Martin In Japan

Our Man In Japan

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pancake Day!!

Last night Debs and Keiko came round for a coffee and a chinwag about my trip home. We got talking about plans for Easter and Debs then remembered that it was Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) and said how nice it would be to have pancakes. Then I remembered that I had milk, eggs and flour so I made some! I didn't have lemon juice, but I did have sugar and Golden Syrup for toppings.

I thought I overcooked them a little, but Debs said they were lovely. Keiko liked them too, especially with Golden Syrup.

So with our bellies full, it was time to decide what to give up for lent. Debs said she's going to give up alcohol. I'm not religious, but I like the idea of giving something up for a period of time, if only to prove to myself I still have self-control. I might also realise that I'm a lot healthier without what I give up. But what should I give up?

Any ideas?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Bigger might not mean better

The trip home was great. The wedding was lovely. Th eweather was great all day, everyone, especially Lauryn (the bride), looked great and surprisingly Will scrubbed up well. I'll go into more detail about teh wedding when I sort out the photos (so expect it sometime in August) but I should say that it was great to be back with my mates at home. I love the way that even when we're off doing our own thing for ages, when we get back together it's like we've never been apart. And cheers to Matt's mum for putting us up during teh wedding weekend.

The rest of the week I was in Hull with my family. We had a postponed Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, which was lovely. My mum had left the Christmas decorations up so we had presents under the tree too. I got a bunch of new DVDs and CDs to keep me entertained in Japan.

We also had meal out for my birthday. We did try to go to Waggoners, the steak house pub near my Mum's, but when we arrived we found it had new management and had been changed into a Chinese restaurant. I was gutted, especially since I was looking forward to my 32oz steak. Instead, we drove out to New Ellerby to the Railway Inn and had a steak there. Back home, I was given more presents for my birthday.

So with Christmas presents and birthday presents and omiyage for teachers and friends, it wasn't surprising that my case was overweight. But at check-in they let it through. I've also put on a bit of extra weight after binge eating on British food for a week (pies, steaks, fish and chips, beer, biscuits etc etc). I guess I'll be heading to the gym more often in the evenings, especially if the snow condition doesn't improve

Back in Japan, back at work

My second day at school after my quick trip home for Will and Lauryn's wedding. I have a bit of jet lag, but I'm lucky since both schools have exams all week and I don't to teach. The end of semester is coming soon too, so the most pressing responsibilty at work I have is to prepare a bonus, non-textbook lesson for the students to do after they've had the results of their exams handed back.
I guess I should also put some time into arranging extra cirricular stuff for the students. I already have a new English Board on the way ("Martin's Second trip back to England") but I've also been thinking of starting some kind of monthly or weekly journal. The idea would be that I write articles in English, distribute copies to the homerooms and invite students to contribute to the next edition. It's a perfect time to experiment with this kind of thing. I can write the first edition while the students takes tests. Then after the tests, students might find time to contribute to the next issue. If I get enough submissions, make a new issue and continue at the start of next year, ready for a fresh set of students to pick it up and, hopefully, contribute.

At least it'll keep my mind of the recent lack of snow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Interview tests

Today I finished the last of the interview tests at Tsunan. We usually have them in the middle and at the end of every semester and they're used to evaluate the students' conversation ability.

The setup is like this. Insetad of a normal class, the students come one by one into the adjacent teachers room. There are three chairs; two facing each other (one for the student and one for me), and one a little further behind (for the teacher). The students have one minute to have three small conversations with me, based on the chapters taught in the previous weeks. I evaluate how well they can communicate (ie, even if they don;t use correct English, how well can I understand them), the teacher evaluates how close they come to the model dialogue. Before the test, the students are given the model dialogue to memorise. To prevent the test being a simple recitation exercise, the conversations are designed to have 'multiple endings'. That is, at some points where the students can say anything, eg "I'd like to buy xxx", they have to choose a card that tells them what to say, eg a picture of four apples.

Eventhough teh model dialogue is the same for each student, the interest comes from unique one-on-one situation and seeing more of the each student's presonality than they normally reveal.
The genki students who know their English are confident in the interview, but less likely to clown around when their mates can't see them. It's always a surprise to see how much these students have picked up when hardly seem to pay attention in lessons.
There are also the genki students who didn't pay attention between chats and who didn't study for the test. They will go quiet during the interview as they frantically try to remember what was on the sheet given to them.
The really quiet students are amazing to see. When their classmates can;t see them, they spark into life! Their voices become louder and clearer and, if you're quick, you can catch a smile to themselves when they've realised they've done well.

Anyway, that's them done for this term and for this year and maybe for good. I only do interview tests at Tsunan and next school yesr(after April) Tsunan High School will become a combined JHS and SHS. The new scholl will not enrol any new first year SHS students and will have no third year commercial students, so at the moment it looks like I won't be needed to teach there next year. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Website woes

One of the annoying things of being me is that I will look at my site and think "it's okay, but not as good as that one". And it's not the look or the design that get's me thinking about this, it's content. I see lots of other sites regularly and they majically have new content everytime I visit. Then I look at mine and see that the blog hasn't been updated for days and the photos are weeks if not months old. The worst thing is, I only have myself to blame. It's my site and my responsibility to update it. Even though I know this, I still manage to find other things to do with my time than update my site (snowboarding, climbing, chores etc etc).

Does anyone have any advice to help me encourage and organise myself?

Going home again!!

I've been really distracted recently, and for once it's not because of snowboarding. This Friday I'll be flying back to the UK for one week to see my friends' wedding. All week I've been thinking about how to get to Tokyo then Narita, what I need to take home, what I'll do at home etc etc. I always underestimate the amount of planning a trip takes and I also underestimate how much I faff and freeze, in effect doubling the time needed. But I think I've nearly cracked. In fact, I will pack tonight and then, hopefully, that will be all I need to do until I step on the train from Tokamachi to Tokyo. Maybe tomorrow I can be less distracted.

To be honest, my work hasn't been affected. The lesson plan I'm doing at Toka is a good plan was made before I started faffing; ie it's not a half arsed effort. At Tsunan this week, we're doing interview tests which require no preparation on my part; I just have to have the same conversation 60 times in two days. It can be more fun than it sounds.

If anything, my blogging and photo posting has suffered twice as much with the twin distractions of trip-planning and snowboarding (I must tell you about the weekend in Nozawa Onsen!!). Sorry!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

While I'm updating...

I found this wickidy-wickidy-wicked advert on the web. Enjoy!

Monday, February 06, 2006

More Cultural Exchange via blogging

I've added two more blogs to the ever expanding Blog Browser:

The first is from our darling Natasha who is based in, well, at the moment Niitsu but that could change again in August (hope it doesn't!).

The second is from a couple who were JETs in Shibata a few years ago. Laura and Ryan sound like a lovely couple and are based in Canada. Maybe they could give us a few hints about life after JET

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