May 25th, 2008 Posted in School Life, Teaching | No Comments »


As a continuation of Danielle’s post on japanese kids still being kids. I have this little number from one of my students. This year I have started using namecards for all of the students to place on their desks during my class. This way I am able to call on students by name and hopefully this year I can actually remember more than a handful of students names. Already a few have lodged themselves in my brain. One of the first was this student.

The first day of class I walked around to all of the students to introduce myself one on one with them and hear their names. His introduction went like this. “Hello! My name is Taiga, but call me Tiger!” As a point of note these two words sound identical when pronounced by a japanese. The second was accented by his pointing to his name card, which said in large letters “Tiger”.

I then later saw him working on this signature inside of his name card. And here is the thing. This student is a jock. Popular, on the baseball team, self assured, jock. Yet in japan, in our school, sitting and practicing his signature, punctuated by a little hearts at the end, and over the “i”, is not something I could have imagined a similar student in the US doing. Here it is perfectly fine, in fact “cool” to be doing something so cutesy. The borders here are different they they are in the US. And most of the time I think this is a good thing… right up until the cross dressing starts in preparation for the cultural festival.

AC…it’s not for everyone!

May 23rd, 2008 Posted in School Life | No Comments »

With the return of the sounds of summer, the heat of summer has come as well. It is hot, certainly not wicked hot yet, but it is coming.

My school has recognized that it is getting a bit hotter, and the heat is creating an environment that isn’t conducive to serious studying. So, the principal decided that we can turn on the air conditioners!!

But wait….there’s a catch!

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Still Kids

April 30th, 2008 Posted in School Life | 1 Comment »

I have been here long enough now that some things go unnoticed. Some things are starting to be taken-for-granted. But, on Sunday, I was reminded of something that I have yet to point out here on this little old blog.

I noticed that kids are still kids here. Sometimes it is hard to remember that I am working with high-schoolers in Japan. It almost seems as though my 4th graders in Chicago were more grown-up and mature than my 15-17 year olds here. I don’t mean that to seem negative. In fact, quite the opposite. My students back in Chicago, because of their life situations, were forced to grow up way too fast. Often times they never had the carefree childhood that they deserved. Here, where my students tend not to have to deal with problems well beyond their years, students are still free to just be kids.

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Oh no!

April 28th, 2008 Posted in School Life, Teaching | 2 Comments »

This is, perhaps, one of the phrases I use the most in my classroom. Somehow it just seems to come up a lot, and the students think it is really funny. Remember the video with the little Japanese girl? Well, my students are kind of like that….just bigger. They not only laugh when I say it, they have started using it themselves. It makes me proud, actually.

Just a few days ago a student came up to me and asked if he could have a piece of chocolate. It is well known among the students that I often have chocolate with me to give to students if and when they talk to me. I am in no ways above bribery. When he asked, I didn’t happen to have any with me and I said, rather loudly, “Oh no!”

He looked at me, thought for a second and then, in front of the whole class and with his absolute loudest voice he said, “Oh shit!”

Just further proves that my students have a lot more english ability than they like to let on. Now I just have to figure out how to harness their abilities.

Biking Around Biwa

April 16th, 2008 Posted in School Life, Travel | No Comments »

Crossing the Bridge

Last weekend we participated in a bicycle ride around Japan’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Biwa. The bike around Lake Biwa is approximately 220km (136 miles), but we cut off the last chunk by crossing a bridge instead of riding around the entire way. This meant that the trip was only about 160km (100km). The ride was organized by a fellow JET who will be participating in a trip to Cambodia with the NGO, PEPY. She, and a few others, were riding to raise money for their trip to Cambodia, a very worthy cause!

Aaron Riding By Shrine

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April 10th, 2008 Posted in Just for Fun, School Life | 2 Comments »

On of my jobs around the office is to handle any miscellaneous English tasks that come up through the day. If an English letter comes in, I am usually the first to read it and summarize it. If a letter has to be written, that’s my job too. Basically any English task, which can be so time-consuming and frustrating for the JTE’s, even though they are pretty good at English, comes to my desk first. I am a native speaker and I fully understand that those sorts of things are significantly easier for me to deal with. Actually, it makes me feel good knowing that I have a role around the school that no one else does. It makes me feel like I am contributing in a positive way.

Just the other day my old supervisor (I have a new one now and that is another story for another day when I feel like I can let loose and rant) came over and told me that she had two English emails in her inbox. She asked me if I would mind reading them, they were pretty long, and telling her whether or not they were important.

At first I thought her request was a little strange, I mean seriously, why don’t you just read them yourself? But I went over to her computer anyways to help her out. Lord knows she has helped me out more times than I can even mention because I am a stupid illiterate fool living in this strange land.

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The changing of the guard

April 9th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living, School Life | No Comments »

The last couple of weeks contained the official end of one school year, and we are coming up on the beginning of the new school year next week. This has meant lots of changes for me and danielle as things shuffle before the next school year.

The biggest change for me was the loss of two of my team teachers and best friends at my school. Making the switch even more difficult is that the two teachers were also my supervisors.

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March 26th, 2008 Posted in Food, School Life | No Comments »

Last night my school held a Farewell Party for all the teachers that are leaving our school. We have 8 teachers that have been reassigned, 2 vice-principals that are retiring, and 3 members of the support staff that are leaving. The farewell party was a lively affair with lots of food and drink to make sure that everyone had a good time.

One thing I really like about these office parties is that there is random assigned seating. When I walked into the party I had to take a number out of a little box and then I had to walk around and find the place that had the same number. This means that everyone has to sit by new people instead of having the same old people and departments hanging out with one another. For me, this means that I usually get a chance to talk to people outside of the English department and get a little closer with my other colleagues. It also means that I have to use a lot of Japanese.

Last night I sat next to a Phy Ed teacher and a Japanese teacher. Both of them made a huge effort to use the little english that they had, and they also enjoyed talking in Japanese with me, even though they had to speak very slowly and use very simple words.

The funniest part of the night was when the Japanese teacher put his sashimi (raw fish) onto his personal grill to cook it. Immediately I was reminded of the experience we had in Sapporo with Eric and Virginia. I just sort of looked at him for a moment, in surprise, trying to figure out how to ask him if he likes sashimi. Finally I was able to come up with the question in Japanese and I asked him.

“Sashimi wa suki desu ka.” (Do you like sashimi?)

“Iie. Karai.” (No, I hate it.)

So, there you have it. Another first for me in Japan. This is the first time I have met a Japanese that doesn’t eat raw fish. Given how common it is in Japanese cuisine, I can only imagine what a pain in the ass it is. At least, at this particular restaurant he had the option of cooking it himself.

Presence Counts

March 17th, 2008 Posted in School Life | No Comments »

Now that graduation is over and entrance exams have finished, I, along with most of my fellow teachers, have entered the long period of time in which we must show up to work but we have absolutely nothing to do.

Right now, for example, the teacher directly to my left is reading a novel. The man across from me is taking a snooze. Another teacher is doing what I do best, reading everything possible on the internet. And I am writing on this blog.

It isn’t that I don’t want to do anything productive, it is simply that I don’t have that much to do that would keep me productive for a six week span of time. I have lesson planning and curriculum mapping to do for the upcoming school year and I do spend a little while each day working on that. But, aside from that, there isn’t much else.

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March 14th, 2008 Posted in School Life | 3 Comments »

Survey Love!

One of the things I really wanted to do come the end of this school year in japan, was to survey my students about how they thought I was as a teacher. Partly for the inevitable ego boost, but also because I wanted to find out some ways to improve my teaching. While I think I have improved greatly since arriving in japan, it is a slow process. In order to be a more effective teacher I really need as much feed back as possible.

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