Category Archives: Work

Last Minute Panic After Early Mistakes

Today was the day of the exam I’m in charge of which meant I felt as if I was about to go on stage to do some acting. I felt this way because of past problems. Of course, there were delays which led to a minor mistake and then there was a delay that started feelings of panic and made the pre-performance feeling even stronger.

(Note: If you’ve never done acting or paced around in a locker room before a big match, the feeling you get right before things start is a feeling in your gut that leaves you confused about whether or not you need to pee, poop, or puke. You need to do one, but can’t decide which is about to happen. You therefore have to keep pacing, lest one of them happen immediately.)

The day started with a delay as a major train line was down and that pushed all exams back an hour. I misread the email and I thought mine would start at the regular time because it was after lunch. I arrived at the right time and panicked when the sound technician didn’t arrive. I was quickly informed about my mistake and then tried to relax for an hour until my exam.

Then, when it was actually time for my exam, the sound technician arrived with only a few minutes to spare, putting me in a panic again.

Luckily, he had time to do a sound check and the listening went off without any problems.

I’m only just now managing to relax, though.


Marking Plans Go Away

Plan A never got started, but Plan B has been nearly successful.

Plan A was to stay at school and mark exams for a few hours and then come home and slowly dredge through the remaining exams. (Note: the dredge through exams at home is my normal marking system.) The importance of Plan A is that the more I mark at school, the more I “put way” so to speak.

However, I abandoned Plan A as soon as I got my exams. Instead I went to lunch and came home where I dredged around before I even started marking. There was also an odd set of emails involving Saturday, the school where I work, the company I work for, and the latter’s shocking unwillingness to give clear instructions even though we are expected to go to them for instruction. (Long story that’s still being resolved so more on that later.)

Eventually, I started marking, and have made good progress. The goal for Plan A was to finish all the junior high school first year exams today and have a few hours to relax before getting two sets of exams tomorrow.

However, because of the immediate switch to Plan B and the odd emails from the company I work for, I’m behind where I wanted to be.

The goal is still to finish this batch of exams tomorrow morning before I head off to the school where I work. However, that depends on if I get any emails from the company I work for or not.

Not Much Going on To Do

This weekend is one of the very nice in-between weekends that fall after the end of classes and before the start of exams. This means I’m taking it easy before all the busy work starts.

That meant today was a combination of binge watching Broadchurch (Tennant’s very good; Colman is briliant; the show is uneven but better and less stuck up than the first season of True Detective.) and working on small projects.

The summer is more or less planned, with a few concessions to the company I work for and with the underlying assumption that every thing can change quickly. I hope to sneak in a couple minor excursions and put to rest, in one way or another, a couple long running/denial filled projects.

Complicating matters is the upcoming ISOT and an unusually long exam marking period. This means it will be easy to put off until the day after tomorrow what could have been done a few days ago. (Something like that.)


Decline and Fade

My colleague and I turned in our exam papers at the same time. The only mystery was if there were any kanji mistakes. Oddly, there were only number mistakes. Then we went back to the office with nothing productive to do. I sat down and said “I’m bored.”

It was almost kind of funny. It wasn’t, though.

Every one of the foreign staff at the school where I work was spent. Those of us who weren’t spent were done.

The last day of the summer term is the longest day of the year. Although the Autumn term is longer and we have more classes, the weather is getting cooler and drier.

Today, though, it was humid and we’d pretty much stopped caring. We did have to finalize our exams and check listening CDs. and that provided some much needed life purpose, but other than that we were done.

The students were also done and most of them chose not to study. I didn’t care, though. That’s part of the last day mentality. No one cares. Everyone is done, even if they’re not finished.

Not Unpunished Good Deeds

All in all, it wasn’t a bad day, until things got annoying.

I’ve mentioned before how I’m in an odd place where I work for one company but have been assigned at the same school for a long time. I therefore have to distinguish between the company I work for and the school where I work.

Today the two worlds clashed. Sort of.

I’d just finished a decent day of classes (even my low level class was pretty good) and I’d brought some audio editing work home so that I could use an English language version of the software. After completing the listening files for the final exam, I was just about to start a nice, relaxing break when I got an email from the company I work for.

They “asked” me to “teach” three days during the summer at a kindergarten in my town. It is, as near as I can tell, the definition of shit work: summer vacation plus kindergartners plus difficult to reach location plus Japan summer heat and humidity plus every other Monday plus the fact in all the years I’ve been teaching, I’ve never taught at a kindergarten. I am therefore the least qualified person in the company to “teach” the assignment (which will be nothing more than glorified babysitting).

Oh, and I’m babysitting our youngest on those days as those are days She Who Must Be Obeyed works.

I pointed out that I’d prefer not to teach on those days as I’d be using a paid holiday on one of them and had to babysit on the other two.

I then got a response telling me to take paid holidays for the other two.

At this point I got salty. I said I wasn’t going to take paid holidays for the other two days as I’d been with the company 18 years and hoped to get a little respect and consideration from it. If they couldn’t give me that they should just give man an official order to report to the shit work and send me the materials I need to do it. They should also stop wasting my time pretending I actually had a choice.

I haven’t heard back yet, but I expect a phone call tomorrow. I hope it’s not the new guy. We haven’t met yet and I’m afraid I’ll leave a really bad pre-impression.

The Endless Week of Thursdays

Today felt like Thursday. So did yesterday. Tomorrow, when it is actually Thursday I suspect it will feel like Friday.

Part of the problem with this time of year is that we are mostly finished with all the planning we need to do. We have exams to finish and listening tests to record and edit, but none of that takes much time. That leaves us with lots of down time to fill during the day.

In class we are merely watching the students work on (or not work on) review assignments. We field a few questions, but mostly we react to every movement and every stretched arm. The conversation is usually:

–Student raises arm to stretch.–
Me–Do you need me?
Him–No, no, a thousand times no.
Me–Carry on then.

Because we have a lot of down time, the week begins to drag and I think that’s what makes it feel longer. The weather is also changing, which drains a lot of energy.

Then there’s the dread of how busy we will be next week when the exam papers arrive.

Long Day, With Videos and Ink

Just a short one today.

The day started with me filming videos and using my iPod Touch for the first time as a camera thanks to me leaving my phone at home. The videos are mostly to scare the students into taking it seriously and to torture them after with the sounds of their voices and the way they actually look on camera.

It will also show some of them how boring they were.

The two classes after the videos were second year junior high school classes. The higher level class was terrible and the lower level class was pretty good. All I did was explain the exam (or in the case of the higher level class, stop explaining the exam because no one was listening). I also handed out a review sheet. The problem with the lower level class is there were a few students who just talked and others who just smiled because they didn’t know what they were supposed to do.

After I got home, I packed three boxes of ink into a bag and walked them to the post office. This isn’t that far of a walk (2.2 km/1.4 miles round trip) but even though it was fairly cool it was muggy and I’d spent a lot of energy at work.

I did some minor work after that. Emphasis on minor.

Something Completely Different

I’ve now reached the point with my worst student where I might actually keep him in my class just to see what happens next. In the past he’s freaked out, flipped me off, hit me with a desk and torn up his textbook.

Today, though, was something completely different.

Because today is one week before the final exam, I dedicated the class to discussing the content of the exam and passing out a review sheet that included the actual long writing question.

As I explained things, though, I heard a rattling sound. He was alternating between throwing the metal cone of his mechanical pencil as if it was a die or attempting to spin it as if it was a top. This attracted the attention of other students. I explained that if students weren’t listening I’d stop talking and just turn them loose with the review sheet.

Although most students in his class worked hard and were better than my other classes, he set his review sheet sideways on his desk and surrounded it with pens to create a kind of top-spinning pitch. He then set up obstacles and spent the rest of the class spinning his pencil top.

Other students asked him what the hell he was doing (in so many words) and he just repeated his usual “I don’t understand therefore I don’t have to try” shtick (in so many words).

I was fascinated by the entire event and just let him not try. He’ll end up in the lower level class where I’m guessing he thinks things will be easier and the where he thinks the teacher will use more Japanese. Or, maybe he thinks he’ll get to sit at his own desk and play with his own stuff.

Whatever happens, I’ll be really surprised if he writes more than his name on the final exam. If he doesn’t even do that I won’t be surprised either. It makes it easier for me to mark, but guarantees he’ll drop to the lower level class.

(Note: Because of the latter, I’m torn about whether or not I want him to actually write something.)

I don’t want to make him someone else’s problem, but that seems to be his goal. I may not keep him around, but I suspect I’ll get interesting reports from his new teacher.

Last Week Adventures

Because tomorrow is the first day of the last week of classes, and because I was out all day yesterday, today I was surprisingly useless. A large portion of the day was spent watching TED talks about how to beat procrastination.

I did not intend to do that or be this way, but my brain was apparently warning me that the next couple weeks are going to be hectic right as the weather is getting hot and rainy.

Granted, there isn’t much actual work this week. Most of what I will do amounts to providing information about final exams, passing out review sheets, and answering questions/staying awake. What makes this tiring is how boring it all is and the fact the air conditioners at the school where I work are set for “sub-tropical”.

Sometime this week we will record the listening portions of the various exams and I’ll spend an evening editing mine into something that hopefully works and spares me the usual listening related stress. I then have to turn it all in on Friday.

I’ll then have another couple days to be useless before I get busy.


Oddly Different and Oddly Silly

Today I had the chance to experiment on my students.

One of the things, after all these years of teaching, that I still have a hard time grasping is the way a lesson will work with one class and fail spectacularly with another. What typically happens, is the first class goes poorly as I work out the bugs and the second goes well.

It didn’t quite work out that way today.

My classes today both were junior high school first year classes and because of holidays, exams and sports tournaments, both had an extra day that I had to fill. Because of this I decided to try an activity where I gave them a scrambled conversation and then let them race to see who could put it in the correct order. They could work together, but couldn’t use their books or past worksheets.

My first class, which features my worst student, did surprisingly well. Three students finished and two others made a valiant effort. My worst student didn’t finish but he did write down the answers when I ended the race. He also participated in pair work during the extra time I had at the end.

My second class, though, did a lot worse. Only one student finished and several others decided that because they didn’t understand they deserved free time. I read the answer three times and then told them to pair up and practice the conversation.

However, only a few of them had bothered to write down the answers. Some hadn’t written anything at all. Others seem to think my English pronunciation is silly as they mocked my English whilst not actually transcribing what I was saying.

This means that the conversation will be featured in at least one of next week’s review classes.