Musings about Japan and life as a human, a cosplayer, a minority, a music lover, an English teacher.

Tag Archives: JET

Work, Work, Work

A lot has happened in the past few…whatever. I don’t even remember the last time I wrote a blog.

  • Although my work hours are officially from 8:00am to 4:00pm, I’ve been staying at least an hour later pretty much everyday. Today I had five classes and only one period in the middle on the day to plan and prepare for other classes. Last week was actually worse, because immediately after my last class I had yet another “English conversation” session with a first grader’s mom. Thankfully, my former English supervisor from my previous school had cancelled practice with the Rock Band club, so I didn’t need to leave right after that, and just stayed at work to…work.
  • Speaking of the Rock Band Club, this past Saturday I performed as their vocalist. That’s because they don’t have a rock vocalist, and before I transferred I said I’d help them with their performance. The best part of that was that I didn’t tell anyone at my current school that I would be there, so the students who came were puzzled about why I showed up, and with students from a different school. They were shocked once I got on stage. Personally I think I did a terrible job singing, but hopefully no one noticed. At least I remembered the lyrics. 🙂
  • You’d think that, as a fourth year ALT, I’d be spending LESS time on lesson plans. Nope. I recently took a series of online TEFL courses to learn about my job, and actually learned a lot. I’ve been striving to become a better teacher and design better lesson plans, without it becoming some kind of crazy experiment. And following a recent English teaching conference, I’ve become inspired to really…know what I’m doing. I want to take my work more seriously. I’m not even sure if I want to continue teaching, but while I’m still in this field, I might as well develop the skills.
  • My grandfather–the only grandfather I got to know in my life–passed away three weeks ago. I didn’t get to see him while I visited in August, but I did talk to him on the phone while I was there, and I remember his last words to me: “You know I’m really proud of you. I love you.” There was just a tiny thought in the back of my mind telling me that it may be the last time I talk to him, so even though he couldn’t see it, I put on my biggest smile and said, “I love you too, Grandpa.” His passing led to me taking bereavement leave, which meant that I couldn’t teach the students for nearly two weeks.
  • My priorities changed when I came back. I had to finish my online class, redesign previous lesson plans, and take care of other business. Cosplay was at the forefront of my mind, and now I haven’t even been able to touch anything cosplay-related. I probably don’t have time to order a particular costume that I wanted to get by the time I go to Korea this winter. Oh yeah, I’m going to Korea this winter.
  • Nearly every weekend since October has involved SOMETHING to do. I’ve been so busy that I actually have been trying to find time to NOT do anything. This weekend I’ll be going to a BIGBANG concert with a friend, and then meeting with another friend on Sunday. The next weekend is the school marathon, which means yet another Saturday killed. At least I get Monday off. Meh.
  • My efforts to “do nothing” have involved playing Fire Emblem: Awakening. That game is so good that it’s drawn me away from playing Dynasty Warriors AND the new Phoenix Wright for the 3DS. Seeing as those are my two favorite game franchises, you know that means a lot.
  • People still find my YouTube videos, and write comments about them. I’m done making new ones though. I’m finished. Sorry. 😦 It’s just not gonna happen. I’m too busy living life to talk about it. If my occupation was video blogger/journalist, I’d have plenty more videos. But I’m just too fidgety to sit and talk to a camera, and THEN edit those videos myself. Writing has always been my preferred means of documentation.

Year 3: Complete.

My third year of JET is complete. It was a good year overall–not without its low points, but great nonetheless.

I accomplished quite a few things:

  • Finished my first year teaching at one large elementary school.
  • Got a chance to socialize and hang out more with friends.
  • Completed (well, almost) two costumes for this year’s Otakon.
  • Befriended a Japanese person and conversation partner.

About that last one. He quickly became a close friend. I’m not even sure how. We’re the same age, we like the same Japanese band, we can joke with each other, he loves learning English, and he encourages me to practice Japanese. I remember words and phrases so much more easily because of him. He also takes interest in everything about me–modeling, cosplay, the music I like, my family and friends back home. I introduced him to one of my favorite fashion brands, Vivienne Westwood. He wasn’t familiar with it before but immediately took a liking to the colors and styles. I gave him a Vivienne Westwood coin purse I happened to already have that also happened to be his favorite color.
Needless to say, I took a romantic interest in him. Though I do have Japanese friends here, he’s the first that I’ve really felt close to. That glass wall that I always felt existed between me and Japanese people wasn’t there when I started talking to him. I feel comfortable talking to him and joking with him, playing Dynasty Warriors (my favorite game) and I’m even fine when I lose to him in Tetris (anyone who knows me knows that I hate losing). He’s like a best friend to me and I’ve been happier since we started conversation practice a few weeks ago.

Too bad he’s taken. Curses, foiled again.

It’s hard living as an introverted, single woman in a foreign country. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t lonely and depressed sometimes. I’m watching my friends on Facebook as they all get boyfriends and girlfriends, or get married, or have children. Well, the children I can do without…but I’d love a chance at companionship.

So I’ll grab a drink, sit on my couch, listen to my favorite music, and work on my cosplay. And I’ll continue to tell myself that, the reason I’m still single is because God is preparing someone incredibly and unimaginably awesome for me…

In the meantime, here’s to a (hopefully) more fortunate 4th year of JET. 乾杯…Cheers.

Blogging Your Frustrations as a Teacher

A few weeks ago, I was experiencing something just short of an internal meltdown concerning an issue I was having with students at the school where I currently teach English. I was so angry about it that I wrote out an explosive Facebook status about it, coming pretty close to outright insulting them.

My former high school Japanese teacher saw it and sent me a private message warning me about what I post on Facebook, and suggested that I find someone to talk to privately about it. I felt guilty about making my post public and deleted it soon after.

In an age where sharing feelings openly through social media is normal, sometimes it’s easy to forget that there ARE consequences. Anyone who knows the story of Natalie Munroe knows this. It doesn’t matter how you feel or who sympathizes with you–you can still get fired if the authorities call for it.

Despite being a usually quiet person, I can be very outspoken and have often let out my frustrations in an honest, yet understated way. (The truth is that I can often be much more harsh than I sound, which sounds pretty harsh to some people already.) So being a teacher of English to over 700 children, I’m not going to lie and say my job is without problems. But there is a line that I cannot cross, should I choose to recount a story.

The two most important rules are to 1) don’t give names, and 2) don’t reveal the name of the school. Sure, I live in Japan and blog in English, but that doesn’t mean that I’m immune from being discovered. More and more Japanese people–and even high school and middle school students–are learning English. And they may very well discover you over the internet if they look hard enough.

Another important rule is to simply not be outright insulting. I totally sympathize with you if you have a bunch of jerk kids in a class. I know the feeling. But instead of calling them jerks and a failure to society with no redeeming qualities–even if you honestly believe it to be true–just express your own frustration and difficulty with handling the situation. And if you absolutely must be brutally honest, don’t leave your name, or your initials, and definitely not your photo on your blog, like Ms. Munroe did. Instead, tell a close friend, or keep it in a private journal. You might actually end up feeling better after doing so, to the point where you don’t think it’s necessary to reveal your thoughts publicly.

And while this isn’t directly blog-related, do remember that a few jerks in that class means exactly that–a FEW. This is something I forget a lot. When a group of students cause problems, it’s easy to use the phrase “bad class,” even if there are some good kids in that class, and even when MOST of the class is good and the “bad” group is only made up of 5 or 6 kids. So before you make that Facebook status about how much you can’t stand “that class,” remind yourself that it’s not everyone.

Blogging is one of the many things that teachers have to be careful about. You can argue “Freedom of speech!” all you want, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to accept what you have to say, especially the ones that have the power to fire you.

38 Children in One Class.

This year at one of my schools, they decided to combine last year’s two 3rd grade classes into one 4th grade class. There are a total of 38 children. Their teacher was a 5th grade teacher last year, and while he’s a good teacher, I could tell he was already a bit troubled by being given such a big task.

Normally I have a brief meeting with the teachers before the day of class to discuss what we’d be doing. But yesterday I was approached not by the 4th grade teacher, but by the support teacher, who was a 1st grade teacher last year.

Support teacher: Chase-sensei, could you please tell me what you have planned for the 4th graders tomorrow?

Me: (a little confused that I’m not talking to the 4th grade teacher) Sure.

4th grade teacher: Ah, sensei. Um…because…there’s…38 kids…I, uh…*points to support teacher* have…backup…*slowly backs away* sorry. ^_^;

Me: Ah, I understand. (poor guy…)

He seemed almost embarrassed to need help, but with 37 kids plus one with extreme behavior problems, it would be hard for anyone. I don’t understand why they thought this would’ve been a good idea. But I have class with them today, and it appears there will be a total of 3 teachers including myself, so we might be fine.


Let me tell you a story about a class of 6th graders at one of my current elementary schools.

When I first came to this school last August, I asked the former ALT how the students were, particularly the 6th graders. He said that class 6-1 was fine, but that class 6-2 was noisy and a pain to deal with. So I came here with pretty low expectations of both classes, but treated them as I would any other 6th grade class.

The former ALT’s words rang true for a week or two; 6-2 had a couple of rowdy kids, and 6-1 was quiet and not very cooperative…only the same few kids would raise their hands to answer something. And then, something changed. One week 6-2 came in, and their teacher got all of them to focus. When they got chatty and she told them to stop talking, they stopped. They’re still not my best class, but they pay attention and they try most of the time.

But the supposedly quiet 6-1 became a trouble class. Kids thought it was a good idea to start chatting while I was trying to teach. I still couldn’t get any of them to raise their hands, so I made a bundle of wooden chopsticks with attendance numbers written on them (in Japan the class roster is organized alphabetically and numbered, with the first student in the class given the number 1). Whenever I asked a question, I’d pull out a chopstick and call out the number, and that student would have to answer.

That still didn’t solve the talking problem though. The first time I sternly said, “urusai,” which means “noisy” but is used as a way to tell the class to be quiet. But week after week, I’d have to go through the same thing over and over.

Fast-forward to the past three weeks. The first week, when they talked I made a mark on the board and said that if I made 5 marks, I’d get the principal. They only got 3. The second week, I started at 3, and they managed to get through class with only 2. I admit, it was my lenience with them which is the reason why I didn’t have to go to the principal. I gave them so many chances because I didn’t want to simply stop teaching and have them fall behind the other class, and also because the cynical part of me really didn’t care whether they were learning or not, because it was their responsibility to pay attention, not mine. They aren’t a bunch of pre-schoolers anymore.

On Friday, I had planned to only give them one chance, and warn them of that at the start of class. But the problem with warning them early was that I didn’t want to start off on a bad note before they even did anything that day. So today I gave them 2 chances.

They squabbled the first chance. At one point I stared at a pair of girls for a good 20 seconds before they realized that I was looking at them to indicate that they needed to stop talking. A second time I singled out four students (two of them were the same two girls from before) and I told them to get out, but they didn’t move. I didn’t push it, and continued teaching after they stopped, but their homeroom teacher didn’t do anything either, which has been part of this long-standing problem.

Finally, about two thirds of the way through class, I tried to explain the next activity to them, but there was just too much chattering going on. They already had one strike against them. I turned to the board that had their strikes against them, erased the “1” and replaced it with a “2.” My heart was actually racing as I did it, and I kept thinking over and over, “I have to do this. I have to do this.” After writing the 2, some of the students didn’t even notice and kept talking. As they did, I just walked out of the classroom. Their homeroom teacher said nothing.

I walked down the hall to the staff room, thinking “I didn’t want to do this. I really didn’t.” (Of course, what teacher actually WANTS to discipline instead of teaching?) I knew the vice-principal wasn’t here, so I asked the secretary if the principal was here today. She told me to knock the door of his office. When I went to check, he wasn’t there. There was no way I could go back without a figure of authority, so I told her that he wasn’t in his office, and she went to go look for him after asking me why I needed to talk to him.

I saw the principal go straight to the English room, so I quickly followed behind him. I expected him to say something right away, but as I went in, he stood and looked over the class, then turned to me and told me to go ahead before he said anything.

The class was, needless to say, completely silent. I walked around to the front of the classroom, and said in English, “I shouldn’t have to do this.” I paused, pointed to the board where their strikes were written, and then said in Japanese, “5 times, 2 times, I shouldn’t have to tell you to be quiet even once, because you’re already 6th graders.” I continued in Japanese, telling them, “When I came to this school, I asked your last English teacher how the 6th graders were. He said 6-2 was noisy, but 6-1 was okay. It turns out it was the opposite.” I switched to English, pointed to the principal and said, “I shouldn’t have to get kocho-sensei to tell you to be quiet.”

I gave the floor to the principal, and he told the students who were talking to stand up. Of course with three teachers in the room, there was no lying about who was and wasn’t talking. He gave them a long lecture, without yelling or anything, and instead asked each student why they were talking, which embarrassed them as they mumbled quietly that they simply wanted to talk.

He lectured for a good ten minutes as I just stood there listening in kind of a state of surrealism. When he finished and gave the floor back to me, I quickly considered whether I should’ve said another thing or two about the situation, but instead I just pointed to the clock, explained that we had no more time, and that I wanted them to complete their activity for homework.

I concluded the class as usual, but before saying goodbye, I told them that I knew it wasn’t everyone talking, and that when the chatty students continue to talk, the others can’t concentrate and learn. I made them make a promise not to make me do this again. I don’t believe they’ll keep that promise, but hopefully they’ll prove me wrong.

My Favorite.

Last week, I continued a lesson with my “good” 6th grade class at my smaller school on “favorites.” I taught them the expression “My favorite _____ is _____.” and used colors, subjects, and TV shows as examples, and then asked them, “What’s your favorite school memory?”

The kids all said things like the 6th grade school trip, or their week-long “camping” trip in 5th grade, or their visit to the middle school they’d be attending in April. After they all answered, I asked their teacher what his favorite school memory was.

“Hmm…my favorite school memory is…kyuushoku.”

School lunch.

I burst out laughing and the kids all went “EHHHHHHHHH?!?!?!” He defended himself, saying, “I look forward to it when I’m hungry!!! And it’s delicious, right?”

He’s right about that. Our school lunches are pretty good.


At the school marathon today, I sat down with the 4th graders when three of the girls asked me if I was going to run as well.

4th grade girls: 先生、走る?
Me: No. (I still wasn’t feeling too well after the past few days)
4th grade girls: 走って!走って!
Me: Ehh…
One girl: …*face lights up*…ranningu!
Me: *laughing hysterically* Okay!
All three: YAY!!!

They all outran me, by the way. I thought I was gonna collapse before I even got back.

School Lunch

Today with one of my 4th grade classes, for some reason I felt more energetic and sillier than usual. Remarks from two of my students went as follows (not directly translated):

One girl: 先生、何か変わった。 (Sensei, you seem different.)
Other girl: 給食悪い。(Must’ve been something in the school lunch.)

That just made me crack up, which made the rest of the kids crack up.

“I want to eat kangaroos.”

Yesterday, my 6th graders started working on speeches about the country they want to visit and why.

Me (to a girl): How’s it going?
Girl: I want to go to Australia. What do they have?
Me: Hm, well they have koalas, and kangaroos…
Girl: I already wrote about that…hey, can you eat koalas in Australia?
Me: O_O Uh…I don’t think so…
Girl: How about kangaroos?
Me: …hm, actually, they MIGHT eat kangaroos there…I’m not sure.
Girl: Okay then. *writes* “I want to eat kangaroos.”
Me: …okay, sounds good…