Monthly Archives: June 2016

A Short Rest Found; A Short Rest Lost

I’d make them practice more, but it’s probably too late.

Today was a slow start thanks to a number of sports events that cancelled all the regular junior high classes at the school were I work. Some students were out doing sports while the non-athlestes were at school enjoying movies and other distractions that didn’t involve me.

It was a nice break and gave me a chance to do some planning and save a little energy for the rest of June.

For some unknown reason, tomorrow is a regular schedule and Wednesday was listed as a partial schedule to accommodate the rest of the sports tournaments. I was hoping that tomorrow would be a tournament as it would give me an entire day off. On Wednesday I would lose two classes but have one class in the afternoon.

However, it’s probably for the best that the tournament was on Wednesday as it saved me a lot of potential heart break.

It turns out that the teams at the school where I work did so badly they will not be going to the second day of the tournaments. Because of this, they will be having regular classes. Since I have to go in anyway on Wednesday, losing that rest won’t be that big of a deal. Losing and entire day off, though, would be depressing at this point in the school year.

As it stands now, I’ll be able to put the extra classes to good us. I’ll have the students practice sports a lot more to get ready for the October version of the tournaments.

It’s too late to do anything for them now, but they still have a few months to get better.


Reviewing, Revising, and Rethinking Sundays

Thanks to the recent technological failure this site experienced (at least in Japan), I’m still two posts behind on where I should be in this blog. If I were on track this would be post 850 (or maybe 851). Either way it’s time to sit back and rethink a few things.

For a while I’ve been considering taking a day of rest from the regular posts. Sunday is the natural day to do this, especially as I’l be working on almost every Sunday from now until October.

The forced break was refreshing, but I also felt the pressure to produce the daily post. This was mostly out of habit but I took it as a positive sign.

On the other hand, even though I’m technically behind, I still like doing the daily posts and am glad that it’s all become automatic. That said, there’s a thin line between forcing yourself to do something and phoning in anything just to do something.

Because of that, I feel as if it’s time for some small changes. I can imagine Sunday being either a shorter post (under 300 words) or just some photos of some random something or other.

This will be especially true during the coming exam period when it’s best that I avoid computers as much as possible. I’ve also been pre-writing things a lot more, both by hand and on the website, but that has yet to become a habit.

Today will be the first short post. Next Sunday, we’ll see what happens.

Funny Noises That Should Cause Concern

I’m pretty sure I heard it happen but didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I probably thought something shifted and fell at the bottom of the pile. Then, today, I saw what actually happened.

Today was “tame the hoard” day and the goal was to tackle the pile of old laptop computers that has begun to stack up. I started with the oldest. Although it is desperately outdated, it has the best keyboard of any computer I own and because of that I’ve held on to it. I installed Linux on it to prevent the “XP is dead. XP is dead. The world is less safe because you are using XP.  XP is dead. You are killing the world” messages I kept getting.

Unfortunately, the flavor of Linux I installed (note to nerds: yes, I know it’s supposed to be “GNU/Linux” so there) didn’t play nice with my wifi and I decided to scrap the computer. (Although I may have to resurrect it temporarily. Long story.) I pulled out the memory and the hard drive and set the rest aside.

Then I took out my second oldest laptop and set it on the desk and was surprised when it wouldn’t sit flat. I thought I might have lost a rubber foot but then realized the battery pack had swollen as one of the batteries dies. I remember, not so long ago, hearing some funny noises in the variety room, but I thought it was just something falling, not a battery pack trying to explode. I removed the battery pack and am now trying to figure out what to do with it.  The devil over my left shoulder wants to put it in the sun for a few days to see what happens. The devil over my right shoulder suspects that might be a bad idea.

The last computer, a Samsung netbook a friend passed to me for free, is still working fine. At least it is for now.

The next problem is my desktop computer. It is also starting to show its age. It’s old school enough to have DVD drive and old enough that the drive only opens when it damned well feels like it and then it lectures about how when it was my age it didn’t have fancy-schmancy optical drives it had a cassette drive that took six weeks to load one simple game and it was happy to play that game. I felt embarrassed for it as I’m 49 and it will never actually reach my age. (Yes, that’s right, I spent the afternoon arguing with a senile computer. So what?)

The decision now is to repair or replace. The truth is the deciding factor isn’t the money, it’s the hassle.

The Fine Art of Staying Awake

As we reach the middle of June, it’s traditional that the main part of my job is staying awake.

Because June is a busy time at the school where I work, I often schedule projects that require the students to do most of the work while I pace around pretending to be attentive or I sit and work on personal projects.

The problem with the former is I end up drifting off while walking and just end up pacing back and forth, which is a waste of time. The problem with the latter is that it’s easy to get relaxed which means it’s easy to drift off to sleep.

The other problem is that eventually I have to sit and listen to the final projects. This starts out well but, at a certain point, the bad English and occasionally low voices leads to me slowly drifting off. I don’t fall asleep, I just go elsewhere. This often leads to puzzled looks when I miss the ending, ask them the change parts when they’ve already done so, or fail to take any notes and just assign a score based on the mood I’m in at the time.

(Note: If I’m in a bad mood I take that as subconscious proof that the speech was terrible even if I wasn’t consciously listening.)

Today’s problem was a little different: I didn’t actually care and neither did the students. My JHS 3’s were finishing and performing game shows. They had last class to write and today to practice and perform.

The problem is, there wasn’t much practice.

One group peppered their “game show” with facts that surprised one of their members. This meant, of course, that they hadn’t actually practiced and/or he was talking with a friend the entire time. I was more interested in his reaction than to their performance.

At the end of the term they get their Speech Contest assignments as summer homework. This leads to us hearing the same basic speech again and again and again.

That means that at the end of September. I’ll be pretending to be interested whilst trying to stay awake.

Ethical Dilemmas with S and R

As we reach the end of the term at the school where I work I find myself facing an ethical dilemma.

At the end of the term, those of us teaching junior high school first year classes will have a meeting to decide which students to send where. Right now the classes are divided only by number. However, after we finish with them, they will be divided into “S” classes, which are higher level and “R” classes which are lower level. After we finish, the “S” classes will have 20 students whilst the “R” classes have 14.

The ethical dilemma involves troublesome students who also happen to have good English. Do I play things honestly and keep the good students in the higher level class or do I find way to fail them and get them sent to the lower class?

Similarly, there’s also the dilemma with troublesome students who have poor English. Do I pump up the scores of students who’d otherwise stay in the lower level “R” classes and pass my problems onto others or do I write down the crappy score they’ve earned and keep them the rest of the year?

Thus far there are only a few students creating the dilemma. Two in the future “S” classes who are at the edge of “restless and filled with bored energy” and “future asshole”. Often, with the higher level classes, the influx of students from the other class changes the class dynamic for the better. (However, there’s always THAT class.)

With the lower level class, the influx of weaker students often changes the dynamic for the worse. The new students don’t like the new accent (which they can’t understand) and they feel compelled to test the new teacher’s limits.

Eventually, students in both classes will hit their puberty growth spurt and as their bodies grow their brains will shrink to teenage size. This makes them ready to be second year junior high school students, who are usually the worst students.

The trouble is, I’m not the only one making these decisions and we probably offset. Sigh.

Shock and Aw Really? Why?

I wish I could say it went downhill when my student saw the mascot from a distance and decided it had a penis on its face. Unfortunately, at least for him, the problems started early and a few students are suddenly realizing that things are getting serious.

In my high school second year class my students are working on their term projects. This is a three week/six class project that requires them to “invent” a product and write commercial for it. Starting next week we will begin filming the commercials, which will be shown in class. (Sort of. Long story.)

The students are in groups of three and are also required to develop some sort of visual aid to help them sell their “invention”. Students who don’t do the project will receive the lowest possible score for the term (a 1 out of  10). This means they will have to take the make up exam or risk failing the year.

Because of this rule, I always encourage students to choose their partners wisely. Unfortunately for one group, they chose poorly.

One student worked well the first day and then decided he was finished. He started playing something on his phone (which are allowed as dictionaries) and clearly wasn’t helping his other two partners work. At some point, he saw a mascot (a person in a cartoonish animal suit) off in the distance near the bus stop and decided the elephant trunk and small white tusks on the mascot’s face represented a penis. This led to much distraction.

Eventually, toward the end of class, I told him and his partners they’d earned a zero for the day. At this point the partners rebelled with “all of us?” and “why?” I referred them to the assignment sheet and the list of rules which explained that all partners would be punished for the actions, or non-actions, of their partners.

Next class the performances start and, potentially, people will have to redo their commercials or fail.

The record is four repeats. I suspect the group that failed today may set a new record.

The Ten, er Seven, er More, I Would Keep

For a while I’ve had an idea for a website called, in some form or another, “The Ten I Would Keep”.

The idea is to get people who tend to collect more things than they should to list the 10 items they would keep if they were forced to get rid of most of their collection. They would list the items and write a short blurb explaining why each was staying. (They’d also post pictures because free media.)

By doing so, my feeble theory goes, they would figure out the things they really liked and/or cared about and shed the rest.

The next goal would be to rank the ten they would keep in order to adopt a “one in one out” policy for the 10 that are left.

In my case, at least with pens, I’ve tried to reduce it to seven I would keep with three on the bubble. Then there’s, well, more on that later.

I started with a pen case that, if I arrange my pens correctly, can hold seven pens. The case is the Sinclair from the Atlanta-based Nock Co.

The “Sinclair Seven” are the pens I plan to carry around and use regularly. They are different kinds of pens with different colored inks and represent the seven pens I would keep if I had to get rid of all but seven.

Granted, to normal people, seven pens is a lot to carry. However, in a Japanese context, it’s not that many. (More on that in another post.)

I also carry a Nock Co. Lookout which holds the three pens that are on the bubble. If a new one comes in, one of those pens will go out. I don’t get rid of the one that goes out right away, though, as I may not like the new pen.

Where I cheat, though, as if what I just wrote isn’t a cheat, is that I’m running a low volume low margin ink resale business on the side. As such I feel compelled to test the inks so that I can offer swatches and writing samples for potential customers. Because of this, I have four pens that count as one pen because they are used as testing pens. This “one pen”, like the pen I use for marking exams, exists outside the “Ten I Would Keep”.

At least for now.



Waking Up to Rain and Rush

It is a truth universally acknowledged that getting out of bed on a rainy day is more difficult than getting out of bed on a sunny day.

Not only does the lack of sunlight keep you in sleep mode, but that white noise of rain fall helps keep you sleepy and comfortable and relaxed and (yawn). Add in the fact that it was cool and that I’d be leaving earlier than normal and that I wasn’t in the mood to arrive at school with soaked shoes and I seriously considered, for a few minutes, calling in sick.

Luckily, I didn’t.

Halfway through my first period class I took the odd step of actually checking the schedule for the rest of the term which is not something I normally do until mid June. (First shock: it’s already mid-June). When I did I realized that two of my classes (my first and second period classes on Monday) only had one class left after today. (Next week is a sports festival, probably. Long story.) I rushed the students through their final unit and scribbled a few notes about what to do on the last day.

Having one class remaining (probably) means I need to start thinking about review lessons and exam preparation for those students whilst at the same time thinking about making an exam for the grade I’m in charge of.

In this case, it should be noted, that “thinking about” means just that: “thinking”. No more and no less.

“Doing” will come later after a suitable period of denial and then panic.


They Were Found, Now Much is Lost

My trousers started buzzing right around noon but there wasn’t much I could do in front of students.

Eventually I was able to check the messages and discover that I had a mission.

Our oldest went to a concert in Shibuya last night and came home relatively late, prompting She Who Must Be Obeyed to fetch her from the station. This isn’t the first time this has happened.

My trousers were buzzing because somehow, in some way I don’t understand, our oldest realized she’d left her eye glasses at the concert hall. This apparently prompted frantic calls to the concert hall where, miracle of miracles, the glasses were discovered and I was contacted to see if I could go rescue them.

This meant, after five hours of teaching, I had to wander in the opposite direction of home and clean up someone else’s mistake.

(Note: the thought crossed my mind of making her come all the way down to Shibuya to fetch them herself but, without the supervision of SWMBO, sending our oldest to the center of youth culture and fashion in Japan would hardly be a punishment. Instead it would be an imposition on SWMBO. That thought was, therefore, a non-starter.)

I rescued the glasses, after some confusion as someone else had lost a pair, and got them home. I then had a short angry one-sided chat with our oldest that amounted to “No more concerts.” When I got the inevitable teary “why” I had my list ready of how here concerts were work for me and for her mother. I’ve escorted her and her friend to a concert and then waited to bring them home; we’ve gone to the station after dark to escort her and her friends safely home. That doesn’t even include helping look for lost things or bringing forgotten things after she’s left for school.

I expect at least one challenge to this. She better hope she doesn’t catch me after a work day though. I’m kind of hoping she does, though, just to see what happens.

Absolutely Positively Nothing

For various complicated reasons, all the girls were out of the house this morning leaving me by myself. I responded by doing absolutely positively nothing productive.

In my defense, I’m working tomorrow and having an empty house inspired me to sloth and relaxation when there was no one around to witness it.

(Note: For the record I have no problems with sloth and relaxation even when there are people around to witness it.)

I’ve written before how the introvert in me needs time to recharge every now and then and how those opportunities have been less frequent the past few years. My need for time by myself even stopped me from playing a game with my friends as that would involve donning headphones and linking up via the internet to have my lack of skill mocked whilst getting updated on the latest juicy gossip from Canada.

I did play the game, just on a different server. However, I played so badly that after a few matches I stopped to do something even less productive: watch other people play a game that  wasn’t Minecraft but still involved digging. Zombies were also involved.

Eventually our youngest returned and, having had the chance to recharge, I rallied enough productiveness to produce lunch. I then assigned our youngest to do the dishes whilst I returned to being less productive than one might hope.

However, with people around I stepped up my game and got a few things accomplished and a few other things written. I even prepared for a post that I ended up not writing. This actually puts me ahead of the game for at least a day.

Tomorrow I’ll be around lots of people but I’ll be being paid to be there. That’s a lot different. I’ll still need to recharge, but it’s a different kind of energy.