photo: a new HUGE aquarium they put in the elementary school. I can't for the life of me understand why they would do this. I can easily see it getting knocked over since the kids are always playing around and under it.

Oh slight tangent. Yesterday I taught the 2nd graders at Tadano and they are becoming my favorite overall class. I put that reason on the homeroom teacher who teaches them a little English everyday and so now they are exponentially better than the other classes. Anything I teach she reinforces later. Anyway, to seal their favoriteness they made me Christmas cards yesterday. Well they made them before on their own with no prompting from me, but they gave them to me yesterday. They had my name and a message and some nice art work. I want to do something for each kid in return, but I don’t know what yet. Maybe something with a sticker-picture of me.

This class has no one annoying in it so it breaks my extreme theory. That’s mainly for the classes that I HATE going to. They aren’t all bad and some are really great. I want to start a private English tutoring school even though I know nothing about that. I know I could teach some things better than the way the school system does. Actually there are two girls in that 2nd grade class that go to a private after school thing and have great English. I knew it from class since they were answering everything I was asking. “What’s this?” and everyone says either “I don’t know” or “egg….”, but these two girls would say something like “it’s an eggplant”. I’m sorry did you just say “it’s a…..” that is JHS grammar and you are in the 2nd grade. WOW.

But sadly this is all going to be washed away since the teachers change schools every 3-5 years and these kids might get a crap teacher, and yes there are some bad teachers out there. Although I know one teacher who has been at a school for 7-8 years. I spent some of today looking up old acquaintances in a teacher directory.

On the way to Ohse today I noticed this UFO like cloud formation above Konan. I could see it in the distance and realized I have seen this before and this explains why the weather out there is so much different. Sometimes in the winter when I lived there it would be a horrible blizzard and I would drive into town and the weather would suddenly change once I passed through a long tunnel. It was like the 70s TV show Fantasy Island when they would open a door in a small office and there would be a huge aircraft hangar with ninjas fighting on the other side, but outside the office was just grass. Something is magical about it. Anyway, the clouds were so odd I snapped some pics with my phone while driving.

Muchos Gracias
Friday, November 27, 2009

            There's a Mexican place in town that is great. We had a small NT party there last night and spent over $100 on great food and great beer. We talked about our futures and some ideas we had. We all love teaching and have joked / tossed around the idea of starting an after school tutor school called a Juku here, but we really don't know anything about starting a business or running one. This idea stems from the fact that teaching English in Japan has to be done the Japanese way and that usually involves several frustrations mentioned in the post above. Something else we talked about that has a real chance of possibly happening is starting a free English magazine and later getting advertisers for it. Just have some free lessons and hints and stuff like that. I think it would do well and we are at the threshold of actually doing it, but we just have to take that step forward.


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