Graduations and appreciations

Graduation season has rolled around again here in Japan. I don’t remember how much I’ve talked about graduations on here offhand, but today was the graduation at my elementary school. Back home, the idea of graduation from elementary school seems silly, but here in Japan it’s a big rite of passage. As part of the ceremony at my elementary school, the students make a short speech after they get their diplomas, thanking their parents for raising them up that point. After that, they go to meet their parents in the audience and hand off the diploma, a gift from the PTA (which has been a Japanese-English dictionary every year that I’ve been here), and a small bouquet of flowers they receive so that they can go back to their seats and do their part in the rest of the ceremony unencumbered. Continue reading

School Festival, Part 2: We are SINGER!!

paper cutout by Mr. Genki

Okay, the students didn’t say that. I’m making titles up now. But I see no reason not to continue the grammatically incorrect titling. Besides, I’m about to talk about the students’ singing. With a bit about their music education in general.

This is the second post I’ve written about this year’s school festival. If you want to read the first, it’s over here.

Continue reading

ALT Resources I Made

I make a lot of stuff for my classes. Some of it is great, some of it sucks, some can be reused, and others are just one-time things. The ones that can be reused aren’t always things I feel others would want, but I have come up with a few things I’d like to share in case my fellow ALTs — JET or otherwise — can make use of them.

I was going to upload three things today, but LibreOffice hates me, so there are only two.

Hi, Friends! Lesson Goals Translation

Any ALT working in elementary schools should be familiar with the Hi, Friends! textbooks by now. Not all of us have to use them, I suspect, since they are designed for use by native Japanese people who speak no English. Even if an ALT doesn’t have to use the Hi, Friends! textbooks, I think he or she can benefit from knowing what the goals are for each chapter — and for those of us who do have to use the textbooks, understanding the lesson goals is kinda necessary.

Unfortunately for any ALT who doesn’t speak/read Japanese, these books aren’t listed in English anywhere. So I translated the lesson goals. I haven’t translated the instructions for every activity in the books (and I may not ever get to that), but knowing what the lesson is aiming for is still pretty big.

Download: HF Lesson Goal Translations (PDF)

Two JTEs and one ALT in a small school ~ cooperation ~

I was going through my desk one day and found a thick packet written by a JTE who lived and worked in Nakagawa at least three ALTs before my time. It was made for a workshop about ALTs and JTEs working together. Although some of the things are unlikely to apply to most ALTs and some of it is just outdated, there is still a lot of good information in there. I modified all the names in retyping it, but it’s otherwise a pretty direct copy of the original.

Download: Two JTEs and one ALT in a small school (PDF)


My Students are Awesome

I don’t know the third person in this conversation — I assume it’s one of my student’s new friends at his high school. Still, I’m pretty damn proud of him right now. His English really is clunky at best, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t try. I can’t take all the credit for this; my JET predecessor was better at encouraging the students to try than I am, I think. But still. <3 This made me very, very happy.

awsome student on Facebook

A Cheeky Child and a Troubled Transfer

The Cheeky Child

Photo credit: xopherlance on Flikr.

Photo credit: xopherlance on Flikr.

At the beginning of every one of my classes (at all levels of education from preschool to high school), I ask each student, “How are you?” This would take too much time if I had more students, but as things stand it’s a good, regular way to start the class. The fact that all the students know it also gives me a way to use English with them every time I see them around town. Unless a kid is obstinate and doesn’t want to respond — which happens sometimes — I’m guaranteed to be able to toss some English back and forth with every kid in town.

Rather than just teach them the stock “I’m fine. (And you?)”, I teach them to respond with things like, “I’m happy,” or “I’m hot.” I got this idea from the 5th grade textbooks. It seemed like a good idea, because rather than just teaching them that sentence A in English is the same as sentence B in Japanese, the interaction between question and answer must be explained. In Japanese, if you ask the equivalent of “How are you?”, what you’re really asking is “Are you healthy/energetic?”, to which the other person answers in the affirmative or the negative. Skipping the stock response and pointing out that you can really answer in any number of ways sets the students up to realize that learning a foreign language is more than just substituting the words in one language for the words in another language.

Several weeks ago, Googly Ears made me really proud by connecting a couple of random dots on her own. One day, during recess, I asked her how she was doing. Continue reading

The Area of a Japanese Circle

The formula for the area of a circle is pi times the square of its radius. The Japanese government has evacuated an area around the Fukushima power plants with a radius of 40km, or 5,024km sq. Right after the power plants went critical, the US government strongly recommended (at around 3 AM) that any of its citizens within 80km leave immediately. The U.S. evacuation circle therefore has an area of 20,096km sq. That’s a discrepancy 15,072km size.

This discrepancy is the reason that this year’s U.S. JETs haven’t been told their placements yet. We were supposed to have been informed in May, but some placements fall into this gray area. The Japanese and U.S. governments are discussing what to do about it, and we are not expected to find out placement assignments until right around the solstice.

If you’re wondering why they don’t just ask the JETs who are supposed to be placed in that zone whether or not they’re willing and then swap them out if they aren’t, then know that you aren’t alone. I don’t know what sort of logistical or diplomatic factors are affecting the decision behind the scenes, but I do know that if asked to go into that 15,072km sq. gray area, I would say yes. How many of the people living there have anywhere else to go, even if they want to leave their homes? They are surely under constant stress and need all the support they can get. Even though the area around the Fukushima power plants is one of the most dangerous in the world right now, I would be willing to share their risks in the hope that my presence there as a foreigner come of my own free will might improve morale.

Of course, I’m lucky enough to have family and friends who are willing to put aside their fears for my safety and support my decision, whatever that may be. I don’t have a spouse or children to consider and I don’t want children, which makes it easier for me to consider living someplace feared to be so radioactive it could render me infertile and give me superpowers.

Either way, I don’t know if I’m one of the people slated for that area and have no way to find out. All I can do is wait… now with 15,072km sq. more anticipation. Looking at the JET Programme forums, though, it seems that I’ve been more patient than most.