Category Archives: Work

Once in a Lifetime Chance

Today I finally got to use one of the more obscure parts of my university education. At least as much of it as I could remember.

When I was at university, partly because of my background in a fundamentalist Baptist church, I maintained an interest in religion and the history of religion. This led me to a couple classes on religion, history of religion, civil religion, and politics and religion. The only use this ever got me was discussions like this:

Them: I can’t believe they are removing Christ from Christmas by calling it Xmas.
Me: Well, the X is actually a historical abbreviation for Christ.
Them: So f@#king what?

(Irrelevant But Interesting Side Note: in Japanese English textbooks, “Xmas” is offered as an example of a word that begins with “X”. This bothers many foreign teachers, especially if I’m around.)

For reasons I don’t understand, high school English club wanted me to talk about religion in the USA. They asked questions and I tried to answer them (with periodic trips to the internet).

What was fascinating about this was the school where I work is an Xian (er Christian) school–Anglican, to more specific–and students are required to take Bible classes and attend chapel. However, most of the students are not Christians. Therefore the interest in religion is understandably low.

Along the way, I got the chance to talk about my religious beliefs and how they’ve evolved. I also got to explain how I liked Sunday school when I was a kid but hated Sunday church service which was several announcements, one seemingly endless speech, lots of singing, and at least one TURPF.

Somewhere in there we talked about other religions. I’m not sure it was particularly productive, but it was kind of fun, at least for me. The students probably were hoping for Sunday school; I’m afraid they may have gone to church instead.


Lost in Transition

Well, crap.

I wrote some stuff to write about here but the notes are somewhere else. If I were smart I’d write them from memory, but, well. Yeah.

Part of the problem of transitioning from one system to another is confusing notes (see yesterday’s post) and stuff ending up in places you don’t usually have stuff.

The funny part is, I was planning to write about the transition and the new system.

Part of what I’m doing is minimalizing the things I carry at work. Stuff I would normally drag with me after I used it at my desk, got left on my desk when I went to class. Then it got left on my desk when I came home.

The tease, then, is a new bag, an old new pen case and several pens being moved to new homes and new purposes. I’ll get in to more details in a future post–assuming I don’t forget my notes again.

Past Me Sucks

Any careful consideration of the matter can only reach the conclusion that past me sucks.

More specifically, past me likes writing incoherent notes but only about my second year junior high school students, not about other classes. This leaves present me to think that past me is trolling present me and enjoys seeing present me scratching my head and trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to be teaching.

This wouldn’t bother present me that much except that two weeks in a row past me has left notes that didn’t make any sense, and this despite an effort by past present me to figure out what was going on last week. This usually means that present me does an impromptu book check to see what pages students have actually completed.

Today, though, as my students were working, present me figured out what the notes meant. It seems that past me, at some point, decided it was more efficient to record notes by date rather than by lesson plan. This happened because of various holidays and other days off leading to a jumbled mess of lessons that put one class way ahead of the others. In the lesson record this manifested as seemingly random dates that now hopefully make sense.

Now that the confusing mystery has been solved, I hope that future present me appreciates was present me accomplished when he becomes past me.

Working on the Weekend

Last week I did school work on Sunday; this week I did it on Saturday. I clearly don’t understand what weekends are for.

Part of the problem is at the school where I work we are forced to use Japanese language laptop computers. This isn’t that big of a problem except the keyboards are different, making it slightly more difficult to type and the word processing programs are loaded up with clip art, making it more difficult to make decent looking worksheets.

As such, I’ve been doing some of the work at home where I can play with my own toys.

Eventually, when I have my days of house arrest, I’ll revise it and use it to fill an actual “work” day.

In the past I’d have done all this on my own laptop at the school where I work, but our personal computers are still banned from the system.

Next week, I shouldn’t have much work to do. The trouble is, though, if I work on weekends now, it frees up time during the summer. I think I’d rather have more time off then, even if I’m still technically under house arrest.

Odd Weeks are Ending

June is here, sort of.

I’ve written before about the horrors of June at the school where I work and the thing you have to understand is that June is not a month, it’s a state of being.

The bad thing about June is that it’s nonstop. The good thing about June is that it’s stable and predictable.

For example, this week we taught two days, then had two days with no classes. This meant that today felt like Monday even though it was Friday. This makes it hard to focus and/or take the day seriously.

Now I have a regular weekend before a series of nonstop days that will eventually drag me down and break my spirit, at least if I’m being optimistic.

Somewhere in there, I have to write an exam. Of course, a time of existential crisis and burnout is, perhaps, not the best time to write and exam. On the other hand, the exams are usually a lot of fun.

Once More, With Drift and Noise

This week at the school where I work we find ourselves in another one of those drifty, gray areas between a weekend and a major event.

The major event is mid-term exams and because our particular classes don’t have mid-terms (we test at the end of the term and via frequent in-class projects) the students will not take our classes seriously this week.

This is especially true of my junior high first year students. They are approaching their first exam and that has them excited and nervous. As such, they are making a lot more noise than usual and spending a great deal of time merely chatting rather than working.

In one class, which got homework last week for being noisy and noisier, many students spent the day doing the homework they were supposed to have done. Others, who felt that forgetting their notebook somehow granted them free time, talked or worked on a worksheet, but will get a chance to finish next Monday at lunch time.

It’s funny how many of them thought this was a joke.

Working on Days Off

I ended up doing some work today in order to get ready for work tomorrow.

This is not something I normally do as I have lots of free time on Fridays and try to do most of my planning then, but there was an odd confluence of events on Friday. First there was the encounter with the bad student and all the subsequent meetings. Then we recorded a listening, but didn’t have time to edit it.

This wouldn’t be a problem, except that I have three classes in a row starting first period tomorrow. This means I have to either be ready or be willing to throw any crap together and call it a lesson.

Normally, the latter would be enough, but as the co-person in charge of high school second year, it’s my responsibility to make sure everyone has the materials they need to do their jobs.

Therefore, instead of bailing out and playing tanks or something, I edited the listening and then did a worksheet to accompany it.

I then felt justified in being lazy, which isn’t the best way to do things, I suppose, but it was a Sunday.

The Worst of the Best

Today was one of those days where I was right about being wrong.

As the week drew to a close I had problems in all my first year junior high school classes. Yesterday’s was bad enough that they got homework. One student, who took one minute to move 15 feet to his desk, got double homework as a “delay of class” penalty.

This morning, though, was special.

My worst student, who was actually fairly good last class, has a bad case of wakarimasen dekimasen. If he doesn’t understand something, he feels he is entitled to free time. He didn’t understand the listening activity and put his head down on his desk, which I don’t allow. He even used his textbook as a pillow. When I tried to get him to sit up, he went full stubborn and kept his head down, which resulted in me puling his chair out from under him as I’d done in class before. He wrestled back spilling his desk.

He then stood up and gave me the finger. I laughed and he sat back down.

Eventually, his head went back down and I started bumping his desk to get him to sit up. He jumped up, picked up his desk and shoved it at me. At that point I threw him out of class.

Keep in mind, this is not technically legal, so I merely escorted him right outside the door and showed him where to stand, which was a place where he could still hear the lesson. He raged a bit, kicked the door a few times, sat down out of sight, and then stormed away (to the restroom it turned out).

At the end of class I went to see if he’d left anything behind and found his textbook torn up and scattered across the hallway.

A meeting with the homeroom teacher, the student, and a translator ensued. He’d mentioned the first part of the story, but left out 1) flipping the bird, 2) hitting me with a desk, and 3) me telling him where to stand when I put him in the hall.

(Note: the translator was there to protect me by 1) guaranteeing my point got across and 2) keeping secret how much Japanese I can actually understand. Long story.)

The meeting was interesting as he made a statement which the homeroom teacher wrote down. I made my statement via the translator (a fellow English teacher) and that was read to the student, who suddenly remembered parts of the story he’d forgot to mention.

By the end he’d claimed he didn’t understand what “flipping the bird” meant, although he couldn’t explain whey he’d done it. He claimed that even though his head was down he wasn’t sleeping so that made it okay. (I said it didn’t.) He also complained about my English Immersion style. I praised the times he was good and pointed out that he always rejected help, in Japanese no less, from fellow students. I also said that I wouldn’t punish him for today if he came back to class and started working.

Also by the end of the meeting, when he started getting good advice from the homeroom teacher, he went into pouty dramatic mode. He put his face in hands and leaned forward and whined. I pointed out to the translator that the student behaved exactly the same way in class when I tried to help him.

Eventually, I suspect, he’ll be moved down to the lower level class and become someone else’s problem.

Until then, I also need to take some positive news to the homeroom teacher. I may also have to take some sweets. And buy the translator a beer.

Less Than Expected But Louder

My classes today were worse than my classes the last two days, but it was mostly a matter of noise.

My schedule is fairly light on Wednesdays with only three classes, but two of them are low level and the other contains two obnoxious students.

The low level classes started out noisy and distracted but once I got them herded like cats and chickens into an assignment, they all did the assignment. They were even quiet during the listening exercises. However, as they finished the various assignments at different times, the ones who finished early took the opportunity to make more noise. I then had to herd them again.

I was most worried about my sixth period class. They are low level and second grade (US 8th grade) which means they’ve figured out the scam (Hey! He can’t actually fail us!) and that makes them more difficult than other classes. (Note: they are not my worst, although the class has a few of my worst students from last year.)

Fortunately, the students who had me before know that although I cannot fail them, I can and will make their lives rather unpleasant–this is especially true because their class is last period–and they warn the others to straighten up for at least a little while.

I’d like to think the worst is over, but I’m usually wrong about that.


Oddly Another Good Day

One of the biggest shocks this week is that my classes have been good. This is not the way things are supposed to be.

Because last week was school trips this week should have been full of lethargy and badness (and that’s just from me).

High school second year (11th grade) students have just come back from a week of travel and find such mundane things as “school work” and “listening” to be well beneath their station as world travelers.

Junior high school first year (7th grade) students have just come from some sort of mysterious camp (to this day I don’t know where they go and what happens when they get there) and they have long forgot my name and what is supposed to happen in class.

Junior high school second year (8th grade) students are naturally bad and had a couple days off last week.

Junior high school third year (9th grade) students have also come back from some sort of trip.

All this means that this week is usually bad. However, although my HS 2 students have been quiet, they’ve done their work. The JHS 1s have been noisy, but are also doing work. Even my bad student did something resembling classwork yesterday.

The big shock was that my JHS 2 students not only remembered their role play papers, but actually practiced them rather than wasting time until I called on them. Some even attempted it memorized to get bonus points.

This means with half my classes for this week complete, I’ve actually been having a pretty good week. However, tomorrow I have my first JHS 3 classes, which means there’s still a chance for things to turn back to normal.