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!