Archive for January, 2014

January 31, 2004 – I need a beers

Yes, yes I do

Yes, yes I do

Another work week finishes. Whee! I guess it is the last day of the month so I should write some insightful and meaningful wrap up for the month, showing how I learned something or how the cultural experience was meaningful or something. However, after an entire day of people badly misusing my native language, I can only say “I need a beers”.

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January 29, 2004 – 10 Degrees and Sunny

Japanese practice in Yokohama, Mos Burger and chatting to friends at home on MSN make for a good day. For those freezing in a long, cold Winnipeg winter – I would like you to know that it 10 degrees and sunny with a beautiful blue sky here today. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

(2014 update)

I am in Winnipeg as I am rewriting my original post, and it is -30 outside. I would kill for 10 degrees, even without sunny skies.

MOS Burger is a Japanese fast food chain that is now the second largest fast food franchise in Japan after McDonalds Japan. They offer a variety of Japanese style hamburgers. Definitely worth a try if you want to try some international fast food.

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January 28, 2004 – Free travel advice

Some of my friends from Winnipeg are thinking of coming to visit this summer and wanted an idea for things to do. So in my Voice class (open conversation classroom for students of all levels), I asked the students to form teams and try to make the best vacation for a bunch of Canadian university students on a budget

Yes, I got paid to have my students help plan a trip to Japan for my friends. Some days I love this job!

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January 27, 2004 – Interesting students

(Original post) At work I taught a kid that was really good today! Why can`t all kids be like that? I also taught a member of the Japanese Self Defence force and a woman who designs diamond tools for cutting silicon.

(2014 Update) The location of a NOVA branch will go a long way in determining what kinds of students will show up. Kawasaki City is a largely industrial city full of factories and heavy industry. The majority of students in the evenings and on weekends are all engineers. I have nothing against engineers, but it is nice to have a little more variety in the classroom. Three electrical engineers and one computer engineer who all work and live in Kawasaki is not variety.

Variety of students in the classroom, whether it be people with different jobs, people from different generations, people with interesting hobbies, or the always rare non-Japanese student, keeps things interesting for the teachers. English teachers are responsible for teaching as good a lesson as possible, regardless of who shows up to class. However, it is much easier to stay engaged and excited as a teacher when you aren’t teaching the same lesson to the same types of students all the time.

Variety in the classroom is also good for the students. Not only does it give students a chance to interact with people they might not normally talk to, it also allows for a wider range of vocabulary. As an example, imagine the discussion about weekend plans in a classrom with 4 salarymen as compared to a classroom with an engineer, a retired senior, a university student, and a stay at home housewife with 3 kids.

In my 3 years of teaching in Japan I got to teach a great assortment of different people with different jobs. My highlights include a Buddhist Monk, members of the Japanese Self Defence Force, a game designer, a few doctors, a hostesse, a miniture dollhouse designer, a very opinionated retired ballerina, and an awesome construction worker from Peru who was studying English as a third language.

If you have an English school and have any control over scheduling of your lessons, do your students and teachers a favour and try to get some variety in the classroom. It will benefit everyone.

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January 26, 2004 – Bad music day at the internet cafe

There is some seriously terrible music on at the internet cafe today. Normally the cafe is playing Red Hot Chili Peppers (good!), Aerosmith (okay), Britney Spears (not great), or Backstreet Boys (bad). Today’s music sounds like it was created by someone who got fired from making Nintendo Entertainment System game music, took a lot of bad drugs, listened to Nada Surf and the Grease soundtrack on repeat, and then somehow got a record deal.

I would rather see a boy band live than to listen to any more of this crap!

(2014 update)

Man I wish that Soundhound existed when this happened. I really want to know who was responsible for the music.

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January 25, 2004 – A romantic dinner at Wendy’s

The view near Mukogaoka-Yuen station including Wendy's in the middle of the shot

The view near Mukogaoka-Yuen station including Wendy’s in the middle of the shot

The Penpal came to visit me in Noborito today. We watched movies, practiced languages, and enjoyed a romantic dinner at Wendy’s. Okay, it was actually lunch, and not terribly romantic. But we did it together and it was fun.

The Penpal had to leave in the late afternoon. From Noborito she would take the Odakyu line to Odawara and then change to Tokaido line to go to Numazu. I wanted to spend some more time with her, so I came up with a clever idea. At Noborito station I bought the cheapest ticket available, good for one stop on the Odakyu line. We then rode together to Odawara. We said goodbye at the Odakyu exit gate, and then I got on the next train going back towards Tokyo. I got off at Mukogaoka-yuen station, which is exactly one stop away from Noborito. In total I got to spend another hour with The Penpal and to travel a round trip of 134km for the low price of 130 yen.

Feeling pretty proud of myself, I stopped in at Daiei to get some discount food for dinner instead of cooking. I was pleasantly surprised to find an entire pizza with jalapenos, olives and pepperoni for half price. How can you beat 450 yen for a whole pizza?

Just a fantastic day all around.

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January 24, 2004 – 4 months in Japan

Nova Classrooms - a maze of glass boxes

Nova Classrooms – a maze of glass boxes

As of today I have officially spent 4 months in Japan. I celebrated this momentous occasion by… working.

At work I managed to distract two other classes during a man-to-man kids class. “Man-to-man” is the term used when a student specifically requests a one on one class with the teacher, regardless of the gender or age of the student. A “lucky man-to” is the NOVA student term for when they book a group lesson but happen to be the only student to show up.

The first distraction was caused when I needed to go to the teacher’s room to get some teaching material that I forgot. NOVA classrooms are little glass boxes, so you can see what’s going on around you. A student from another class stopped listening to her teacher and watched me go all the way to the teacher’s room and back. It was a little strange.

The second distraction came when I was teaching using the “throw the paper ball at the flashcard” technique. The target language had phrases and pictures from a short story. I would read one of the cards, and the student would have to throw a paper ball at the card and knock it down. Then she would pick a card and read to me, and I would have to knock down the card. This sounds a bit dumb, but it involves both listening to English to identify the correct target card, and reading English to tell me which card to hit. Also, kids absolutely love this.

On one turn, the paper ball took a bad bounce and rolled under the wall into the next classroom. Without thinking about it too hard, I was down on the ground (in my shirt and tie) reaching under the wall into the next classroom to retrieve the lost paper ball. I had just closed my hand around the ball when one of the students noticed an arm grabbing around on the floor and screamed. I popped up and explained what happened, which cracked up the entire next classroom. I basically brought both classes to a complete stop, but everyone seemed to have a good laugh about it.

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