Tuesday, February 28, 2006

on my mind

a few things of note.

i am considering applying to be an assistant at the Tokyo Post-Arrival Orientation at the beginning of August, 2006. As a part of the application I have write up a proposal of what my presentation would consist of. I am chosing to flush out my ideas for a presentation titled, "Independent Japanese Study: Beginner." The only problem is that I don't recall what the presentations in Tokyo were like. I would like to organize mine better than those, and perhaps have some interesting ideas for activities that could be done with a crowd of jet-lagged, wide-eyed foreigners. To be honest, I only attended two of those seminars. Both were somewhat helpful and i have a vague recollection of what was said, but most of it didn't stick. I guess i still have the handouts, so those should be a good source. Of course, we all left Tokyo with 10 extra pounds of books and handouts so who's to say that mine will be the one kept?

am also thinking that my second graders are the most disengaged students in the world. a bit of an exaggeration, i understand, but what a lousy 45 minutes for them and me. don't know how my JTE feels about it. he seems to be as disengaged from the process sometimes as they are. i know that learning language sometimes is boring and i know that learning grammar of a language you don't care to learn is even more of a consternation: but can they all be that uninterested? is it the teenage hormones that are preventing them from expressing any possible emotion?
that's not true. whenever we have an activity that involves moving around and asking each other and me questions, some students do get a bit genki. For the most part they are happy for those moments because they give them the opportunity to move around the room and pretend to be working on something while chatting with their friends. it's difficult to think of things to do that would make it fun for them; i am somewhat limited on time within the curriculum and the less i get to do creatively in the classroom, the more stagnant i feel and the less i want to do in the future. it's a bit of a vicious cycle. but i will get out of it. today, i had two seeminly fun ideas for vocabulary activities while bored out of my skull in the classroom. hopefully, i'll be able to put them into action.

also on my mind is the political development in Taiwan and Palestine. I have been reading up on both and so thankful that i have access to the BBC from school. Their website is wonderful for in-depth analysis of the situation. I wonder if the money EU sent to the Palestenian Authority will be put to good use--i certainly hope so, but with Hamas weeks away from taking power--who knows. Yet, i wonder how an extreme terrorist organization will reinvent itself as a governing body. Some parts of that organization are going to have to be sucked into the bureaucracy of running a country that has been slowly going financial under. They will have to rethink their primary objectives as an organization--perhaps helping their people will become more important than destroying others.

who am i kidding.

what a sad world.

also would like to apologize for not putting up any photos for a little while. the USB cable from my camera has decided to take a sabbatical--i have been very pursuasive for it to come back, but nothing seems to be working. perhaps i'll have the pleasure of using friend's YahooBB and camera connections this weekend, until then, cross your fingers for my poor little Minolta and its issues.

today for lunch we had yakisoba, a kroket, and some fruit in a milky sauce. not too shabby.

in the afternoon the entire school will be listening to a concert of visiting mucisions. don't know what they will be performing, but it's nice anyways.

later today i get to use my brand new karate gi for the first time in practice. went through a kata at home wearing it last night. that's a nice snapping sound it makes. i like it.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

too random to call

for lunch today: carrot puree soup (yummy), sloppy joe looking meat stuff with beans (not bad..good sauce), a salad made of tofu dregs and some sort of veggies (reasonably tasty), and a bun. no dessert today. though the Ogimi lunch ladies have been slacking on desserts lately. but we do have a lot of mikans (orange/mandarin) around. 'tis the season, after all.

on friday, Ogimi Chugakko was visited upon by near a hundred teachers and administrators from all over Okinawa. They came to observe lessons and to talk. The school had been in prep mode for over a week for this. There was major cleaning done and lots and lots of posters and scrolls printed and drawn.
From what i understood, this was a conference that takes place annually on Okinawa. A school is chosen geographically, and this is Ogimi Chu's first time. I am not certain whether the topic of lessons and discussion is always the same. This year it was concentrated on showing students how to best make a decision about their future plans. 5 teachers taught five exemplary classes that focused on the subject of future occupation. In Japan, students are not required to attend high school, but attendance of a good/specific high school can be essential to the future plans of a student. Teachers feel that students need to take junior high school and high school education more seriously if they are to achieve their future goals. There is a somewhat high rate of high school drop out; usually (this is all from what i've been explained by teachers) this happens after the first year. Students go to high school, live in dorms sometimes far away from their parents' homes, they get jobs, they have a good time. ONce they start making money, they think that they don't need high school and drop out. Same thing happens in the United States; it's a known phenomenon. In Japan, however, it is probably harder to get back into gear and get back those years that are lost to dropping out. I've been told that switching majors is usually not done in Japan, because when students apply to unis, they apply for specific programs and it's hard to switch. So it must be equally as difficult to be admitted into university/college/technicum if one has lost out on all or some of high school.
Jobs are scarce in Okinawa. It is the highest subsudized prefecture in Japan (some of it is because of the bases). The bases are a whole different topic and i am not yet ready to tackle it on this blog. It's a tough issue, and it also effects us, ALTs. Certainly not in the same respect as it effects the Okinawan population, but i just want to say, that we are not ignorant to it.

I also learned this weekend that the divorce rate is on the rise in Okinawa, predominantly among young couples.
The teacher who explained this to me used interesting gestures. Pinky seems to indicate a woman and a thumb, a man. Hooked together they represent a relationship or marriage. Unique.
She tried to explain to me that when women don't work, marriages in Okinawa last. But now women are working, they are bringing money home and they are leaving their husbands. There must be deeper cultural reasons for this but the effects are very visible among the students. She pointed out at least two students in her homeroom class whose parents are separated, and one of them is a bright student but always gloomy.

Friday night, walking along the 58 with two good friends. It's 4 am and we meet two Okinawan women. We struck up a conversation. Turns out one of them is moving to South Carolina (or was it North) to be with her new American husband. The other is a single mother who works on one of the bases. She says she likes it enough, it's a decent job. She said, as a single mother, it's the best job on the island because it provides good pay and great benefits.
So there you are. It all rolls into one person. All issues of Okinawa that i thought about this weekend brought out in one conversation with a random stranger.

The weather is gorgeous and i have nothing to do at school, except study some Nihongo and read a Roshia no hon. Wish i could just go outside, though.

Oh, and as a side note. It is very difficult to get clear directions in Okinawa.
very very very very difficult. near impossible, actually.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

first audioblog

photo blog

listening to: Oi Va Voi
found them by mistake while downloading another British band, Crimea. Both are great. Check them out.

a good example of "engrish" fashion. shirts that prove that in Japan most english words are used in fashion just for "cool" factor and not at all for meaning. check out more photos i took of my students' primary source of English.

The orchids on display at the International Orchids Show in Motobu's Ocean Expo Park were magnificent. See more here

Chiye and i got to see a scene from an upcoming Okinawan movie being filmed in the village of Shioya. Residents of Ogimi, Shioya, Ie-jima, and Nago gathered to sing a song, Endo no Hana against the beautiful backdrop of Shioya Bay in Ogimi-son. It was truly one of the best experiences so far on the island.

an image i should have posted at the very beginning of my stay here. The vending machines are prevalent here...but the cigarette vending machines are still amusing to me. And it's curious that they are turned off after a certain hour in the evenings.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

human relations

on monday i found out that today, thursday, was going to be special. the 3rd graders are almost done with school and so the other two graders are throwing something of a going away party for them. the party involves playing games that are meant to build cooperation and communication among students. good idea, ne? oh, and i also found out that i was written into one of the teams.

so today, i am told to go to the gym around 1:50. mind you, i had no idea what kind of games these were meant to be, but i was prepared, i brought gym clothes; i lacked foresight and did not bring gym shoes (outside shoes are not permitted). so in my white socks, with my feet freezing, i stand on the periferee of a student body mess. the teachers don't seem to know what's going on. two guys are at the front, explaining something; i think they are meant to be leaders. the students split off into four groups, arranged not by classes, but randomly, it seems with all the grades intermixed. i am in the green group and i sit down and "chat" with some of the first grade girls.

we play two games: we pass the basketball in two different ways, and then some sort of a tag game. kids seem to be engaged, some are sitting by the wall and staring at their peers. but a handful are fully involved.

the main guy is upset. why? don't know. he gives a speeche. i can tell the kids are subdued by it, somewhat deflated even. all of a sudden, the 3rd grader girls decide to talk, they call all the 3rd graders over to the side (mind you the guy from Professional Adventures is still talking). all 3rd graders stand up and walk over to the side, sit in a cirlcle and start talking. well, the girls are talking, the boys in that class are just for show.

so, what's going on, i ponder. it's obvious that 3rd graders decided to disengage from the activities. why? all of a sudden i see 2nd graders attempting to break away, and 1st graders have formed two disjointed circles.
i walk over to the JTE, sometimes he's helpful. He tells me that the organizer/speaker/leader/PA dude was not happy that not all the students were engaged in the activities. He said that they should be having fun and they weren't. He didn't like that some students were not following his explicit directions not step outside certain lines. So he said that if students don't want to continue with the activity, they should have their leaders speak with the group and then tell him how to proceed. Brilliant! My JTE tells me that obviously 3rd graders have great "human relations" judging by the way they all got together so quickly. and then points to his own class (he is a homeroom teacher of 2-2) and tells me to notice how the girls have their own circle and boys are separate from them on the other side. His class, admittingly, does not have good "human relations." At this point most grades have somehow organized into circles, but kids are goofing around and obviously are not discussing whether they want to proceed with the Adventures exercise.
The teachers are everywhere but not anywhere near the students. Like my JTE, they are just standing around, observing the situation.

after 20 minutes of this, 3rd graders are obviously fed up. This is meant to be their going away present, and it's not hapenning. the other grades are being childlish and so they go over to talk with the dude about the situation. at this point the head teacher is involved and 2nd graders have chatted with some 3rd graders and are getting nearer a decision (the girls even invited the boys to be in their circle).

another 10 minutes go by. the students have been told to sit according to class. third graders are standing in line at the front. one of them speaks, to what effect, i know not. the dude walks in front of the lines of students sitting down and asks them (i think) whether they want to participate. guess what? all the students raise their hands. surprised?!? ha!

they split off back into the color teams. a couple of the 3rd grade girls are crying. they play games.

i had to leave after a while because too much Japanese speak in one day makes my brain hurt.

so. i'm a bit confused here. these students are taught via the teacher centered method. it's not just from being in English classes. I've seen it happen in other classes as well. The teacher talks, the students passively receive information. lecture after lecture after lecture and sometimes they make a salad.

so why is it that within the classroom the kids are not expected to engeneer their own education; but outside of it, the teachers are nowhere near what happens within the student body?
students lead their own activities; they decide on clubs, they create their own projects...yes, of course there is always a teacher to guide them, but just like it happened today, the students are first allowed to organize their own chaos.
and inevitably, there are only two or three students who show leadership qualities and are going to answer for the whole group...so not everyone is ever fully involved in the process.

i'm so confused. i will continue to observe this strange behavior. i know the group is what matters in this society--little is done in solitude and individually.
but why aren't students allowed then to guide their own education as well?
and i'm not saying that they will get to choose their subjects, or whether to study or not. no. i'm talking about student centered learning; it doesn't exist here--or at least i haven't seen it....

*big sigh*


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

wednesday chill

this will be short but sweet.

nice, huh?

things are good on this island of ours. I am starting to think that i may actually enjoy learning kanji more than learning to talk. It's fun figuring out that some kanji actually make sense. Or rather, it's that now i sometimes notice the kanji i've learned and how they fit together with the other kanji. For instance, Kelly lives in Kitanakagusuku, and this weekend her and i were happy to notice that we now know all three of the kanji (can't write the "gusuku" part, though, too difficult) and can discern that it probably means "castle in the north." ha!!

so in honor of Kelly, who took me to my first ever oil massage on the island and most deffinately not last, as it was near an hour and a half of bliss, and spent the Sunday going to numerous second hand shops and a hair salon, where we once again were pampered. She was also incredibly kind enough to bring up a purchase of mine that fitted near perfectly in her car when we shopped, but would not even consider squeezing into the backseat of my Cynos.

It's been too long without silly quizes on this site.


You Are Most Like Miranda!

While you've had your fair share of romance, men don't come first
Guys are a distant third to your friends and career.
And this independence *is* attractive to some men, in measured doses.
Remember that if you imagine the best outcome, it might just happen.

Romantic prediction: Someone from your past is waiting to reconnect...

But you'll have to think of him differently, if you want things to work.

Friday, February 03, 2006

the five senses

Hearing--right now the students are cleaning the school and i hear the brooms being pushed across the floor by two second grade girls. they are laughing.
yesterday, my ears were ringing with the sound of giggling from two other second grade girls. i have apparently become and unwitting supplier of "kakkoi" and "kawaii" celebreties to these girls. I noticed a photo of a some american kid on Kotono's desk two days ago. I asked who it was. She said, "Jesse McCartney"....through miming and broken english and japanese, i figured out that Jesse was a very popular, cool (kakkoi) and cute (kawaii) singer from America. i googled him in the office. Sure enough, there's an 18 year old star on the rise, and i couldn't care less. But the 2nd grade girls do. A pack of them (students never travel alone) came into the office, asking to see me ( i don't get that a lot)....and all gathered around the computer where i was just happened to be checking out Jesse's official website. Wow! the screams! the squeels! the giggles!! nonestop! in my ear! hillarious!!! i image.googled and found a bunch of photos of this young hunk, put them in Word and printed out a coule of copies. I made their day.
So yesterday i had to do the same for Eminem. At least he's been around for a while, so that i knew who he was and could hum one of his songs. Elina sensei is apparently cool. Fantastic!!

Taste--today there were whole chunks of chicken in the lunch soup. Not bad, lunch ladies. Not bad at all. We also had what is known as a kroket, from the French, croquet...and is a mush of potatoes, panko fried. Good stuff. I also got to eat some beans that came in a package with a picture of a very cute little red devil. It was explained to me that today people will throw some beans outside of their homes to ward off the evil spirits and to welcome the good ones. I believe the name for the cute, "chotto bad" devil is Oni. I was told that this is done because today is the day before the first day of spring, except it's not so i'm confused.
Hopefully, our local Okinawan expert can fill us in on what is hapenning today in Okinawa. The beans in the packet were nice and crunchy, and i was told to eat 28 of them at home (am 27 now, so one more to make sure i live to 28).

Sight--last night. walking along 58, with the ocean on my side. Complete darkness except when the bright lights of passing cars would light the way and create scary looking shadows in front of them.. I swear i saw a cheetah speed away in front of an uncoming car. i saw a group of high school students practice at the bat at Hentona high school. In the dark, under swaying bulbs, they stood in pairs and hit the ball over and over and over.
I wish i had such dedication when it came to kanji and studying.

ok...tired now. will write about the other two senses at some later time.

oh..and if you guessed "C" for the Simpson trivia, you are a winner!! i will be sending out gift packs of "snake bashing bats" sometime next week.