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Minister Most Sinister
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GTX: Great Teacher Xeno [ Check this category ]

Written by xenocrisis0153
June 10th, 2012


Coverage Dates: Sunday April 15th - Sunday June 10th
Entry: New Evolution - Episode 3

Hey, yeah, I'm still here. I kept putting off updating this blog series because I ws trying to convince myself to switch over to a video-blog... but I really really hate the sound of my voice, so I still need a little more convincing (opinions, please).

At any rate, it's been a huuuuuuge mix of good and bad going on around here. Let me do it by list since that's the best way for me to organize my thoughts.

The Good

#1 - kids are as happy as ever. Even my troublesome ES2 3-1 class is much much more tame now. The tsundere girls (Miyu, Hinano, and Nanoha) are actually my biggest supporters these days. I feel it's a mix of their getting a new homeroom teacher, their class size being reduced down from 28 to 24 (4 kids transferred out!!!! holy crap!!!), and the ones who attend the jidoukan after-school program are the senior members. They've matured a lot over the last 3 months.

The 1st-graders have all adapted to elementary school life quite well. The ones who go to the jidoukan love me especially. The cuteness overflows constantly.

#2 - Swimming season will be starting again soon. I've already gotten the permission from the two principals to help out with the P.E. classes and with the summer swimming supervision. Being someone who spent 3 years in emergency response and who has helped with pooltime for the last 3 summers (not to mention being the most able-bodied staff member, considering all the other teachers are mostly women in their 40s/50s), my presence should ensure no students suffers any huge water-related injury.

Although swimming doesn't officially start until later into June (after the "rainy season" goes away), I have already swam with the 6th-graders when we went on our field trip. Surprisingly, the girls were quite friendly and inviting about the whole ordeal, which is odd when you consider that the older girls are more shy and embarrassed when it comes to being in the pool with boys.

And yes, we did the classic "pool cleaning episode" thing, too, haha. That was a lot fun. I didn't actually go into the pool this time because I didn't have a change of clothes with me, so I didn't get drenched this time. But it was quite amusing throwing buckets of water on the students from up where I was on the pool deck.

#3 - Speaking of the 6th-grade field trip, we had that just last week. Another overnight trip to the British-simulation resort about an hour away from our school. Luckily it didn't rain this time, so we actually to enjoy walking around outside and taking in the scenery/architecture.

Highlight: walking quietly behind groups of students in the evening on the dimly-lit main path and then screaming in horror once the time was right. Oh, the terror, haha. ::trollface::

Lowlight?: one of the girls ran up to me, told me that she wasn't wearing any panties, and then immediately playfully called me "ecchi!!" Gah, what anime did that come out of? Oh, I know... all of them -________-;;

#4 - made a new foreigner friend. British chap arrived for the start of the new year (or well, a little late, actually) to teach junior high school in a village not too far from me. He actually works for the same company I used to work for just a few months ago before I turned into a direct-hire. They got him an apartment in Koriyama City, which is good for me because now I have a reason to visit the city more often. We share personalities and both love anime, so we've been getting along famously. Nice to finally have someone to nerd out with. Most of the other ALTs I've met here have only been marginal fans of anime, and rarely of the same stuff I've been a fan of. We've already hit up all the anime stores in this area... which may not be a good idea considering he's living on a limited income until payday, heh heh.

#5 - The village had its annual English Recitation Contest in late-May. It was a lot of fun coaching the students (4 students from each grade) after school each day. As usual, I felt like they gave more effort during their practices and just got a bit of stage fright when it came to the final performance, but none of them had any serious mishaps. The 2nd-grade boy who I felt deserved it ended up taking 1st for his division, as did a 6th-grade boy in the other division. However, a 4th-grade boy who never should have won ended up taking 3rd-place... a huge blow to two of the girls who put in a lot more effort than he did. He actually dropped out of his original 4th-grade level speech and took on a 2nd-grade level speech, so that should have been an automatic disqualifier. Also the fact that two 1st-graders (who did do well, I'll say) ended up beating two 3rd-graders who had much harder speeches. Thankfully my advice to seperate the categories by grade and just select one winner per level was taken by the supervisors. Next year these problems shouldn't arise.

#6 - The Sports Festivals came and went already. This year the weather was perfect... or, a little TOO perfect. It was bright and sunny, which didn't agree with my camera as much as I would have thought it would. Oh well, I still got about 950 decent photos, about 100 of them being showcase quality. Unfortunately for me, both schools had their events on the same day, so I only got to see half of each. I think the White Teams won at both schools, as opposed to the Red Teams that usually win at the undoukais I attend.

The Bad

#1: I guess I need to just come out and say it... looks like my supervisors have a different idea of what "elementary English education" means. Despite being called one of the best ALTs ever in the histories of my 4 previous elementaries (hell, Kawauchi ES even changed their 18-year long rule of "no male teachers" just because they were so happy with my performance), the schools I work for now are not at all impressed.

Well, for the most part. Seems like huge debate has sparked here. Some of the teachers really really love me. Some of the teachers really really hate me. I'm willing to bet it's mostly the new teachers who have come in this year and just see me totally goofing around with the kids. It's the Okayama situation all over again. Luckily the two principals love me to freakin' death, so it may be a big battle come turn-of-the-year when recontracting happens.

But my style aside, the other debate emerging is regarding which is better to teach first-learners of ESL: drill as much vocabulary as possible or drill as many phrases/sentences as the students can handle? Personally, I prefer the vocabulary route, just because it's easier to turn those lessons into games and it's easier for non-Japanese-speaking foreigner teachers to teach words 1-by-1. Plus, vocabulary words are the building blocks of language. I say, "before the kids can put the puzzle together, we have to give them the pieces." Let the junior high school teachers show the kids how the words go together. They have the fully-trained staff there to do that.

Unfortunately, with the Minister of Education coming by for inspection every month and the new Board of Education Director constantly watching me, it's hard to deviate from the new system they want to use... which is more sentence-usage and less games. Hell, I've been told I can't even use stickers anymore. Talk about close-minded! They see them as pointless pandering to the kids, trying to buy their affections, I've been told. They don't seem to realize the importance for children to visualize their achievements, as well as giving me a tool to recognize who the star students are and who needs more attention.

We've been doing sample lessons for two months now, with Ellen-sensei still in command (though now she tells me that she hates being here and just wants to leave... way to get me energized about this new system!). Basically, we're just going with a junior high school-style system. Writing, worksheets, chanting, mindless repetition, CD-listening (I mean, fuck the ACTUAL NATIVE-SPEAKER STANDING RIGHT THERE!!!)... and worst of all, "Interview" activities, which I hate for three solid reasons:

1) I can't monitor what the kids are saying, so I don't know if they're right or wrong
2) if they ARE wrong, then all they're doing is going around the room and teaching the wrong thing to their classmates
3) most of them are lazy cheaters, so they'll just do the activity in Japanese anyway

Future of English education, everyone. All board the sinking ship!!

So as it stands right now, I've already been pretty much told that I can expect to be replaced at the end of the schoolyear. BUT... they want to replace me with a JET teacher, which unfortunately won't send Americans/Canadians/Brits/Aussies until August. If I can convince them to offer me a half-year contract, that would actually be perfect for all of us.

In fact, I'll tell you my plan right now. I stop teaching in March 31st, the end of the schoolyear. To be frankly honest, I really have grown tired of teaching. I've been doing it for just about 4 years now and it just doesn't interest me anymore. However, I loooove working in the schools because there is just so much to do and the kids are a lot of fun. But I realize that playing with kids is not my "job." Sooo... let's make it my job. There is plenty of other stuff I can do here:

1) speech contest coach (April-May)
2) field-trip chaperone
3) pool lifeguard (June-August)
4) event assistant
5) Kindergarten teacher (every Wednesday morning)
6) eikaiwa conversation class teacher (every Wednesday evening)
7) jidoukan assistant teacher (everyday 3pm - 6pm, and some Saturdays)
8) random school handyman (cleaning, maintaining)
9) general student interaction (hey, they need all the practice in USING English, right?)
10) P.E. assistant teacher

Ideally I'd just like a half-year contract that gets me through next summer... because that's actually when my earthquake evacuee benefits end, though there's also the whole economic job market fiasco to contend with. Still haven't decided what kind of job I want when I eventually do go back to the US.

#2 - Moving on, the next thing isn't so bad since it's technically still undecided, but the whole JHS international exchange trip to Australia still has me nervous. We've already spoken with the host village in New South Wales that we'd be traveling to, and they are already making preparations on their end, but the final say still hasn't been given. We have the itinerary and some of the rules already laid out... all we need now is the budget approval, I guess.

#3 - A lot of Japanese people will hide their anger and hatred to a coworker out of sheer need of having to maintain a peaceful work environment, however there is one teacher at the jidoukan who just flat-out hates me. She's always rude to me, she's always yelling at any student who tries to talk to me, and she's already shooting me nasty looks. I think she's suspicious of my true intentions of why I come to the jidoukan every afternoon, which I suppose she has the right to do so. But I just hate how she tries to hammer any student who tries to get close with me. Kids need attention and a little bit of affection (a LITTLE bit, you pervs), so things like hand-holding or putting your hands on their shoulders/waist, or letting them lean against you while sititng on the floor is all harmless things friends who trust eachother do. The other teachers are perfectly fine with it, including the center's head teacher (who loves me, BTW), and certainly the kids are okay with it, since they're the ones who initiate (I would never initiate contact like that, since it's the kids who need to choose where the line is drawn), but for whatever reason, this woman is in ultra Japanese-mode where such things are the devil!!

P.S. side-story, haha... I was so tired after I got back from the 6th-grade trip this week, but I did walk with the students from the school to the jidoukan center. Mone-chan, my favoritest student, was not happy at all when I told her that I was leaving early. She gave me the silent treatment, which of course only lasted until the next time I saw her the following day, haha.

The Best

I can't say because I'll jinx it, haha. Let's just say, it's been worth the wait and if everything happens as I hope, it will change a lot of things in my life. :D

Daily Humor via Facebook Posts

May 5th: Crossed another item off my "Nerdy Things to Do in Japan" list: sleep in a capsule hotel. How would I rate the experience? Ranged from "so-so" to "terrible." Being in the capsule was as cool as I thought it would be, but community showers and community bathroom (the smallest bathroom I have ever been in... gross!!) are always terrible. Worst of all... no ventilation in the capsule itself!!! It was like trying to sleep inside an oven. Maybe it will be good in the winter, but never again during the summer!!! D:

May 7th: Helped the Shirakawa Fire Department with their elementary school safety lecture by demonstrating how to put out a fire in English. All were amused.

May 7th: I got a hug from one of my worst-behaved girls today. Proof that even bad kids just want a little attention. So adorable.

May 12th: Apparently being an official teacher of the Board of Education gives me the horribly terrifying responsiblity of driving students places. O____O;;;

May 14th: At the after-school program today, I felt kinda bad when one of the tempermental 3rd-grade boys got absolutely torn apart by one of the teachers for legitimately accidentally knocking down two of the girls (on seperate occassions). There have been times when he's intentionally injured other students and no one said a word to him, but when he was trying to be careful, he got shredded. Sigh, Japan... let's try to get things straight, k?

May 15th: Even though I've been sleeping the same 12am to 730am I've been sleeping for the last 4 years, I just can't feel completely rested over the last week or so. The only logical conclusion I can come to is I must be sleep-crime-fighting.

May 15th: A parent of one of my 1st-graders signed up to Avenge Sevenfold's Twitter account, but they're all in English. Haha, of all the weird things I've been asked to translate here in this country...

May 16th: Two of my after-school 3rd-grade boys got into a fight this afternoon. The bigger one kept egging on the smaller boy who kept punching and kicking him. I could have easily stopped the fight immediately, but the bigger kid was being such an ass that I let the littler boy get in a few extra kicks before I ended it, haha.

May 17th: Today was the first day we used the new Hi Friends "robot teacher" in my 6th-grade classes. Luckily the JTE and I are on the same page when she asked me what I thought about it and I said it was terrible because it is just a far inferior replacement for a real English teacher. She pointed out that I shouldn't worry too much, because for as excited as the kids were to first see it, they couldn't even make it through the entire first lesson without being completely bored by it. So... yay?

May 17th Had to go from ES1 to ES2 this afternoon for Speech Contest training. I was running a little behind schedule. When I arrived, there were three very adorably angry girls standing in the lobby ready to yell at me, gyaahhhh!! haha :D

May 24th: Stopped by my school this afternoon after 3 "days" of absence. So sweet to have all my 1st- and 2nd-graders run up to ask me why I've been missing from the after-school program all week.

May 28th: "I come to school by fish."

Yeah, I was bored in class today, so I made the kids make up stupid sentences for my amusement. It was beautiful.

June 1st: Just played tag with 33 eight year-olds. It was me versus all of them. I kicked their asses.

June 1st: Why did I find a frog wandering around the 1st-floor central hallway? Oh yes, because this is an elementary school.

June 4th: In the 3rd-period, I joined the 1st-graders' P.E. class. They did this one activity where they all had to skip in a circle, then the teacher would blow her whistle a random number of times. Whatever that number turned out to be would be how many members of each group the students would need to race to make. I felt terrible when she called for groups of "10"... in our class of 21 students. As expected, the 1 poor girl who was left out bawled immediately. I ran over to comfort her and I told her that there was nothing to be sad about because I'm worth 9 students, haha. She was still upset, but she clung to me for the next 10 minutes. Poor girl.

June 5th: My 1st-graders are too adorable. Played a boardgame with one of the girls this afternoon. As soon as she realized that my win was inevitable, she just silently stared down. I told her that it was her move, but she just kept staring sadly. I told her again that she had to make a move, but she just kept staring. I poked her in the cheek, but she just kept staring. I asked her if she wanted to play again. She silently nodded her head. hahahaha, soooo cute!!


* started watching Bokuha Tomodaichiga Sukunai. I <3 Sena-san!!!
* went to a festival in Fukushima City... not technically a summer festival, though
* going to Tokyo to meet my friends from Okayama later this month
* Fukushima Prefecture sent the radiation scanner trucks to my village this week. Wooooo... life in the post-meltdown world. Sources say the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant is still far from stable and still poses a risk of exploding again. Awesome -_______-
* my car repair/inspection was a bitch this year, but at least it cost less than the last time I went. Oh, and I FINALLY have Fukushima license plates now. :D
* Cherry Blossom Sakura Season was beautiful this year!!
* Happy 10th Anniversay,!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Until next time (whenever that will be)... see you!!!

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No wonder the english command of japanese is still way below par. Their teaching methods are way too close minded to be effective, and they're not making good use of foreign teachers. Isn't there something higher in the system you can speak to?

For that female teacher who hates you, don't you wanna confront her?

2012-06-19 01:07:08


Although swimming doesn't officially start until later into June (after the "rainy season" goes away), I have already swam with the 6th-graders when we went on our field trip. Surprisingly, the girls were quite friendly and inviting about the whole ordeal, which is odd when you consider that the older girls are more shy and embarrassed when it comes to being in the pool with boys.
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