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GTX: New Evolution
Season 5 Finale leads to bigger and better

GTX: Great Teacher Xeno [ Check this category ]

Written by xenocrisis0153
March 24th, 2012

10527 views

GTX: The 5th Season, Episode 14 (finale)
Coverage Dates: February 25th - March 24th


So there is great news and there is terrible news. But there's also a truckload of little good newses... so... don't fret.

First, the great news: I have officially been hired to work directly for my village's Board of Education!!!! What this means is a gigantic increase in pay and benefits (we're talking a 25% raise, and considering I still get free house rent and healthcare as an earthquake victim, I'm raking in serious cake this coming year). It also means I am no longer a slave to those crooked ALT dispatch companies. You know, those corporations that take about 1/3 of my salary and in exchange DON'T give me life-support (as they promise the forgeign teachers) and DON'T give me the proper teacher training (as they promise the education boards).

Despite there being a legal clause in my contract saying that I would not approach to nor accept from board of education a direct-hire opportunity, it is obviously just a feign attempt at forcing me (and other unfortunate dupes around the country) from claiming what is legally within their rights. The role dispatch companies should play is they should introduce teachers to the education boards, get them settled, and give them initial trainin and support for their first year. After the first year is over, the foreigner teacher should be ready to handle things on their own as a full employee of the school board. That was how it was essentially expressed in 2005 MOE Directive 16-121, and luckily the current Minister (who I met personally in February (see entry) and the ALT Union still agree with this plan of action.

Thankfully the company which had me employed my first year in my new village didn't fight me on it. Actually, they were quite courteous about it, wishing me luck and everything. Of course, if they did challenge me on it, I had a whole list of violations they had regarding the care of our contract waiting to be thrown in their faces. But since it didn't come to that, we can part on mutual terms and go our seperate ways.

(Actually, this particular village didn't plan on recontracting with the company anyway. They only hired a private ALT because they thought their previous JET was going to be returning in March.)

Before we celebrate too much over here, I do have to discuss the terrible news that comes with this new arrangement. When we "negotiated" my new contract, I thought it was under the guise that my workload wouldn't be changing all that much. Last week I had a meeting with the new BOE director and the two school principals over the new English program, and things didn't work out much in my favor.

Basically, the 5th- and 6th-grade English classes will be taught mainly by the main Japanese homeroom teachers. Okay... fine... whatever. If Japan wants to be a sinking ship of Engrish ridicule, then that's their deal. I've seen English classes taught by underqualified teachers before (see Season 2) and it is painful to watch. But Japan insists on conforming its education system from coast to coast, so really, I can't fight it.

What really gets me is the change they want to see for the 1st through 4th-grade classes. They still want me to be the main teacher, but they want me to use their... lovely... curriculum. I took a quick glance at it. It's basically everything I hate about teaching English, forced heavily upon me. Songs... chanting... favoring random short phrases over building vocabulary... heavily reducing keyword listening practice... critically damaging the concept of reusing previously learned material. I tried to fight it, but they wouldn't listen. Somehow they think this system is far superior only because they've used it in the past.

Now, normally I would fight tooth and nail, but sad to say, I've chosen to actually downplay it. Face it... I'm on my way out the door after this year anyway, and since this is the lesson system they're going to be using after I'm gone (despite its flaws), then no use trying to change it. What bothers me is that now I have to adapt to a completely new system in a time when I really just want to check out and enjoy what time I have remaining. I want to spend quality time with the students; not hammering away in the teachers' room trying to put materials together. I did that in my first year when I was more wide-eyed and busy-tailed. Now I'm just tired and grizzled.

I did think about resigning, but two things:

1) I don't want to throw away my first chance at direct-hire, nor do I want to risk giving up my earthquake victim benefits.

2) despite the extra work, it could be an interesting change of pace to try something new. I mean, I really only have to work on the 1st-4th grade classes, and half of those are mostly just songs.

oh, and there's the whole part about being able to stay with my students, of course, but the students I'm closest to are mostly the 3rd-graders at the jidoukan who will be leaving that program soon. Also, the 6th-graders I liked have left completely.

I suppose as long as my time with the jidoukan students isn't taken away completely, I can manage. Technically, they can only have me work until 4pm anyway. I am still an ASSISTANT teachers, afterall. But even if I see my jidoukan time cut to just 2 or 3 days a week, I suppose it would be fine.

I will be spending a week straight with them starting this coming Monday because of the Spring Vacation and all.

And that leads us to that truckload of mini good new stories to share... mainly, what I've been doing each and every day for the last month. Let's see what I can remember (with a little help from looking back over my Facebook feed, haha)

Yearbooks!!

I bought 4 graduation albums this year. They were as expensieve as hell!! Two of them cost over $200 each... but well worth it since they were printed on stiff cardboard photo paper... really classy stuff. I was actually honored that the ES2 yearbook featured a couple pictures taken by me. Another achievement crossed off my list!!

I did also order the yearbooks of two of my high schools from Niigata. I would have liked all 4, but only two of them returned my emails. Luckily they were the two schools I was close with anyway, heh heh... even though one of them technically only had 6 of my students (HS4... the mostly-girls school). I did get the HS2 yearbook, too, but I haven't opened it yet, haha. The box it came in is sealing it up quite well... I almost don't want to ruin it, haha.


Graduation

You know what I realized? I hadn't been to an elementary school graduation in over two years. Last year's elementary ceremony was cancelled because of the earthquake (which, coincidentally enough, was the day of the JHS graduation ceremony). That means the last ceremony I attended was waaaay back in Okayama when I favored attending the ES-3 ceremony over the ES-1 ceremony.

This year both of my schools had their ceremonies at the same time, so again I was forced to choose. I went with ES1 officially because "it has more students", but really it was just because I liked those kids much better. They behaved a lot more during English class, plus I got to play soccer with them quite a lot throughout the year, as their P.E. time was on Wednesday afternoons when I was free.

(though ES2 did have a last-minute save when the boys invited me to go play soccer with them during recess. I kicked their asses, but lost coolness points by sucking at softball later in the afternoon as their end-of-year free-time activity.

The ceremony itself was quite nice, though they favored using the multipurpose room over the gymnasium. I guess it's just the tradition of this school, though a bit lame since the room is significantly smaller than the gym. There wasn't even enough room to fit in all the younger kids, so the 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-graders didn't even attend. They still got to see me in my suit and tie when I went out to say good-bye to them during their second-period dismissal.

I didn't have any specific role to play this time around save for sit quietly and be pretty. Oh, and bow and stand and bow and bow and bow again along with the crowd... for 90 minutes. Considering I can't understand Japanese and was sitting under a heater, my work consisted mainly of trying to stay awake, haha. I did tear up during the 4th- and 5th-graders' good-bye speech. Again, couldn't understand their words, but I could read their hearts.

After the event was the traditional "sakura tunnel", which is when everyone lines up and the leaving students walk out of the building for their final time. After that, it erupted into a flurry of photo opportunities and yearbook signing requests. I only got one photo request, but did sign about 8 or 9 yearbooks (haha, I felt bad for the students whose names I was a little unsure of, though I did get Aika, Yuuka, and Takuya for certain (Miyu, Rie, and Taiki were the ones I only realized after I finished)).

I was quite sad to see them go, but this is the nature of teaching. You teach so they can flourish on their own. If they leave to go on to better and brighter things fully prepared, then you've only done your job. I am quite close with my current 5th-graders, and being with them for 2 years, I might find next year's ceremony a bit more emotional.


Mone-Monster

For a while, she wasn't attending the after-school jidoukan much at all (maybe just 1 or 2 days a week, leaving early, at that). But two weeks ago, she resumed her regular schedule of being there 4 or 5 days. Maybe she needed to be sent to a Cuteness Stablization Facility. Letting litte girls walk around freely with too much adorableness is bad for the environment and safety of humanity, haha.

Yesterday she sat next to me on the floor while watching the Disney version of Beauty & the Beast. I was trying to play the marble game with Magnet-chan, but Mone-chan kept grabbing my arm during the scary parts.

During one scene, she asked me why the Beast would save Belle from the pack of angry wolves after attacking her himself in the castle (when she first found the cursed rose). haha, such a difficult concept to explain in Japanese, let alone English. Why couldn't she ask me why the candlestick and mantle clock can sing and dance? Only Disney could make something as strange as that the LESS baffling thing in a movie.


The Out List

The end of the schoolyear is a terrible time for teachers in Japan. This country likes to hammer in the mentality that "nothing lasts forever," so every 3-5 years, teachers must transfer schools. They also do it so bad schools have a chance of getting better teachers, but it's still so lame.

It's also a huge secret, but I was given the list of who is leaving ES1 already. I'm a little mixed on it.

3-2: young woman... she was kinda "meh." Very quiet, but never gave me any trouble.

4-1: young woman... the athletic cool teacher. She was good, but always yelling at the kids, despite having a good group.

5-2: older woman... gah, this sucks... she always included me in events her class was doing. I'm not happy she's leaving.

6-1: young woman... another super-friendly teacher leaving. I talked with her a lot and she was a lot of fun.

Spec. Ed.: older man... he could speak English, but he bothered me whenever he helped with my classes because he would always just say the answers when I prompted the class.

Principal: older man... a friendly guy, but very recluse. I never really felt he had the knack for working with children. He was always serious, never messed around with the kids. I look forward to having a new guy in charge, but then again, there runs the risk of there being someone even more hard-handed taking his place. -_____-

No idea who is leaving from ES2, though I will find out on Wednesday since I was invited to their Farewell Party. They asked me two weeks ago. ES1 called me last night to tell me about theirs... which is scheduled for the same night. Grrrr... well, gotta go with who asked first. That's always been my rule.


Highlights of the Final Week

- of all 20 classes, my worst-behaved one (2-2-1) was the only one to give me a "thank you" present

- ES1 4-1 and 4-2 were my last classes to be taught using my system... we finished with a grand game of Flashcard Basketball. Though the rules were the same, I upped the point values, which for some reason, made them all crazy, haha.

- got to play soccer with my ES1 Attendant Class, 5-2

- spend a period with my ES2 Attendant Class, 1-1... I helped them write their explanations of each room in the school for their tour for next year's incoming 1st-grade class. I use the word "helped" lightly, since mostly they just poked at me and asked me odd questions about dogs and whatnot.


The Great East Japan Earthquake Anniversary Ceremony

March 11th this year fell on a Sunday, which was good in the way that it meant I would be free all day to remember the day as I pleased. I chose to go to Koriyama City where I attended the rememberance ceremony held on the station front (ekimae). There were some festivities leading up to the event (including cheerleaders!!), but the actual ceremony itself was quite somber. The members of the Koriyama Fire Department were amoung the VIPs, as were a handful of local politicians. A few speeches were given, but the main part was everyone watching the Prime Minister's and Emperor's * speeches from Tokyo, followed by a moment of silence.

* not sure if that was him or not, but he was pretty old and had a woman with him who must have been his wife

The ceremony ended with the performance of the Fukushima Fight Song...



After the ceremony, I was approached by TUF TV for an interview, but my Japanese skills were not enough to fully express what I felt. I could understand what he was asking, but our interview would have been akin to

Reporter: "So, Mr. Ambassador, what are your thoughts on the current state of the crisis that plagues our fine nation and what is your opinion on the resolve of the Japanese people to endure this tragedy?"

Me: "Earth... shakey... bad... me... scared. Power building... hot. People... happy now. Good!! yay!!!!"

Just one of those moments where the language barrier really gets to you. Oh well, I was featured on the news in the US that same night. They interviewed my sister on camera and showed some photos I had taken around the damaged area.


Post-Meltdown Japan

The BBC has an interesting documentary out called "Japan's Children of the Tsunami." If you can find it, I suggest you check it out. It features Tomioka-machi and Yabuki-machi a bit, but not Kawauchi-mura.

The kids around here don't have their radiation dosimeters anymore, but a lot of us had to go in for radiation screening in February. I went to the local radiation center for my check. They took a blood sample which left a bandaid on my arm... and lead to this:

I had this conversation about 7 times today...

student (upon seeing the bandaid on my arm): oh, did you get a shot today?
me: yes
student: did it hurt?
me: yes
student: can I poke it?
me: ..... nooooo O_____o
student: ::pokes it anyway::

7 times >_____<


The Miscellaneous


- two of my 5th-grade girls at ES2 have been warming up to me lately. The girls in this class are very shy. We played basketball together with some of the boys during a recess one day.

- my biggest fear came true: took a dodgeball straight to the face from one of the more athletic 3rd-grade boys. The ball didn't hurt, but it did drive my glasses right into my eyelid and made for a little nasty cut. All the kids were astounded by the blood, haha.

- walked one of my 2nd-graders home one afternoon. Because they were quarentined on account of influenza for about a week, they've had to have make-up classes every afternoon, meaning they get out later than the other classes. One of the girls realized this meant she'd have to walk home alone, so she asked me to walk with her using a sad, heart-melting face. Couldn't resist her charms... though I probably should have asked how far away her house was before I agreed. Oh well, wasn't too too far. Gave me a chance to see more of the neighborhood around our school. A lot more earthquake damage that I realized zipping through by car. Kinda depressing. :(

- saw Star Wars: Episode 1 3D in the theater. As usual, the 3D effects looked like crap. Get it through your heads... 3D movies are only worth it if they are shot with a 3D camera (and AFAIK, Hollywood only has 3 of them). If it is retroactively rendered as a 3D movie, then it's gonna be awful. But on the bright side, Jar Jar Binks and that stupid Anakin kid were far less annoying in Japanese.

- bought round-trip bus tickets to Tokyo for next weekend. Going just for the hell of it; nothing in particular to see. Just want to enjoy being in the city... and eating at the Hard Rock Cafe and Ruby Tuesdays, heh heh. It's been over a year since I've stayed in Tokyo (though did go once for a one-day job interview and another time as I passed through on my way to the airport for my USA trip). Getting there from where I live now is a cinch... just 3 hours by bus for 6,100 yen RT.

- Caught up on the Big Bang Theory. Almost caught up on Modern Family now (Season 3, Episode 8 buffering right now). Still a huge fan of SouthLAnd (highly highly recommended cop-show).


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sorry for the lack of posts this season. This year has been quite memorable for me in so many ways, so it's a bit of shame that I couldn't cover it as well as I have with the past seasons. Just been too busy being out there, making memories... not enough time to come back and discuss them. Here's hoping for success and more cuteness in the upcoming 6th Season!!

Until next time... see you!



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darrendemers12
Thanks

Basically, the 5th- and 6th-grade English classes will be taught mainly by the main Japanese homeroom teachers. Okay... fine... whatever. If Japan wants to be a sinking ship of Engrish ridicule, then that's their deal. I've seen English classes taught by underqualified teachers before (see Season 2) and it is painful to watch. But Japan insists on conforming its education system from coast to coast, so really, I can't fight it.
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What really gets me is the change they want to see for the 1st through 4th-grade classes. They still want me to be the main teacher, but they want me to use their... lovely... curriculum. I took a quick glance at it. It's basically everything I hate about teaching English, forced heavily upon me. Songs... chanting... favoring random short phrases over building vocabulary... heavily reducing keyword listening practice... critically damaging the concept of reusing previously learned material. I tried to fight it, but they wouldn't listen. Somehow they think this system is far superior only because they've used it in the past.

2014-12-15 11:08:52


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