Category Archives: Japan

Done, Therefore Nothing Done

Any serious examination of the issue proves handily that 8th graders are the worst grade to teach.

By this point in their junior high school tenure, 8th graders at the school where I work have 1) hit full, merciless puberty and 2) have figured out that they cannot fail. This combination leads to interesting leaps of logic.

In today’s class, I noticed that, despite threats of repeated lunch/writing dates with me, three students were not doing anything. Their reasoning was that because they had already finished the paper, they were done. When I pointed out that I’d not actually seen a speech from them, they said they’d left their speeches at home. I pointed out that such excuses did not mean they had free time. Instead, they were expected to write something.

However, because I was busy dealing with students who were actually writing, I wasn’t able to police the room as well as I’d have liked. (I was also dealing with a kid who spent the entire class playing Cat’s Cradle with a piece of green yarn, but that’s another story.)

Now the students, after failing today, face the risk that they will forget their paper again tomorrow and will have to join me at a lunch time writing session that will meet every day until they produce a speech.

I predict at least one will forget his speech paper.


Always Forgetting What You Forgot Before

Neither I nor She Who Must Be Obeyed seem to be able to remember that I’m supposed to take lunch on Tuesdays.

For SWMBO it’s a power thing. She always tells me the night before that she forgot to get anything for lunch. She’ll got out at near midnight to get something for our oldest’s lunch so that she can complain about having had to do so (long story) but I get an early announcement that I’m on my own.

This doesn’t bother me that much as I always pledge to grab something on the way to work. (To do otherwise risks the wrath of SWMBO in the form of heavy sighs and “I was saving that for X’s”.)

This also would not be a problem except that every time I’ve been on my own I’ve gone directly to school without stopping to pick something up. It’s only after I’ve arrived at school and begun prepping that I remember I was supposed to remember to get something.

This leaves me a short time to rush across the street to find food, carefully pick a line that’s not full of little old ladies who will spend hours trying to make exact change, and then get back to the office in time to eat and prep for class.

I always vow that next week will be different. Thus far it hasn’t been.

Jokes and Going Deaf

The day started with a joke that led to a suitable amount of panic.

Every now and then I like to start off the first class of summer by taking roll and then telling my students to turn in their homework. The reactions are a mix of confusion and panic and I can see my students replaying the events of the last class via whatever internal database they use for such things.

Today’s high school second year students bought the joke completely and some were looking around for people who would be could sources for homework copying. I then told them it was a joke, making me suddenly much more popular.

After that I had two first year junior high school classes in a row. By the time I emerged from those noisy messes I felt as if I’d just come from a night club where I was the designated driver and all I got from the evening was ringing ears and a voice that was too loud.

Tomorrow I’ve got higher grades, but I don’t think they’ll be less noisy.

Lines and Lines and Prizes

I almost won a prize today but changed chairs because I was too lazy to run the video camera.

Today was our oldest’s culture festival. Because her band club had failed to progress in the national contest they were going to perform today. (Note: last year they’d progressed in the contest and didn’t perform on culture day.)

Because it was our oldest’s second culture day, I couldn’t be bothered to go for more than her performance. However, once I arrived, I was made to stand in line for cookies. The school’s baking club sold cookies and chocolate chip scones twice each day. By the time I got to the school, She Who Must Be Obeyed and our youngest had been in line for 20 minutes.

After cookies and scones were acquired, I went to save a place in line for the band performance. I ended up in line for 20 minutes and managed to find the good seats where we’d actually be able to see our oldest.

However, because I wanted to watch the performance live rather than through a video camera screen I changed seats with SWMBO.

Our oldest had a nice flute solo and at the end of the show the band gave away prizes. Certain chairs in the audience had anime characters taped to them. If your character was called you won. The winners got a bag of goods and and interview. As it turned out, the seat I’d traded was labeled and was called. SWMBO won a small bag of sweets and praised the flute section.

I think it would have been funny if I’d stayed in the chair and won. The interview would have been funny as the band members panicked.

The Dynamic of the Newly Defined

It’s always interesting to see, at the school where I work, what the new dynamic in a junior high school first year class will be once everyone has been defined.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, the school where I work splits first year junior high school students by name/number for the first term, and then assigns them to a higher or lower level class starting the second term. Once they are defined as higher or lower, though, there is no changing.

This means that the class that I got to know last term now has five new people who don’t know me and don’t know the rules. It’s almost as if it’s the start of the school year again. The new students start testing me and I start pushing back at them.

It hasn’t started yet, but it will.

I’m most interested to see what happens with my newly defined lower level class. I sent better students  up and received lower level students. Once students are defined as low level, they tend to behave badly especially as the class I teach doesn’t move students each term as other classes do. I’ve got a few activities I hope will keep them busy but I’m not optimistic.

So far, the students have been okay, but it’s only day one.

That Which Parents Do Not See

I got called out by some parents today. I quashed their complaints pretty quickly though, even though we’ve never actually met.

One of my colleagues brought me a student’s exam with an impressive score on it and explained that the student’s parents were complaining because, despite the high score, the student had received a score much lower than that as final mark. (Imagine earning on A on the final exam but earning a B for the entire course.)

Part of the issue is that final exams are only 50% of the final mark. (Which is too high, in my opinion, but that’s the way things are.) The other 50% is class participation and class projects. This often helps bad to average students. For example, it is possible to earn a 0 for class participation but still receive a passing score by doing well on the exam. (A 0 class mark plus a 62 on the final exam equals  a 31% final mark which is passing at the school where I work, albeit with a few unpleasant consequences such as not getting automatic promotion to the attached university if that kind of mark is normal for the student.)

I quickly determined that although the student had done well on the exam and on a couple projects, he’d generally not done well on the other projects and had done the bare minimum on day-to-day participation. He actually had a B+ and was just a little extra effort away from an A.

Luckily, my colleague understood and promised to notify the students and the parents. I expect that student will be much more active this term…


That of Which You Can be Certain

There are certain, um, certainties that accompany the first day back after summer at the school where I work, especially if you are teaching junior high school classes.

At least five students in the class will have lost the speech contest paper and you’ll have to give them a new copy. This happens even in higher level classes.

At least four students will do absolutely nothing during the “amnesty” class in which there is no penalty for not having finished your speech. (There is, however, a penalty for doing nothing.)

Of the students who actually present rough drafts, at least half will be unreadable computer translator gibberish. One quarter will have obviously been written by the students’ cram school teachers. One quarter will be good.

Also, at least one student will surprise you. (Note: not in each class; just one per day.) Today, one of my more difficult students presented an actual speech. It wasn’t good enough for him to have had anything resembling competent help and it wasn’t bad enough to have come out of translation software. He may have actually written it; or someone slightly more competent than him did.

He didn’t make the obligatory copy of it though, so perhaps he wasn’t all that surprising.

Night of the Last

It’s a the last day of summer vacation before actual work starts.

Although I’ve dropped in twice at the school where I work in the last couple days, I haven’t actually met any students. All that changes tomorrow and things could get badly rather quickly.

All my classes tomorrow are junior high school classes which means they will be working on their speech contest speeches which, in theory, were supposed to be completed as summer homework.

In reality, probably less than a third will have completed their speeches; another third will have their names on their papers and maybe one or two actual lines; and the final third will have lost the papers or claim they left them at home.

My job is to guide them through a couple days of writing and checking and then, if necessary, drag them at lunch and after school to complete their speeches. (My students know this is not a bluff.)

For two weeks there will be a lot of stress and annoyance, for both me and the students. Then we’ll try to get back to regular classes. That has its own problems. (But more on that in a future post.)

A Matter of Time

I wanted what he wanted. He wanted what I wanted. Our timing was just off.

In the Michael Douglas movie Falling Down, the main character shoots up a fast food restaurant after they fail to serve him breakfast despite his being only a minute or two past official breakfast time. In my case, I arrived at a fast food restaurant while breakfast was still being served and opted for breakfast.

Granted, I was actually getting brunch (long story) and thought the changeover time was later. I could have asked, but I didn’t care enough to be bothered.

Then, a minute after I ordered, as I was waiting for my food, the staff flipped the signs to the real menu. I was annoyed, but not as annoyed as the man who couldn’t get breakfast. (I’d have swapped with him, but I think he wanted pancakes.)

After that, the only thing that bothered me was the quality of the food. I got the dregs of breakfast and what I got didn’t match the picture but I’m pretty much used to that now.


Thoughts After the Bar

We took our youngest to a bar tonight because our oldest was out with her friends and doesn’t understand English or Japanese for “Get home early, we want to go out”. (Long story.)

This means She Who Must Be Obeyed finally got some beer tonight. However, although we had fun, it wasn’t as good as she was hoping.

We went to a local izakaya called “Yakitori Big” which features a good selection of things on skewers and a decent selection of alcohol flavored beverages.

The beer was fairly watery, which disappointed SWMBO, but the food was good. I started with watery beer, then ran through a selection of drinks, finally settling on sake which turns out to be the best deal for the money.

Our youngest had soft drinks, of course, but we got her to try gizzards, hearts, and tongue. (She was unimpressed with the first and last; tolerant of the second.)

Hopefully next spring we can make plans for the Spring Craft Beer Festival. If we start planning now, we might be able to pull it off.