Blog Archives

Stormy Weather

The past few days the weather has been somewhat unpredictable. It can’t decide if it wants to stay sunny and at five billion degrees, or try to drown us. Either way, walking to school has been a bit of a challenge. I’m counting down the days until cold weather arrives. The cold might suck as well, but at least I can bundle up more and hide behind scarves. It’s considered inappropriate to strip down in public to avoid sweating to death.

At least inside the school it’s bearable lately. I’ve just had to roll with the weather and take a washcloth to school with me. As soon as I arrive, I put my bento in the office fridge, dump my things at my desk, and head off to the bathroom to wash my face and try to look presentable again.

I never look my best in hot weather. My face doesn’t cool down as much as it should? Or as fast as it should? So it gets more and more red until, if I don’t watch out, the blood vessels burst. (When I was a kid and unaware of what was happening, I seemed to permanently have the two bright pink circles on my cheeks like you see on anime characters. The doctor said I needed laser surgery, but I healed on my own! I’M WOLVERINE.)

I was clearly not made to exist outdoors, though.

In student news, I had one 3rd year boy declare loudly that he was free when I said I didn’t have a boyfriend, and I had another serenade me with some pop song I’m unfamiliar with.

In another class, a girl who seems physically incapable of paying attention to the lesson rescued me from a string that was dangling from the back of my collar.

I’ve also gotten to know the three students in my assigned cleaning area. The boy wants to be a doctor, one girl a nurse, and the other girl a flight attendant. I told all three that English could be helpful in those careers and they seem somewhat willing to practice speaking while we clean.

I’m thinking… that I might like this school. The kids remind me of my favorite school. Lots of energy!

The only thing I dislike about the school so far is that the third years seem to know less English than the first and second years. It’s really unsettling. Hopefully when I go to the other third year classes tomorrow I’ll be pleasantly surprised.


Start of the Second Term

If it seems like I dropped off the face of the map for a while there, it’s because summer has officially ended in Japan. I started things off beautifully on September 1st by forgetting that my class for adult English learners was starting back up. Luckily, I received a wake-up call to double-check that I would be coming to the lesson that day. If I hadn’t gotten that call, I wouldn’t have made it to the station in time. ^^;

From Monday until now, I’ve been going to my new school! I’ll be here from now until toward the end of October. I marathon-ed the first grade classes yesterday for five periods straight. Today I’ll have two classes with the third graders and two with the second graders. A much easier schedule, I can assure you.

At this point, I like teaching with the second grade teacher the most. He plans the lessons carefully, wants to challenge the students, and has a really cohesive style! It will be interesting to learn from him the next month and a half. I hope I can teach as smoothly as he does from now until next August. Classes like his seem to fly by! I never agonize over how much longer the class has.

With work started back in full, I can keep distracted a little more, but my life is still crazy at the moment. I’m fighting hard to assure people I can still keep my previous commitments. It’s extremely difficult being an adult and learning that no matter what insanity is going on in your life, there will always be people around you who are unwilling to cut you any slack.

At least I’ve been getting a little reading done. And watching Arrow. That show is a lifesaver. But where is the handsome billionaire to sweep me off my feet? Maybe I should get into the arrow-making business…


Problems in Common

I’m clearing out my notebook so that I don’t lose relevant information amidst a ton of already passed events.

One thing I scribbled a note about that I thought was interesting:

American children sometimes have problems with “b” and “d” and tend to flip one or the other backwards when they write. Japanese JHS kids have much the same problem.

Additionally, Japanese children are notorious for writing the hiragana character “く” (ku) backwards.

A small tidbit of interesting food for thought!

Things I’ve Learned

Things I’ve learned about Japanese Junior High School:

  • In Japan, lunch time in JHS operates on an, “On your mark, get set, inhale!” mentality. I should inform them that eating such a large meal in ten minutes or less is going to makes us all die choking on tofu.
  • School lunches are generally around 800-900 calories
  • Japanese kids pass their classes no matter what. Not because they’re smarter than American kids, but because it’s considered important that they remain with their age-group.
  • Carry your own chopsticks.
  • It’s not uncommon to walk into a room and find the boys all piling up on one unfortunate friend at the bottom.
  • There’s always that one kid that’s secretly in charge of the classroom. Usually the problem child.
  • Direct-hire ALTs do not get summer vacation. Unless you use up your allotted yearly holiday, you must be at school or the BoE every weekday.

Recently I entertained an adult English class with some common misconceptions in America (like shaving affecting hair growth, touching a baby bird putting your smell on it and making the mother abandon it) and they in turn shared with me some interesting beliefs they held or had heard of, such as:

– Punching your pillow the number of times as the hour you want to wake up at in the morning. For 6:30 you punch the pillow 6 times, then punch it once softly for the half hour mark.

– Don’t sleep in the bed with your head facing North. It’s how people are buried, so it’s something to avoid. Alternatively, a Japanese friend who wasn’t in the class was told by her aunt that sleeping with her head to the North would make her smarter.

– Spread salt and put salt on yourself after a funeral as part of purification and to ward off evil.

We also discussed America’s divorce rate and I mentioned that I thought money was one of the biggest causes of stress in new and old marriages. One gentleman shared with me the saying, “Money nothing, connection nothing.”


There’s always been the stigma for me in the US when I’ve explained some of my less mainstream hobbies. Novel writing?   That’ll get a quirked eyebrow, but it’s not so weird. Drawing? As long as I’m drawing something traditional or they’re looking at

318205_10100910939122765_2088813721_none of the portraits hanging in my parents’ home, that one gets a pass as well. Cosplay, though. That one I need to justify. Usually I can sooth my way into a pass, though. I usually break out the Kami-Con justification.

Kami-Con i s an event I’ve helped build from the ground up since the beginning of college. Thousands of people go to it annually and it’s becoming (become?) fairly successful. My hobby is a part of that hobby. I mention numbers and dollars, then I can come out of the conversation without seeming like a total weirdo. Usually.

Japan, though, is an entirely different ballgame. When I first arrived, I wanted to   include cosplay in my self-introduction to the JHS kids. I’ve been in two of the    main-event stage plays for Kami-Con, so I wanted to tell the kids about how I love acting and making costumes. I was cautioned by the other ALT to leave it out, though. That it was too much. I can talk to other extremely nerdy foreigners and get similar reactions. D&D? Sweet! Cosplay? Whoa, take a step back! Slowly I’m trying to come up with a way that explains it to Japanese friends so that it won’t make them immediately turn their noses up. It’s fun trying to explain the differences in American anime cons and their Japanese counterpart, though.

Really, though. People need to be a touch more open-minded. Cosplay is an art to a lot of people — myself included! It’s a way to put those sewing talents to a creative and fun use. I used it as a way to connect more with my grandmother. We made my first cosplay together — her coaching on sewing techniques, me trying to make those techniques mesh with my grand vision of how the finished project should come together.

I use cosplay and cons as creative outlets and ways to connect with other creative people. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? ❤

Speech Contest

Some of the latest events that I’ve missed really talking about have been the English Speech Contests for Narashino and the nearby Yachiyo City.

For a solid month, I stayed late after school every day to work one-on-one with my current school’s representatives in the contest. I helped them with pronunciation, eye contact, posture, and gestures. I even made some on the fly edits to some of their speeches to flow more smoothly and give the kids less trouble.

Working with just a few kids for that long, you get really invested. You know how hard these kids worked, how much they improved, and how high their English level is outside of the speech.

That in mind, the actual contest can then be fairly nerve wracking to you as a teacher (if you’re anything like me). A word to the wise, though: your kids’ level and amazingness will not guarantee them a good placing. There are two native English-speaking judges for our contest and one Japanese judge who is fluent in English.

I was really disappointed for two of my first years. They had mastered pronunciation and had really good chemistry, but didn’t place at all. It was frustrating, but almost all of my other kids at least placed — which was a real accomplishment when they were pitted up against seven other schools! The principal from my school and the teachers said really nice things to me about so many placing.

I was lucky to go judge a neighboring city’s English speech contest the next week, so I at least got to experience a little more of the process behind the decisions. The other city was much larger than ours with upwards of 12 JHS. That meant that we had to judge very quickly and it was very difficult to remember exactly how well each student did if a question of placement came up afterward.

It’s really not very fair to the students. With as much work as they put into it, I wish there was time to review the speeches again and have a few hours set aside for actually deciding the winners. The speeches are recorded, so the chance to do something better is in place… but the contest already lasts all day. It isn’t practical to push for it to be even longer…

And I guess that sums up the big events from the past few weeks! I’ll update later to complain about how cold it is and how I really need to go buy winter clothes.