今週の漢字: 体育祭

Field Day:
The day after the culture festival was the field day (sports day) at Mito SHS. It was lots of fun. Some students are the same in class as they are out of class, but most students are definitely a lot more energetic outside of class. If only students could be themselves in class too. I’ll write a bit more about this later in the post.

The field day opened with an opening ceremony of sorts. Each class made a banner for class pride, I suppose. The teachers got to vote on the best banners of each class. The Mito SHS field day has very similar events to American high schools, although I think there are more silly events in American high schools like one of my favorites, the classic water balloon toss. Bergen County Academies (BCA), my HS alma mater, was definitely not the ordinary American high school with events like human chess, computer games, and scrabble. Oh, how much I enjoy talking about the nerdy BCA field day activities... The first part of the Mito SHS field day consisted of relay races. This ranged from the 100m relay to the 1000m relay. Each class competed to see who was the best in the grade. Then in the afternoon, there were relay finals pitting the “best of the best” against each other. Other events included the classic tug-of-war, jump rope extravaganza (each class had maybe about 20 people jump rope together), obstacle relay (crawl under nets, balance across balance beams, hit a ping pong ball with a paddle while dealing with hurdles, sack race portion, ending with spinning around the bat for a dizzying spectacular end), and parade of club members (as they wear their uniforms, if any, and do something related to the club, e.g. the soccer club in uniform kicking a soccer ball around). The teachers voted for the most personable club. Another event that took place during the field day was a “typhoon race.” It was a lot of fun to watch. The rules are simple. There are a few teams representing their respective classes on the racing area at a time. Each team (typhoon) carries a long pole as they run past two marked points (the eyes) and spin around them before doing the same thing as they return. I heard from a teacher that the typhoon race was a new event, and every year there is a new event in that time slot.

So where was I during all of the madness? I was taking pictures. To give a number, I took about 250 pictures on the field day. I was extremely fatigued by the end of the day with all my running around. I also had うなぎ (unagi = eel) for lunch. It was delicious!

On another note, I was talking to one of the Mito SHS teachers about a week ago, and we had a very interesting discussion: eastern versus western upbringing. I have dabbed a bit on this subject with some friends in the past, but it was especially interesting this time because here is someone who is not very familiar with western upbringing. There is a stereotype of American students that I have encountered here: the idea that American students are all eager and willing to participate. When I first heard that, I laughed a bit in my head. Then again, I imagine a number of Japanese people would laugh about the stereotype of Japanese students all being very quiet and good students. I am not saying that Mito SHS students are not quiet or bad, but Japanese students are like students from other parts of the world. For me, some classes are more quiet than others, but can you blame them? It’s hard to learn a foreign language. I’m having my own problems trying to devote the time to studying Japanese, let alone keeping up with my French. There’s another reason why many students may be quiet or very shy in class. This is something that I know so well. There is a fear of being wrong. In America, there are all kinds of students. There are the quiet ones, loud ones, energetic ones, troublemakers, shy ones, and more types, even combinations of the types. I wonder how much of an eastern upbringing instigates the fear of being incorrect. Does it come from trying to please the parents, who place a great deal of importance on grades? Does it come from trying to keep face? Where does it come from? Having taken many psychology classes, I know that most, if not all, of Asia is built on collectivistic cultures. The eastern upbringing reinforces collectivism by teaching the significance of family. It makes sense that the eastern upbringing is so similar since collectivistic importance is expressed throughout the cultures that the term “eastern” refers. I have only begun to chip away at an iceberg. It’s something fascinating that I may continue in another post.

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の聖書の詩: I introduce a new section. I have been praying about a bunch of things, and the Lord has gotten me to notice the lack of God in my blog. In addition to the kanji, topic, and picture(s), I will quote the Bible.

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”
- Romans 8:5, 6 (NIV)

If we put our focus on the Lord, things would be better, because He provides. We need to place our trust in Him whether we are members of a church group, fellowship, or marriage (although, this would be one flesh).

今週の写真: Field Day class pictures! At the end of the day, all the classes got behind their banners so the professional photographers could take their pictures. I was only able to get a few classes as some cleaned up rather quickly. So, some pictures of the banners were taken earlier when only a few students from the respective class were around.

[in re: 11/10/2007 post -- Sorry! I took off my pictures.]

今週の漢字: 文化祭

Culture Festival:
At Mito High School, last Wednesday was the culture festival. It was very fun and tiring, although the students and other teachers must have been more tired. Anyway, let’s do something different and just jump around the day. Ready?

I went to many classes. If you didn’t know, each class prepares something like a café or an activity. So what did Mito SHS students do? There were exhibitions on foreign cultures, juice, Japanese summer festival games, juice, handmade instruments, casino games, bingo, juice, chocolate covered bananas, shaved ice, juice, candy, and more juice! Yes, you heard me. There was a lot of juice from vegetable to orange to grapefruit and more. It was all very yummy, but I think at the end of the day I turned into fruit punch.

Speaking of the end, there was a closing ceremony as every event seems to have one in Japan. It was very good. The brass band performed songs like the Doraemon theme and a Disney medley. Oh how much I enjoy my Disney… Speeches followed to mark the official end of the festival.

When I arrived at the school, all the teachers were running around. Actually, only a few teachers were running around. Most of the teachers were already in the gym with the students. I went to the locker room in order to change into a Mito SHS teacher t-shirt that many teachers bought for the festivities. It’s cute, and you’ll probably see it in a picture in the coming weeks. The ceremony opened with speeches of course. A few performances followed: cheerleading, art and history club performing a skit about a famous samurai, 1-E hip-hop dance (very well done), and then a few teachers sang a Jpop song by Yui titled “My Generation.” This included me. It was very interesting trying to memorize the lyrics. I was quite proud as I memorized the first half very well. The second half is another story. Let’s just say that I knew about 75% of the song by heart. About four teachers decided to do a bit of air guitar between the chorus and the bridge. It was very fun watching them razzle dazzle the students. I heard that one of the teachers is known as being very serious, so the students were very surprised by his air guitar antics.

After I sampled the classes (except for one because of lack of time), I went to the English club’s quiz game to help out. They had the participants split into groups and asked many questions. They showed flags and had groups write down an answer. Then there was something similar, but instead had variations on flags and asked the groups to select the correct flag of the country they called out. Then there were English to Japanese translation questions and vice versa. I asked the last bunch of questions that I made earlier on the English language and culture. One question I had was, “What does T.G.I.F. stand for?” It went very well, and the winning team won Harry Potter folders. I wonder if the teachers who participated would’ve also screamed with glee if they won those folders.

For lunch, I had yakisoba, frankfurter, and orange juice. Yum! After eating, I continued to take what would end up totaling to about 100 pictures. I went to the gym to find a rock band of students playing. Many students were getting really into it and helped to make it a live concert feel.

The rest of the opening ceremony had more performances. There was a magic act by a magician who graduated from Mito SHS. I found it funny with having an alumnus do a show for the students because there’s an unintentional connotation: “Students, look what you can aspire to be…a magician!” A hip-hop dance followed, which was performed by D.O.D. and York. I don’t know who they are, but I imagine they are professionals?

The PTA made and served lunch. They had different options: udon, yakisoba, frankfurter, and of course more juice!

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の写真: 2nd Trimester opening ceremony, natto, and 文化祭.
校長先生 introducing me

Speech to the students


Eating natto (fermented soybeans)

Reaction (I don't think it's THAT bad. I can tolerate it.)


今週の漢字: 映画

I went to see the new Evangelion movie. Although it isn't a very good film as it is just a rehash of the first few episodes (except for the last 30-40 minutes), the experience was great. I went with some AET friends and only one out of the four of us had an advanced level of Japanese. I didn't know that there is assigned seating, so we didn't decide where we wanted to sit. We decided to pay separately, so two people bought their tickets together (one of them being the girl with the advanced level of Japanese), and then it was my turn with the clerk. The fourth person went to the clerk next to mine. At first it went well with an 「エヴァンゲリヲンをひとつお願いします」(Evangelion o hitotsu onegaishimasu – One for Evangelion please). Then the clerk showed me the seating chart. When I turned to my friends who already bought their tickets, I was told to pick the bottom left. The problem with this answer was that I didn't know if she meant the bottom left of the theatre, which would be the top left of the chart, or the bottom left of the chart. I didn't know the verb "to sit," so in all my wisdom I said, 「一緒に」(Issho ni – together). The clerk took this to mean that I was paying for the four of us. This prompted the fourth person's clerk to clear her cash register. Confusion ensued for a good few minutes. The girl who knew the most Japanese didn’t know what to say as we were all just confused. I ended up just saying, 「すみません。ひとつ」(Sumimasen. Hitotsu – Sorry, one). I got my ticket and hoped for the best. Of course the clerks are not stupid and put us together. So, all was fine in the end.

Along with my ticket, I got a magazine on current and upcoming movies. It felt like I got a playbill, and I was about to see a show. When we arrived on the correct floor, we immediately noticed the merchandise stand. There were many things related to the currently playing Japanese films. We continued walking around until I noticed that the concession stand was selling a very cool popcorn combo set consisting of a tub of popcorn (equivalent to the large size in American movie theatres), a soft drink, and a cup lid that doubles as a stand for an action figure. I could choose caramel, strawberry, or cheddar flavored popcorn. I got caramel, and I am glad I did because I tried the strawberry and thought that it tasted like medicine. For my soft drink, I got oolong tea (yes… that is a choice for soft drinks). For you Eva fans reading this, I could either choose the Rei or Unit 01 action figure. Of course I chose Unit 01, while my friends chose Rei. When we were inside the movie theatre, we put on our special cup lids and action figures. I noticed that many other people in the theatre also bought the special combo (those who buy it get either a blue or red straw), but we were the only ones who put on our action figures. Maybe we are just total nerds…

At Mito High School, it was a very good week. Everyone was busy as the culture festival and sports (field) days were held this past Wednesday and Thursday respectively. The students have been preparing hard for both of the days since summer vacation with this past Tuesday entirely dedicated to preparations. I was a little surprised that the students practiced the events for the sports day. At home, students would probably be ecstatic to have an extra day off to do the field day activities before the real deal. Next week I will talk more extensively about the culture festival.

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の写真: JET BBQ in Okazaki and something small…

Higashi Okazaki

From the JET BBQ site of Okazaki

Some JETs

More JETs

Me on the bridge to Okazaki Castle

Bridge to Okazaki Castle (red color accent)
Before the Okazaki Castle Shrine

Wash before Okazaki Castle Shrine

Okazaki Castle (left) and Shrine (right)

SURPRISE, it's Unit 01


今週の漢字: 高校

High School:
Unlike schools back at home where students go from classroom to classroom, the students in Japan usually stay in the same classroom and the teacher goes to a specific class every period. Mito Senior High School is not the average Japanese high school because it has an English track. Students in the English track are designated by the letter “E.” So in Mito SHS, there is 1-E, 2-E, and 3-E, where the number designates the grade level. For the rest of the students who are not in the English track, they are on a general track. The classes would be labeled by two numbers with the first designating the grade level and the second number representing the class e.g. 1-1, 1-2, 2-1. This means that students have most, if not all, of their classes with the same group of peers for the academic year compared to schools in America where students may have one class with someone in particular or maybe even as much as all classes with a particular person.

I team teach once a week in 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 2-2, 2-3, 2-4, 2-E, and 3-E. I also team teach twice a week in 1-E. Other than that, I help with checking written work for some English teachers with whom I am not officially assigned to team teach. Lately, I was also asked by a teacher to help with 3-E’s computer class. This may seem a lot to some people, but I think it’s great because I am lucky to be in the position of actually doing work instead of some JET participants who complain about just sitting around the school twiddling their thumbs. Of course, some AETs enjoy this, but I am not one of those people. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am also very lucky to be in one school, so I will be able to really have a deep impact (at least I hope) as well as have a deeper relationship with the teachers and students.

This week has been filled with giving a self-introduction in my classes. There are two purposes of introducing myself despite having already given a short introduction in the opening ceremony. The first is to evaluate the atmosphere of each class. The second purpose is for the students to know more about me. I had to prepare two different ways to deliver my self-intro. For all the second year, 1-E, and 3-E classes, I prepared a powerpoint. For the first year general track classes, I had to prepare something to utilize the classroom aids as the teacher didn’t want to use the audio-visual (AV) room. The powerpoint activity consisted of grouping the students into teams of five. I used playing cards to achieve this by taking out numbers 2 through 6 from two decks of different sized playing cards. As a student walked into the AV room, the student drew any card and had to sit with other students who had the same suit and the same sized card. The powerpoint consisted of fifteen questions about me. After every question, I gave a hint towards the answer. For example, the first question went as follows:
“My name is Justin Moy, but that is not my full name. I have a middle name. What is my full name? This is the king (as I show the king of diamonds). This is the queen (as I show the queen of diamonds). Who is this (as I show the jack of diamonds)?”

For those of you who know me, of course you know that the answer is “Prince.” Only one team out of all the classes where I used the powerpoint actually guessed correctly. For the classes like many of the second year general track students, they were a bit confused at first, but I think the first question really helped to set a very positive mood. After a bit of time to talk in their groups and write down an answer, I called on a number (I didn’t call in order) to stand up and say their group’s answer. I usually only got through about half of the questions. The first class that I used the powerpoint was the test class. I wasn’t fully keeping track of the time, so I ended up getting interrupted by the bell at question eight. After that, I was able to properly time the activity, so the team who won got a chance to select a prize. I changed the speed of the answering and chose which questions to ask depending on the class.

My other self-intro was more conventional where I talked about myself for about fifteen minutes followed by the students filling in a handout about themselves for fifteen minutes. As the students fill in the handout, I pass around the same playing cards that I used for my powerpoint activity. The remaining fifteen minutes was devoted to a short quiz. I called on a number to stand up. I proceeded to ask a question about me and the student who answered correctly first got to sit down. The rest of the students were subjected to me asking questions about themselves. This went rather well, but the students who experienced my powerpoint intro seemed to have a more enjoyable time.

The first time I did this other self-intro was a disaster because the plan I just explained wasn’t completely formulated yet. I was hoping to group the students with the playing cards, but it would have taken too much time because for these students, I went to their classroom compared to the powerpoint where the students came to the AV room. The self-intro basically became an improv as I was trying to figure out a way to also get the students to participate. One of the questions on the handout is “What is your favorite English word?” I wanted the students to tell me their answers, and so I had a row stand up. Then the students had to raise their hand to tell me the answer. When there was one student left standing, that student’s column must stand. The activity continued in a crisscross pattern until all students have participated. This activity is aptly named “crisscross.” This didn’t go very well as it embarrasses students who may not be able to think of a word quick enough, which is why I actually don’t like the crisscross activity. I just decided to do it on the whim because it was the first thing that popped into my head at the time.

I definitely got two things out of this week; I know the dynamics of each class, and I have gotten very valuable experience that will be of great help with future lessons toward effective teaching of English. Lastly, today is my little sister’s 11th birthday. Happy Birthday, Hannah!

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の写真: 名古屋 (Nagoya)

Interesting awning, isn't it??

Streets of Nagoya (Sakae)

Streets of Nagoya (Sakae)

Nagoya TV Tower