Archive for June, 2015

June 15, 2005 – Breaking up fights, round 2

A few weeks ago I had a kids class where I had to physically restrain one of the students to keep him from beating up another student. I often have some issues with my kids classes, so I don’t think people really understood how crazy the situation was when I tried to explain it.

It happened again today, in full view of parents and staff. The student was upset for some reason, and totally flipped out, trying to attack another student (again). The staff and parents couldn’t get him to calm down or leave the classroom. I ended up doing my best to work with the other kids on the other side of the room.

I would have preferred if nothing like that would ever happen again, but at least this way other people witnessed the situation and hopefully something can be done.

I love teaching English in Japan, but would probably enjoy the job more if I could just teach adults. Teaching kids is a great learning experience, but not always in a good way!

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June 14, 2005 – Come and Knock on our Door…

My roommate Palmer is away in Thailand for 3 weeks on vacation. My other roommate Azeroth was teaching, so The Penpal and I had the apartment to ourselves for a change, or so we thought.

The Penpal came over and we went to Super Kadoike, the small supermarket across the street from our apartment building. We bought ingredients to cook spaghetti with tomato, bacon, and eggplant sauce. We returned home and started cooking.

While cooking, we were very surprised to see Palmer’s girlfriend Mia walk into the apartment with a load of laundry. I had not idea that she had her own key! She introduced herself to The Penpal, started doing the laundry, and then took a shower. After her shower she came out to talk to us while wrapped in a towel and drying her hair with another towel.

Yes, it was as awkward as it sounded.

Mia did not live in our apartment, but did spend the night with Palmer on occasion. I have no idea why she thought it would be okay to just make herself at home while Palmer was away, or why on earth she thought it was a good idea to talk to The Penpal and I while she was wearing a towel. WTF indeed!

Later in the evening I did my best to assure The Penpal that Mia did not often just hang around in a towel. I think I will be discussing this with Palmer when he gets home!

(2015 Update) This was about the time I made the decision to start saving up for my own apartment.

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June 12, 2005 – Sick day

Today I was sick. Very sick. Unfortunately there is a shortage of teachers at the moment, so taking a sick day is a major inconvenience. Personally I think showing up pale and barfy would have been a bigger inconvenience.

I spent the day sleeping. Blech.


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June 11, 2005 – Human paper shredder

Tonight I worked the Saturday evening shift alone. Usually there are at least two teachers on late Saturday, but tonight I was working solo. It was just as well – all 4 of my late lessons were empty.

As I have mentioned before, NOVA still pays teachers if no students show up to lessons, however the teachers are expected to find something productive to do in the office. In the past I have had to hand out tissues at the train station, clean the office, tidy the files, or colour kids class training material. Tonight I had a new activity – manually tearing up old comment sheets from former students files. No, we don’t have a paper shredder in the branch.

By about the third hour of trying to avoid paper cuts while tearing up stacks of papers, I started to get a bit grumpy. This is not what I traveled half way around the world to do, and it is not what I spent years in University studying for. After a bit more tearing, I tried to find a positive way of looking at my experience as a human paper shredder. I decided that I could look at the experience in one of two ways:

  1. I am wasting my life and skills by tearing up papers for money
  2. I am getting paid a pretty good amount of money to tear up papers while living in Japan

I decided to go for the second option and get through my shift.

In the evening I met up with all the early shift teachers at the izakaya and did my best to catch up on my drinking. I talked to a former NOVA teacher from Canada who was now working as a foreign recruiter for Japanese companies in Tokyo. He told me that foreign accountants with a CPA could find work in Tokyo for a starting salary of 9 million yen (about $100,000 CAD). I have a university degree with a major in accounting, I just need to get my professional designation.

I really enjoy living in Japan, so it was inspiring to know that there is a way in the future to actually use my university education while staying here. Sounds like a good reason to improve my Japanese!

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June 10, 2005 – Entertaining the kids with no glasses

Today’s schedule was pretty light on students, however I didn’t have any empty lessons.

During my kids class I discovered a new way to entertain the students. I wear glasses to help me see distances better, but can still see pretty well without them. However, if I take off my glasses and pretend that I can’t see anything, the kids think this is hilarious. I don’t completely understand it, but whatever keeps them enjoying the class (hopefully while speaking English) is a good thing.

The other major news today was that my holidays were approved for July!! Hooray!

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June 9, 2005 – Early shift rules!

Today I got to work an early shift at Fujinomiya school.

Fujinomiya is a “small” city of 131,000 just north of Fuji city. Despite having the population to make it a city in Canada, it has a small town feel in Japan. The NOVA branch is located in the Jusco department store, which is the central shopping mall for the city. There are a huge number of kids classes at Fujinomiya NOVA, likely because they provide 40 minutes of child free shopping time for parents.

It’s always nice to interact with some different students. In addition to meeting some different people, it allows me to recycle some of my lesson openers and voice class topics, which makes for an easier day.

Early shift is great because I have my entire evening available, as opposed to my usual shift which ends at 9:00pm. The only downside to an early shift is working one right after a late shift. Otherwise, early shift rules!

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June 8, 2005 – Gaijin!!

On my lunch break I went to the nearby Lawson convenience store for lunch. On the way back to NOVA, I was followed by two young kids who saw me and started saying “Gaijin! Gaijin da!” (Foreigner! It’s a foreigner) loudly behind my back. I was very close to turning around and saying “Nihonjin! Nihonjin da!” (Japanese person!), but I decided to be nice instead.

I saw those kids later in another teacher’s kids class. I am guessing the novelty of seeing a gaijin walking around was similar to when you saw your teacher grocery shopping as a kid and realized they didn’t live at school.

After work I enjoyed some beer and sushi. Yum!


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June 7, 2005 – Million Dollar Baby in Yokohama

There is currently a shortage of teachers in the Numazu / Mishima / Fuji / Fujinomiya area. I made myself available to do some overtime shifts to make a little extra money, however schools in my area were cutting costs and were told not to allow any overtime.

Since I had nothing else going on, I decided to go to the Tokyo area to find something fun to do. My first stop was my old neighbourhood. I got a haircut from the really good barber near Shinyurigaoka station, and then stopped by a bank to send some money home. Thanks to advice from other teachers, I got a Lloyd’s account which allows me to transfer money from my SMBC Japanese bank account to my Canadian bank account with a flat transaction fee. The best part is that I can do this transfer from any SMBC bank machine.  I need to send money home periodically to make sure that my student loans are being paid, and it also prevents me from overspending. Like other teachers, I try to watch the exchange rates and do my transfers when the forex is favourable.

After sending money home, I treated myself to Wendy’s for lunch. I then headed off to Shinjuku to buy some books at Kinokuniya. I love Kinokuniya – it is probably the best book store in the country. I was going to be productive and do some clothes shopping, but decided that since I had already been somewhat productive (getting up early, haircut, money transfer), that I should do something fun. I ended up heading to Yokohama to see a movie.

This was my first time going to a movie theater by myself. It felt strange to go solo, which is a bit funny when you consider that you really aren’t supposed to talk to people in the theater anyway. I bought a ticket for Million Dollar Baby and then killed some time playing video games at a nearby game center while I waited for the movie to start.

Million Dollar Baby is simply a fantastic movie, although it probably caught a lot of people off guard because it is marketed as one kind of movie and then half way through becomes something completely and totally different. No, I am not going to give any spoilers. I really enjoyed the experience, but would have liked someone to talk about the movie with after it ended.

After the movie I got a quick bite to eat, and then proceeded to drag my giant, heavy bag of new books through a few train stations on my way home. It’s great living so close to the Greater Tokyo area!

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June 5, 2005 – Problem Child (not the movie)

I got to teach the ‘problem’ kids class again at work today. I will be teaching them for the remainder of the month as usual, and will finish the month with a team teaching seminar with an experienced kids teacher. I have been told that after the team teach, I will have the option of dropping the class.

At this point in my English teaching career, I feel that I am a good or very good teacher for everyone other than children. My students seem to enjoy themselves and I get my fair share of level checks and demo lessons. I just wish I could get better at controlling my kids classes. I would also be happy not having to teach kids anymore, but I don’t think that’s an option 🙂

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June 2, 2005 – Who quits by fax?

Today started out as a typical Thursday at Mishima NOVA. Students showed up, teachers taught English, all was normal. In the evening I had an empty lesson and was catching up on some paperwork in the teachers room. I went out front to make a copy, when Patrick the manager started to read an incoming fax.

Patrick read the fax, paused, read it again, and then said “Rumi, please remove Kasparov from the schedule. He doesn’t work here anymore”. Rumi was confused, and not sure if she understood the request. Patrick repeated “Kasparov just quit and doesn’t work here anymore. Please remove him from the schedule”.

It was no secret that Kasparov was not happy working as an English teacher for NOVA. A lot of people sign up to teach English in order to move to Japan, but then realize that the actual teaching is not the fulfilling career choice they thought it would be. Turnover for English teachers is fairly high, but most of the teachers who leave give 2-4 weeks of notice.

Kasparov was an accomplished coder, having developed software as a hobby. His Japanese was also quite good. Unbeknownst to everyone, he had been searching for a new job and had just been hired to do custom coding for a small business in Gotemba. However, in order to get the job, he needed to change the category on his working visa.

Kasparov’s fax explained that as of this morning, he had completed the change to his working visa, and he was no longer legally allowed to work at NOVA. Instead of giving any warning or indication that something was going to happen, he sent a fax on his day off and just never came back. It was one of the biggest dick moves I have ever seen.

Saturday and Sunday are the busiest days of the week at NOVA. Removing one teacher from the schedule created a panic for the staff, who had to try to juggle lessons and find a quick replacement teacher (in an area short of teachers) before finally cancelling lessons and calling students to apologize.

Kasparov quit by fax in order to stick it to NOVA. Overall, the effect on the company was very small, unlike the effect his sudden departure had on his former coworkers and students. He was not exactly popular before he pulled this stunt, and he definitely wasn’t going to win any popularity contests afterwards.

If you have a grudge with your employer, don’t quit in a way that screws over your former coworkers or the customers. That’s just being an asshole.

(2015 Update) My original post on the subject was 2 sentences long with no details because I wasn’t sure who was reading my blog. I should have posted it anyways – it’s not like anyone other than Kasparov would have disagreed with me.

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