今週の漢字: 祝日

I wanted to wait until today to post in order to write:


Yes, Christmas eve has already passed in Japan, and I did have off. However, it was for the Emperor’s birthday, not Christmas. In fact, people do not usually get Christmas off in Japan. So, I’ll be at Mito SHS later today, but it’s not such a big deal as my family arrives at Narita Airport tomorrow. I bought the shinkansen and DisneySea tickets last week. Luckily, my sales assistant spoke English very well. I like trying to communicate in Japanese, but for something as expensive as these particular tickets, it was great to speak to someone in my native tongue.

It does not help that my request was somewhat complicated. I had to buy a ticket for myself to Tokyo, and then I needed to get tickets for my family when they’ll come to my town. However, I also needed to get the return ticket for me, whereas the return tickets for my family to Tokyo are at a later date. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the cheaper reserved non-smoking seats, so I had to get unreserved seats. It makes sense, because it’s one of the big travel times in Japan, if not the largest.

In Japan, as opposed to many English speaking countries, the New Year’s period is a time to spend with family. Christmas is a time to spend with a lover or friends. I went to Nagoya on Christmas eve, and I was run over by a parade of lovers. It seems like they wait until this time to come out. I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole year consists of planning for what to do on Christmas. Actually, many people here think Christmas is the 24th.

There are many differences between Christmas in America and in Japan. My students loved to hear about mistletoe and kissing. They usually use it purely for decoration. On Christmas in Japan, people usually eat KFC and Christmas cake. You may be wondering, “What is Christmas cake?” It’s simply any cake with Christmas decorations. The most common appears to be frosted sponge cake, especially strawberry shortcake. I’m not really sure why either KFC or cake has become a tradition.

Another difference is the making of a snowman. The iconic snowman in Japan is made of two balls versus America’s three. Also, it seems that a snowman tends to have the eyes made of orange or tangerine peels. There isn’t a name for the model snowman here as we do in America with “Frosty.” It isn’t only Frosty, but many Japanese people do not know Rudolph. They usually do not know that the other reindeer have names too. They do have the same song, but the red-nosed reindeer has no name. The students were a bit shocked to find out about Rudolph, Comet, Cupid, Dasher, Dancer, and the rest.

The biggest surprise is how Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. I tell the students that “mas” means “birth,” so it’s a day that is like the birthday of Christ. Because of katakana, many of the students do not know how to spell Christ. It also does not help when stores usually use “xmas.” At any rate, I’m glad that I was able to show them the meaning of Christmas.

Next week will be a shorter update, because my family will be here. So, the topic that I wanted to talk from last week will have to wait for 2 weeks. Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の聖書の詩: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
- Luke 1:1-4 (NIV)

It’s interesting that this introduction that Luke writes is usually forgotten. I think it’s important to see that Luke explicitly tells why he wrote his book. The prophecies were clearly written in the Old Testament as I have been quoting the past few weeks. Luke investigated the accounts of Jesus. Maybe he was skeptical and needed confirmation. Whatever the reason, Luke has reached a level of confidence where he can express all the accounts as truth.

今週の写真: Christmas!
Isn't my tree so beautiful?

I baked!

This is from the gingerbread dough that the other teacher made.

Lights in Nagoya

今週の漢字: 誇りに思う

I’m very proud of my students. This has been a difficult trimester because of all the adjustments that both sides had to make. They were used to my predecessor’s way of doing things, but I came in the middle of their academic year forcing them to get used to another teacher. This trimester was the prelude. They didn’t know if I would be a strict teacher or an easy teacher. In turn, I didn’t know what they knew or their motivation. Sometimes I underestimated, and similarly, sometimes I overestimated. It has been a very interesting, good, and sometimes chaotic ride.

There wasn’t an adjustment just between the students and me. The other teachers had to experience and understand me too. They really allowed me to express my opinions on class structure. We talked about each lesson, but we didn’t really have a clear path on getting to the goals. The teachers had a plan with my predecessor. However, a lot of that was moot, because the teachers respect my ideas. Plus, the goals for some classes seemed to change as the trimester progressed. We didn’t do much of the same methods that my predecessor used, so time was a big issue. Many times we didn’t have enough time to finish the activities planned. It was often because I took longer to explain a concept or grammar point. Therefore, sometimes we had to talk in class about what to do next. It probably looked sloppy to the students, but if they thought that we do not plan beforehand, they were very mistaken. It was not exactly that we didn’t plan, it was either time was too fast (as it is usually) or the goals and methods weren’t entirely clear. Now that the teachers have grown accustomed to me and vice versa, I am confident that classes will be even better with specificity.

With all that said, I reflected on the trimester, because this coming week is the last week of the trimester. I found out that the students have supplementary classes on Christmas day that continues through the following two days. So instead of two weeks off, they have a week and a half. I suppose if you compare that to America, it’s about the same, but these students have school into July.

Considering Christmas is more of a time to spend with lovers or friends, I’ve been getting a lot more questions about if I have a girlfriend. It’s quite funny. When I first arrived, some people asked me. Then now at the end, I am asked about it again. I guess it doesn’t help that I have been spotted with several girls during the trimester. Actually, it was funny that some teachers also had suspicions on whether or not I had a girlfriend here. Basically, that’s the major question that has been thrown around lately. So, I throw it back to the students. Sometimes I might use it to elicit some response. They may not answer my initial question, “What are you going to do for Christmas and New Year’s?” More often than not, they will answer once I throw in boyfriend or girlfriend into the mix. An AET friend mentioned that sexuality is both open and closed in Japan. I’ll talk more about this next time.

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の聖書の詩: “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know an believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?’”
- Isaiah 43:10-13 (NIV)

God is so good and awesome. He has already let His people know of His plan. Unfortunately, many people ignore it or even flat out refuse it. Let’s spread the love and good news, but let’s not overshadow the greater importance of Easter with Christmas!

今週の写真: I went to Osu in Nagoya again with some AET friends. It was fun, and the “Little Hong Kong” restaurant was delicious. Plus, I got TARO BUBBLE TEA, my favorite flavor! I haven’t had that in so long. Anyway, enjoy the pictures.


今週の漢字: 直す

I need to correct a statement I made last week. Not all of the students think of the English communication class as a joke. There are a good number of students who do take it seriously and try hard. I was cranky last week because of the play and all the work I had to do. I made the finals for all my classes, so my time in school was consumed by that. Then, the rest of my time went to A Christmas Carol. I was not very happy when many students lost their journals. The teachers told me that we need to tell them that the journals will be included in their grades. Originally, I didn’t want to count journals into their grades, but for the general track students, I needed to use something else for their grades. We didn’t really teach much this semester due to many different reasons. I spent so much time doing those journals, and the fact that many students lost their journals did not help my already tired state.

Christmas is in full swing, and I have gotten enough sleep. All is back to normal for me meaning I am functioning properly again. I am at a time when I need to put my priorities in order. After doing the play and commuting every weekend, I realize that as much as I love theatre arts, I need to stop with that particular theatre group. My priorities were in limbo for the past month and a half. I have regrouped, and I needed to remember my purpose for coming to Japan in the first place. There’s the culture that I want to experience. I really want to continue learning Japanese. Of course, it is of great importance to teach the children effectively so that they can communicate in English considering the importance of English in the world. I am hoping to maybe start my own theatre group in the future, which may be very good for the community near and around my town. However, right now, I need to put my attention to the students.

What I really want to do for the students is to get them to be able to express their own opinions. Of course it’s imperative to teach them useful daily English for their tests and any traveling they may do, but so much of the English language is about expression. The goal of any language is to relay a message, but English focuses highly on personal messages. I think it’s because individuality is central to the cultures of English speaking countries. Therefore, I always reward students for their effort.

I don’t want them to worry so much about being correct, which is why I favor open-ended questions on tests. As long as they try, usually students can get at least 50%. I may not explain it to the students in that way, but effort ties into grammar, spelling, and following directions. If a student tries really hard, it’s noticeable despite mistakes in grammar and/or spelling. Oftentimes, a perfect sentence does not come from the student who tries the hardest, because it results from the bare minimum. It is a joy in my heart to teach and interact with the students who give their all.

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の聖書の詩: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.”
- Isaiah 42:1-4 (NIV)

FYI: This was before the birth of Christ.

今週の写真: A Christmas Carol went really well.


今週の漢字: 国際的

I have been trying to figure out how much the students know about international relations. In the culture festival, I was amazed by their knowledge of geography and flags. There were some countries’ locations and flags that I imagine many Americans would not know. Certain landmarks are known from classes, which should be known by the majority of people. These include the Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, Egyptian pyramids, and the Eiffel Tower.

So, I thought that students would know about Times Square. I was talking about New Year’s in America. Of course, the whole lighted crystal ball dropping extravaganza is known throughout America, but I thought that the famous New Year’s site was general knowledge—almost as common as the assuming common sense. Alas, I was surprised once again. They didn’t know about Times Square. Maybe it was just the few students I was teaching. Then again, I suppose it makes some sense that there are some people here who do not know about Times Square. Since Japan is 14 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, there wouldn’t be footage of the annual festivities at Times Square during their own celebrations. However, during the New Year’s specials in America, footage can be shown of the celebrations from the rest of the world considering America is the last to indulge in its own new year traditions.

As you can see, education is still a major focus for me. Compulsory foreign language classes don’t usually go too well, and that is no exception in Japan. As I mentioned in a previous post, a Japanese student is just like any other student. So, how do I motivate students? Well, I want to motivate the students, but it’s hard to motivate students who don’t take English classes seriously. They take the grammar courses seriously, because grammar is often on the entrance exams for university. However, the classes that I team teach are difficult as the students do not see these classes as very important. It’s more of a fun time or a time to rest. It becomes nap time like in kindergarten. Some students are very motivated and that’s great, but many students aren’t so motivated. Too many students take the class with a grain of salt. Can I change that? I hope so. The great thing is that the Mito HS students are super friendly and forge strong bonds with the teachers. For that, I don’t think it will be too hard to build up the credibility of my classes.

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の聖書の詩: “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”
- Matthew 6:2 (NIV)

Christmas time is fast approaching, and this verse is really appropriate. This is my favorite time of the year, and it’s also a very popular time for people to donate to charities. It’s great that people help the needy, but why only during this time? Are you donating for the good of others, or are you doing it to look good? This is not to discourage giving, but give with your heart and not your chin up high.

今週の写真: SUSHI! YUM!


今週の漢字: 忙しい

I have been very busy lately. The Nagoya Players’ production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol opens next weekend, so the rehearsals have gotten longer and more frequent. On top of that, the final exam dates are coming fast, which means much time needs to be devoted to making tests. For the midterms, I only had to make portions of tests for two classes, but for the finals, I need to make test portions for all my classes. It has been a bit frustrating for some classes; we didn’t do too much that can be assessed on a test.

All the commuting for the theatre rehearsals has been tiring. I’ve had experience with commuting back at home. However, I had to commute everyday at that time. For the theatre group, I thought that commuting at a maximum of once a week wouldn’t be so taxing. On the contrary, I get really tired after the weekend is over. Thus, my energy is already at maybe 60% for the school week. As much as I love theatre, I don’t plan on continuing with this theatre group, because I am just too far away making it incredibly inconvenient. Plus, I have missed so many church services, because the rehearsals are on Sundays.

This past Thursday was Thanksgiving back in the states. I love the holiday family gatherings at home. My family’s Thanksgiving has a very international food spread. We have the more traditional Thanksgiving items like turkey, stuffing, ham, mashed potatoes, and sometimes even cranberries and a pumpkin pie. On top of that, there’s usually lasagna and maybe some other pasta. Of course, we also have a great deal of Chinese food. I don’t think there’s ever a family gathering without Chinese food. More recently, we tend to have sushi at the beginning. There may even be a bit of French representation through pastries. I don’t think there has ever been a year when we finished all the food. Then again, I suppose a good Thanksgiving dinner is one where the food cannot be completely devoured.

I hosted my own Thanksgiving potluck on Friday, which was Japan’s “Labor Thanksgiving Day.” It was interesting to make dishes. Just to let you know, I haven’t really baked successfully before. The only things that I have made successfully are all related to Chinese cuisine and in a wok. So, I was very nervous. I looked up many recipes, and I finally decided to make a ground beef and pasta casserole. Considering I was the one hosting the party, I also made a ham hash, and I bought some corn muffins. Everyone is alive, so my food was at least edible. I thought my dishes were successful. We had lots of fun. I was amazed with all the food we had. We even covered all the Thanksgiving bases (of course with some substitutions). There were chicken, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, cranberry bread, pumpkin bread, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, salad, pumpkin pie, and my dishes. Nine people couldn’t finish all the food. It was that much and delicious!


It’s my sister’s birthday today. Actually, her birthday is today back in America, so you need to subtract 14 hours. In other words, it’s currently around 1AM on November 25th here in Japan, but back in America, it’s still her birthday. Anyway, happy birthday, Sarah!

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の聖書の詩: “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
- Psalm 100 (NIV)

Thank you, Lord, for your plan and guidance. Thank you, Lord, for my family. Thank you, Lord, for all my friends. Thank you, Lord, for all your teachings and discipline. Thank you, Lord…

今週の写真: Food (minus the stuffing and cornbread) and company



There is a psychological theory into the steps people go through in life. One of the steps is about finding and defining an identity. It is shown through brain scans. The brain of someone at the age of 15 is much different than at the age of 17. Similarly, the same person will have a much more developed brain by the age of 20. Sometimes when I look back into the past eight years, I think about how much I have changed. Even though some of my likes have stayed constant, my rationale and spectacles on the world have been transformed.

This has become incorporated into my philosophy of teaching. I am still trying to define my own teaching method. I want each student to be able to give a clear definition of self-identity. I do not want the students to mindlessly follow others. Even though Japan is labeled as a collectivistic society, it does not mean that each person is a drone or strives to be one. I understand that there is a great deal of pressure to conform, and it is hard for someone to be a clear individual while conforming. I do not want a revolution. A lot of people think identity development is a product of rebellion. I suppose it comes from the correlation between teenage emotional development and the actual identity-forming stage. However, figuring out one’s own identity is not synonymous with revolting against the status quo.

In Mito SHS, the activities and assignments I have initiated heavily focus on writing or speaking one’s own opinions. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I do not like multiple choice questions or activities solely on repetition. I know it’s difficult for students as English is their foreign language. Aside from journals, I have been assigning papers and asking many questions. Some students focus all their efforts on using perfect English that they don’t try to communicate. I can tell that some sort of know what I’m saying or sort of know what they want to say. In these instances, the students just give up halfway, because they think that their English or interpretation is wrong. I am starting to wonder if refraining fully from speaking Japanese to students is a good way to help the students build their English. Some AETs say that speaking imperfect Japanese is a good way to show the students that we are just like them, and the effort to communicate goes a long way. However, I’m stuck in the middle. Surely for some students, it may be beneficial to show this similar position as a foreigner. However, there are some students that would rarely use English, because they know that they can use Japanese to communicate.

In my use of Japanese in daily life, I frequently agree to everything in hopes that I don’t opt to join some kind of cult. During other times, I understand a little of what the other person is saying. Usually, I pick up on maybe 40% of the content, so I respond accordingly. I have been very happy to communicate in Japanese outside of school. There have been a few times when people look at me and think that I am strange due to my lack of response when solicited, so at some point, I usually end up saying:
アメリカから来ました。日本語が少しわかります。(Amerika kara kimashita. Nihongo ga sukoshi wakarimasu. – I came from America. I understand a little bit of Japanese)

In the middle of conversations, sometimes I am told:
日本語が上手です。(Nihongo ga jouzu desu. – Your Japanese is good.)

I respond with:
いいえ、まだ下手です。でも、もっと勉強したい。(Iie, mada heta desu. Demo, motto benkyou shitai. – No, it’s still poor, but I want to study more.)

Yesterday night, I got a haircut, and I was worried that I would leave with a shaved head or something to that effect. Luckily, I was able to talk with the haircutters. We were able to talk about many things. I imagine they tried hard to use rather easy vocabulary, but sometimes they were shocked at some words that I knew. It was a very good experience. I plan to go back to them for my future haircuts. Hopefully, my Japanese will have grown exponentially by the next time.

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の聖書の詩: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’”
- 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

This verse really shows how people see others and even things. The appearance matters so much. I suppose I can understand, for we rely a lot on our sense of sight. There is even the expression, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” We trust our eyes more than our ideal of focusing on what’s inside. Why do we judge other people? How do we judge other people? Often, it is based on what we see. I don’t like cockroaches, but why do people despise cockroaches despite the fact that they are harmless? It’s mainly based on how they look. However, the LORD is amazing. He identifies us by our hearts.

今週の写真: Isn’t this rainbow beautiful? I’ve never actually seen one before, so it was delightful.


今週の漢字: 怖い

As you might have noticed, last week was the first time that I didn’t post. So, this week will be filled with double the content. Considering the length, if there’s something that doesn’t suit your fancy, you can skip it. I’ll be writing about my computer problems, Halloween lesson plans, and a bit on Japanese law.

All my problems started a little over a month ago. I came back from Mito SHS and turned on my computer. I went to the kitchen to prepare my dinner. I returned in horror as my least favorite color has never before been blue. I saw the “blue screen of death.” To those who are unfamiliar with this loathed picture so terrifying that it makes people want to gouge out their eyes, it is a screen that appears when the computer has encountered a critical error. I was worried that I caught a virus. However, a virus scan turned up negative. So, what could have happened? I didn’t have the slightest clue. The blue screen no longer appeared about a week later, but my computer’s disk monitoring system started giving me warnings informing me that my hard drive was corrupted. This was a clear step down from the deadly screen. Now, every time I started my computer, this demonic message haunted me. My computer woes only got worse from there.

I downloaded a spyware program that also finds certain viruses that many virus scanners cannot. It proved successful as it found a Trojan horse virus. I was able to quarantine the atrocity and delete it. All should have been good from there, right? No, of course not! The damage was already done. However, I wasn’t sure which files were affected. I decided that I shouldn’t wait any longer and back up all the files I want to save. It was going very well until I tried to save my desktop wallpapers, which were located in the Windows folder. To my dismay, the status bar indicated that there were no folders or files in “WINDOWS.” This was very disheartening. I hoped that only the service packs were corrupted, so I proceeded to uninstall my service pack 2 with the intention of reinstalling it. My efforts to reinstall proved to be unfruitful as my installation stopped in the middle due to an error. The pack was only half installed, and I couldn’t uninstall whatever was already installed, so my computer became unstable.

To summarize the rest of my problems, I tried to reinstall Windows XP by overriding the original XP on my computer. It wouldn’t let me, because it determined that my hard drive was corrupted. I had enough of these warnings about hard drive corruption. After a few days, I successfully reformatted my entire hard drive. Because I have a laptop, it was difficult to boot both my floppy drive and CD-ROM, so I couldn’t reinstall my XP (it’s the upgrade CD). After a few more days and a few more varied attempts, I finally got everything back on track. When did I realize the disappearance of my Windows files and folders? It was fittingly around Halloween.

During my computer debacle, I did a special Halloween lesson for all my students. I prepared everything and let my teaching partners relax as they were very busy before and during midterms. Similar to my self-introduction, I had one plan for 1-E, 3-E, and all my second year classes; the first year general track classes had a different plan.

I utilized the audio and visual room again for my first plan. I started off with showing a ten-minute clip from a horror movie. For 1-E, I planned to show a clip from the American version of The Ring. For all my second years, I planned to switch between the Chinese horror The Eye and its sequel. For 3-E, I planned to show what I consider one of the best horrors in years, The Descent. Afterwards, I gave a journal topic. For 1-E and the second year general track students, I asked, “Do you like horror movies? Why?” For 2-E, I asked, “Do you believe ghosts exist? Why?” For 3-E, I asked them to write a scary story. The rest of the lesson was the same for all of these classes. I showed an eight-minute clip from the Halloween episode of Friends. Then I showed a powerpoint that I created on Halloween. I started with its Irish origins leading into what people generally eat and do. I ended the lesson with giving instructions on making masks and even gave them about ten minutes to start.

This plan went rather well. My horror movies scared a few people a little too effectively, so I eventually warned all the students about it beforehand. Anyone who didn’t want to watch could leave the classroom with my teaching partner or me for those ten minutes. My test class for The Eye found it to be not scary at all, but The Eye 2 was very effective for the next class. So, I ended up showing The Eye 2 to the rest of my second year classes. 1-E voted to watch a scarier film, so I opted to show them the clip from The Eye instead. The responses to the movies ran the gamut of emotions. I already mentioned the terrified ones, but there were those that had a love/hate response. There were even a few who told me that they never saw a horror movie before, and now they love the genre. It was very interesting to get such different feedback. It’s also noteworthy to mention that 3-E’s scary stories were wonderful! They definitely have a very active imagination. There were some stories that were more like horror comedies, and there were some that grabbed my attention through to the end. It was loads of fun for me to read.

My second plan consisted of something that might be considered more standard. At the end of one lesson, I did the mask activity like the one in my first plan. For the beginning of the second lesson, I made a handout. I used some pictures that I used in my powerpoint. As I spoke about Halloween, the students had to fill in the handout. I didn’t speak in the same order as the handout, so the students had to think a little in order to fill it in completely. I followed this by doing a quiz game. I numbered the handouts ranging from 2 to 12, so there would be a few students of each number. I brought dice with me and rolled a number. The students with that number had to stand. I asked a question that might have been on their handout. The first person out of the people standing to raise a hand answered.

The students seem to love quiz games. They really absorbed the information well as they were even able to answer questions that couldn’t be found on the handout. Unfortunately, I can’t say that the masks were as successful. I informed them that if they wear their masks and come to me on Halloween, they would receive some candy. However, maybe only 10% had a complete mask. I heard that there were some too embarrassed to take out their masks. I thought that if I gave some time in class to start making masks and entice them with candy, there would be a better turnout. I suppose it wasn’t so bad, because I heard that my predecessors didn’t really do anything like this. I have some pictures from the Halloween time for this post.

I will have to take off any picture, where students or teachers can be easily identified, because I cannot post images of other people without their permission. One of the exchange students in Mito SHS told me that Japan has too many strict laws. I wonder if Japan really is so strict. I have recently heard about the privacy issue in regards to photos. In my previous job, I did media licensing and rights work. For any company to use an image or clip, they need the permission of the people who are seen and usually pay a fee. This is a tad different from the privacy law in Japan as this was licensing and rights for commercial use. Since the advent of the internet, governments and companies have been figuring out a way to set regulations. Industries have been losing out to the power of the internet. If someone wants to be a radio talk show host, there’s podcast. For someone who wants to be a published writer, there’s blogging like this fine blog. Don’t you think this is one fine blog? ;) It seems like Japan is treating the internet like one big commercial arena. It no longer is just about a good place for research, but now it is also its own reality. People can buy most things, if not anything, and live off the internet. It’s so convenient. The world is just a click away with virtual reality intertwined.

Recently, there has been a law passed in Japan that will go in effect starting in 2008, which will require fingerprints and photographs of all foreigners entering Japan. This has stirred some controversy. Do you think this is necessary? Do you think it’s fair? Should other countries enact such a law?

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の聖書の詩: “In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, ‘Stand up on your feet!’ At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
“When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come to us in human form!’”
- Acts 14:8-11 (NIV)

It’s amazing how easy it is to run into misunderstandings! Actions may speak louder than words, but reactions often overpower the initial actions. I can apply this time of my life to this passage being a Christian Chinese American in Japan. I already come from a mix of cultures, and I am noticing the many differences and similarities to the culture here. However, as a teacher, I need to try extra hard to make sure I am not misunderstood. I think a teacher should not only teach the course material, but a good teacher also teaches about life and practical applications of the material.

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の写真: As mentioned previously, here are some “BOOOOOO-rrific” Halloween pictures.


今週の漢字: 教育

The American education system is very different compared to the school system in Japan. Well, it makes sense considering the many differences between the two cultures. An education system, according to sociologists, reinforces the ideals of the culture. I think this makes sense. American students learn the value of individualism, while Japanese students learn the value of community.

A lot of the motivation for American students seems to deal with grades. Usually, a student is in trouble with any grade lower than 73 out of 100. However, in Japan, there are apparently two systems of grading: attendance and test scores. Grading based on attendance is exactly how it sounds. If the student is present (even if the student sleeps in class) more than the required amount of time in order to pass, the student does not need to worry. As for the test scores, unlike the grading system of most American schools, the student is in trouble if the score falls below half of the average score. For example, if the average of the test scores is 40 out of 100, then anything below a 20 would be dangerous. There are supposedly even retests that are administered (at least in Mito SHS) at the end of the academic year. So, why should the students worry about their grades?

From my observations of the teachers in Mito SHS, they grade very harshly. There are few teachers who give partial credit; answers are either right or wrong. I can’t make a blanket statement to include all Japanese teachers, but from conversations with non-Mito SHS Japanese teachers, a lot of teachers follow this type of grading. In America, there are many ways teachers grade. I think that partial credit has become more widespread. Personally, I favor giving partial credit, because I think it is a good way to encourage students. However, there is a fine line sometimes, and giving too much credit may lead to the placating of students.

In Japan, school functions as a second family. The teachers mingle with the students, not only teachers with teachers and students with other students. In the US, there are some teachers and students who have really good relationships, but in Japan, it’s as if the teachers are the students’ second set of parents or older siblings. There is a great deal of trust. It’s a wonderful community.

What can be a motivation for Japanese students? I don’t have an answer, but I do know one thing that students fear. Students fear being wrong. As I have written in a previous post, I can understand. When I was wrong, I used to think: “I am inferior. I am not as smart as everyone else. I am now set apart from the group. It’s embarrassing and shameful.” I imagine some students have other reasons, but my fear that I experienced apply to at least a few students. There is an AET who gave some advice to new AETs, which was to “use the students’ fear.” I am against this idea. I don’t want to play on their fears. I want the students to be motivated, not trying to get something right for the fear of feeling inferior. The system in Japan was made so that students who are self-motivated to learn would continue with schooling past junior high school, because secondary and post-secondary education requires an application process. These steps of education have become the norm, so the self-motivation factor has decreased significantly from a number of years ago. I am looking for a way to let the students apply English. I am also incorporating American and Japanese pop culture into my lessons as a bit of a boost. However, sometimes I wonder if my efforts are effective. As one of my favorite phrases goes, we’ll see.

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の聖書の詩: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
- Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)

- 民数記6:24~26 (新改訳聖書第3版)

今週の写真: I was told that Australian high school students were visiting, but when I met them, they were more immature than what I had imagined for the maturity level of high school students. Alas, my suspicion was accurate from my first encounter with them. So, here is a picture from the visit of Australian junior high school students. 1-E and 2-E did a few activities with the Aussies: 夏祭り (なつまつり/ natsu matsuri / summer festival), a lesson on Japanese holidays and festivals by playing カルタ (karuta, a pair card game), Japanese calligraphy, and a tea ceremony demonstration.


今週の漢字: 中間試験

Midterm Exam:
The midterm exams took place last Friday leading into the first few days of this past week. I had to make midterms for all my general track students (2 tests). My part only makes up a portion of their midterm grade as my teaching partners’ tests make up the majority of the grade. For the first years, my test makes up 40%, whereas my test makes up 30% for my second years. It was an interesting experience making and grading tests.

After I made my first draft for the first years, I showed it to my teaching partner, who is also my supervisor. After a bit of time of looking it over, he came to me and said, “It is my general impression… yea… that this test… yea… is much to difficult for the first year general course students… yea…” Okay, maybe there was one less “yea,” but that was basically what he said. Now that I look back to that draft, I agree that it was really difficult. The final version was much different compared to the original. It turned into something a bit too easy. However, my supervisor still thought it was too difficult. He said that my predecessor would use multiple choice questions, and they were easy enough that the students could do it quickly. After a short discussion on the purpose of the test, he decided to go with my version only after putting hints in Japanese. I didn’t know exactly what hints he would use or even how, but I didn’t mind too much as I am the AET after all. It turns out that he put some of the answers in Japanese under the blanks, so my test was further made easy. My first years got an average of 35/40, or 87.5%, on my part with an overall average of about 70. I think the results will strengthen the trust between the two of us. I imagine that he will accept my final with more ease. I understand his original concerns as he and the students are used to one type of test, so now we are all still adjusting.

I didn’t have such a clash with my teaching partners for the second years. They approved my first draft, except for a map that I put on the test (students learned about telling directions). Some of the place names were blurred, so it might have been too hard for the students to read. I easily fixed that problem and went on my merry way. My second years got an average of 24/30, or 80%, on my part with an overall average of about 77. I was very happy with the results. The students really tried hard. Sometimes in class, I didn’t get much feedback from the students, which made it difficult. I couldn’t tell if the students understood the material, but I guess they were just trying to absorb all the material leaving me to deal with what seemed like blank faces.

I don’t grade harshly, at least I don’t think I do. I generally give points for effort. Learning a language is difficult, and I know that it can be frustrating. I want to encourage the students. However, as this is a test, most of the points are assigned to correctness. The least, or sometimes equal to effort, is grammar and vocabulary. My teaching partners have separate classes with the students, which are specifically for grammar. I only take off for misuse or misspelling of the tested terms.

I also had the privilege to grade the essays of 3-E’s midterm, which I did not make. The teacher who made that exam asked me if I could grade them, and I am always happy to help. The criteria that I had to use for grading were grammar, vocabulary, and flow. I could give a maximum of four points per criterion. This was a challenge, because it is harder to be fair when it comes to essays. I didn’t give any student full marks. In order for a student to achieve full marks from me, the student can only make a few minor mistakes at most. I think that reaching perfection on a test should give the student a sense of accomplishment. When I was in middle school and high school, the expectations were so high. Among students and parents, C's were not seen as average. Grades were defined similar to:
C = generally as bad as “cranky cops”
B = often as average as “brand beef”
A = usually as good as “awesome artisans”

I will use part of my post next week for a short discussion on education systems. This is my current phase. Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の聖書の詩: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
- Matthew 18:1-4 (NIV)

I think this is interesting, because it seems that there are a few implications here. Oftentimes, there is an emphasis placed on being as a humble child and believing in God. There is good reason as it is stated explicitly. However, we need to also look into how children do not have worries. They place their worries to their caretakers. We need to do the same by placing all our worries to our eternal father. He provides for our needs.

Why must we try to take control of everything? I think it all deals with the fear that events may be random. We don’t want a purposeless life. The funny thing is that we are so focused on making an order for everything. Many people refute the existence of God, especially as our creator making everything with order, and at the same time, they believe that the world was created by chance—fear of uncontrollable happenings with the belief that everything was made under such uncontrollable happenings.

今週の写真: Two weeks ago, there was a major cleaning time after the last period, which also involved waxing the floors.

The following is a picture I took of a festival practice.


今週の漢字: 授業

Let me get back to the school for this post. The class dynamics have varied greatly through September into the beginning of October. It has been interesting to see when the students are really up for something versus when they just want to curl up and sleep. The teachers have been very busy as well. So, the school has just been a place where a bunch of tired and possibly cranky people congregate. Because of all the holidays and school events, it has been hard for the teachers to really keep all the classes on the same page.

Preparations are still going, especially for 1-E and 2-E. On the afternoon of October 18, a number of Australian students and teachers will be visiting Mito SHS. 1-E and 2-E will primarily be the students who will greet the guests as well as present something. 1-E is very busy, because they need to also prepare for presentations to elementary school students, which will take place in late October and early November.

In all of my classes, except for my first year general course students, I have instigated journal writing. I give the students a topic, preferably something in relation to the past or current lesson. They have about five minutes to write as I play a CD track or two. The students appreciate that most of my songs are more recent like Fall Out Boy’s “Thnks fr th Mmrs.” Some songs I play are actually ones that I don’t really like, but I think it’s good to give the students a nice variety instead of only playing those that I like. I have bit of fun with the journal topics. For 1-E, I try to give topics that will have the students get used to writing, so the topics deal more with the “what.” For my second year students including 2-E, I want the students to express more on how they feel. This focuses more on the “why.” For 3-E, I give abstract topics. For those of you who know me well, you know how much I love the abstract. The two questions I’ve given for 3-E has been as follows:
1. If you were an electrical device, what would you be, and why? Write 10 sentences or more in 5 minutes.
2. What is love? Write 5 sentences or more in 5 minutes.

When I asked the first question, I noticed that 10 sentences might be a bit too much as maybe they aren’t used to deal with too many abstract questions. It is even hard for some native speakers of English to answer abstract questions. So for the next time there was journal writing, I went a step further with the difficulty as I lessened the sentence requirement. It was all very good.

When the journal time is up, I collect all the journals and read them. I correct them and make comments. My time each day is usually filled with a lot of journals, but I find it fun to do. It’s been really interesting to see what the students write about. I also feel that I should really put my all into teaching, because the students deserve to get a good education. I don’t want to be like those AETs who treat their time in Japan like a long vacation. Although part of my reason of coming to Japan is to experience the culture and see new things, I do have a job commitment. Some days I wonder if I really am doing a good job. I know that I’ve only been here for 2 months, but I want to put in what I can so that the students can improve their English and experience a bit of another culture.

I had an AET meeting a few days ago. A lot of the AETs are very talented and have a lot of interesting ideas, but I feel lucky that I have a great deal of input into the English education in Mito SHS. Many AETs have files upon files of games, whereas many of my lesson plans consist of topics to teach the students. Why do they have so many game ideas? It’s simple. Most AETs have more than one school, so it’s hard for them to build on their relationships with the students. Usually an AET visits a class once every few weeks. In such a situation, it’s difficult to be involved with daily lessons and yearlong goals. In that way and much more, I am very lucky.

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の聖書の詩: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
- John 14:27 (NIV)

His promise is so amazing. Indeed, He does not give as the world gives. The world boasts the material things. There are so many people who do not accept God. I find it interesting when people don’t accept the Bible, but still claim to believe in God. I can understand if people don’t want to believe something ignorantly, but please spare me following something else based also on ignorance. Why do people follow something else? The usual reason is an indirect way of stating dislike for the hardships and difficulties mentioned in the Bible. Some people believe in “no pain, no gain,” but then when they hear about the hardships in a Christian life, they just abandon it. Why? It is usually for something that is pleasant to the ears and something that puts the person in control.

今週の写真: Beautiful flowers from the flower arrangement club.


今週の漢字: 突然

You might be wondering, “What might have been so sudden?” Well, it’s quite simple. Two weeks ago, I went to Tokyo. Actually, I went to the prefecture of Chiba, which is right next to Tokyo. Chiba is also home to the Tokyo Disney Resort. Why did I go? It was for none other than the Tokyo Game Show, of course! What is the Tokyo Game Show? It’s a major video game convention. Unlike anime conventions in America, gaming conventions tend to have a large industry presence as they are the times when gaming companies usually make big presentations. For this year’s Tokyo Game Show, the first two days (Thursday and Friday) were for industry personnel only. The following two days were open to the public starting at 10AM and ending at 5PM. Again, you may be wondering, “What was so sudden about the Tokyo Game Show?”

I found out about the convention just about four days before the first day open to the public. I had a day of inner conflict as to if I should spend the money to travel to the Tokyo area. I decided that I must go, so I called some of my AET friends. As it was sudden, only one person really got back to me. She was actually planning to go already, but she was just going to play by ear during the weekend. Many of you reading this know that I can’t stand that. I needed to plan everything. So, we went to buy our shinkansen tickets. It went well (definitely better than buying those movie tickets). Earlier in the day, I jotted down some important words that I might need to use:
切符 [きっぷ – kippu – ticket]
往復 [おうふく – oufuku – return (ticket)]
買う [かう – kau – to buy]

On the following day (two days before the first day open to the public), one of my friends who did not respond to my initial round of calls, contacted back letting me know that she wanted to come. I was already in the process of booking my own hotel room. So, this addition left us in a calling frenzy to see if the first friend could buy shinkansen tickets for the second friend as well as letting the second friend sleep over. Why did the second friend want to sleep over the first friend’s apartment? I was planning to take the 6:42AM shinkansen to Tokyo, so we can make it to the convention by opening time.

On the night before the first day open to the public, my two friends had me book a hotel room for them as the first friend did not have internet yet. The hotel where I was staying had no more vacancies, so I had to look elsewhere. They decided to stay at this place that’s considered to be the “Brooklyn of Tokyo.” However, when they arrived at the hotel on Saturday night, they encountered a problem. The hotel e-mailed me to let me know that there was no vacancy. We didn’t think it would be full. The form on the hotel website is really only a way to check if there is vacancy. So, my friends had to go to this other hotel that was close by, which also had an onsen (hot spring).

Now, I’ll write about the actual convention. It was great! For those of you who do not know much about video games, you will have to bear with me. The moment we stepped onto the halls, we got some free stuff like folders and pamphlets. We first played the Naruto game that is coming out soon for the Nintendo Wii. That was fun, but it was a bit difficult for me to get used to moving my hands in a fighting game. We walked around the entire Tokyo Game Show on the first day. Some notable booths include Square Enix, Capcom, Sony Playstation 3, and the merchandise. Nintendo’s absence was odd. I didn’t expect them to be missing. I wonder what they have up their sleeves. There were a few games that caught my eye like “Resident Evil (Biohazard): Umbrella Chronicles” for the Wii, “Devil May Cry 4” for the PS3, “Halo 3” for the X-box 360, “Time Crisis 4” for the PS3 (I think), “Metal Gear Solid 4” for the PS3, “We Love Golf!” for the Wii, “Little Big Planet” for the PS3, and a few other Wii titles of which the names escape me.

The second day started with experiencing the Square Enix closed theater, which showed exclusive trailers for all “Final Fantasy XIII” games, “Kingdom Hearts” games, and other popular titles of theirs. It was very exciting, especially watching the beautiful FFXIII. I really don’t like to talk too much about graphics in video games, because I feel that the content and gameplay is much more important. However, I couldn’t help but to fix my eyes to the screen. Afterwards, I played “Yosumin,” a new game for the Nintendo DS by Square Enix. Then, I played “Dragon Quest IV,” a remake for the DS. They were both really fun. The rest of my time at the convention on that day (only until about 1:30PM) consisted of walking around, because the lines for the games that I wanted to play got too long (some with 3 or more hours wait).

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の聖書の詩: “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”
- Psalms 29:2 (NIV)

It is amazing how many Christians do not do this. How can a Christian give unto the LORD the glory that fits his name? Well, a Christian must give everything, yes?

The LORD creates and has a plan. There is a great complexity in this world, much too complex for us lowly humans. It’s interesting how important it is for us to categorize everything and name things or events. It seems that humans want to do everything to take away from God’s glory.

今週の写真: 2007 Tokyo Game Show

Sign outside

Inside right after doors open

Square Enix - Look at the smile slime and chocobo. Cute?

"Kingdom Hearts"

Pikachu, still popular


Where did all the people come from?!

Pose in front of large poster


"We Love Golf!"

Look at the smile slime and black mage chocobo that I bought!