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

Tag Archives: work

2013: Recap

2013 was a really good year. It started out rough at first, around January/February when I got sick during a class I was teaching and laid in the school health room for the rest of the day. I realized that my body never got used to the Japanese diet of rice, rice, rice, and that I wasn’t eating a balanced diet. From that day on I decided that I would make sure to eat a salad at least 3 times a week, and it turned out to be the right decision.

I also decided that I would take a teaching course. CLAIR, the organization that sent me to teach in Ono over 3 years ago, was offering grants to people who wanted to take an online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course. I decided that I’d tackle it, since I could put it on my resume and also learn how to become a better teacher, even though I’m not sure that it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. My application was accepted and I finished the course a few weeks ago.

I told myself that 2013 was supposed to be the year of music, and it was. I think I’ve been to more concerts this year than any other. I saw MUCC, Bonnie Pink, exist†trace, G-DRAGON, VAMPS, girugamesh, and BIGBANG. But other than music, I was also able to finish not one, but TWO costumes for Otakon (though I admit they were pretty easy compared to past costumes). I also did three fashion photoshoots and my first cosplay photoshoot.

This year was also the most I’ve spent making friends with Japanese people. I’ve always found it difficult to do; maybe I’m just not very approachable. But I did make a few acquaintances, even though a lot of them want to practice their English (despite me trying to practice Japanese). I was supposed to be studying Japanese as well, but my closest Japanese friend and conversation partner ended up going to New Zealand to study English. Come back!!! 😦

I also went through a phase of being lonely and depressed about approaching 25 and still being single. I tried going on dates, but it didn’t really make me feel that much more hopeful. I distracted myself with cosplay, shopping, and looking at photos of my niece, Kaylee, who was born last September.

Then something happened. My grandfather passed away in November. I couldn’t believe it. When I talked to him over the phone in August, there was a tiny voice in my head that told me that that could be the last time I ever talk to him. I’m glad I heard that voice, because I was able to say “I love you, Grandpa” and not feel any regrets about my decision to work overseas. I was also able to see my newborn niece much earlier than expected, which was very much a blessing behind the sorrowful loss of my grandfather.

Going home for a week and a half gave me a much-needed break from work, which was stressing me out more than anything else. I had handled a big elementary school just the year before, so I didn’t understand why this year was giving me such a hard time. When I came back, I decided that I needed to change my outlook on life. I decided not to pursue dates anymore and just focused on my teaching course, and work. But weekends that were supposed to be fun—and they were—were also starting to feel like obligations, just because I so desperately needed to rest and have some alone time. But I plowed through every single day, all the way into the last day of classes.

I have my friend Talia to thank for many of the good things in the year. Her enthusiasm got me into BIGBANG (my new favorite Korean boy band since g.o.d broke up in 2006), “Free!” that anime with all the shirtless high school boys swimming, and Attack on Titan, the super-hyped up series that absolutely deserves to be hyped up. She’s the reason why I’ve been buying so many things with Levi’s face on it. ❤

By the time I turned 25 on December 16th, instead of feeling sad about being single, I was GLAD to still be single. All of the marriage proposals, engagements, weddings, and babies that popped up on my Facebook newsfeed were nice to look at, and I congratulate everyone as they take new steps in their adult lives. But I realized that everything I’ve accomplished this year may not have been possible if I had been caught up in a relationship, and that I NEEDED to be single and have that freedom in order to do what I wanted and needed to do. Instead of wanting what “everyone else” seems to be getting, I’m very blessed to have an alternative. Single life is wonderful at 25, and I hope it gets even better by the time I’m 26.


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.

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.