Thursday, June 11, 2015

What do you expect?

Last week, I was taking a break and talking with my co-worker, let's call her Mary. We were discussing all of you! Well, kind of. I was talking to her about how I really want to get back into writing, but I wanted to write about useful or actually interesting topics. (Most of the time anyways.)

During this discussion I hit upon an idea that has been bugging me for months in one way or another. That idea is, "What do JTEs expect from ALTs?" This question really hits home for new ALTs, especially in their first days, or even weeks. We have absolutely no idea what they expect!

In fact, we have so little clue what people expect us to be doing that I'm willing to bet that many people spent their first day or even week as an ALT much the same as I did. That is to say, sitting rigid at our desk without a clue what we’re supposed to be doing as we go slowly insane watching the hours tick by. This lasted two days for me. The next step was, “Well, I guess this IS my desk. So, I’m going to find out what’s in it.”
Actually knowing what we are supposed to be doing didn’t come until a few weeks in when the teachers finally knew the fall schedule and left us with directions to come up with X number of lesson plans for the first week. Leaving many of us, once again, in the dark as we had no clue what planning a lesson entailed.

For most of the first month to two, these were the biggest questions.
1. What am I supposed to be doing?
2. What do my JTEs expect me to be doing?
3. How do I plan a lesson!?!

Well, I’m not going to be answering these questions now. (Had you fooled, didn’t I?) However, these are the questions I am going to attempt to answer in my following posts. While number 1 will be mostly advice from myself, I am currently attempting to gather data from JTEs around Japan so that I can tell you what the JTEs expect, in their words. This is no small feat and I am requesting the aid of ALTs around Japan at the moment. So, we’ll see how this goes. If nothing else, I’ll be able to give you all the advice from the JTEs at my own school. As for question three, well, there are many people who are much more educated than myself, but I’ll try to give you a few pointers for your first lessons as well as a few resources you can check out.

That’s all for now folks! See you around next time!

Monday, June 1, 2015

I'm aliiivvveee (sort of)

Hello again one and all. I bring you joyous news! I’M ALLIIIIVVVEEEEEEE.

Well. Sort of.

If you all could kindly recall, the day before my birthday (otherwise known as April 13th or “The day that shall not be mentioned”) I dislocated my knee during club activities here at Serenity. I then proceeded to two weeks in seclusion bed rest where I went entirely crazy and thought I’d never see the light again had cabin fever. 

A lot has happened since then and, at the same time, a lot has not. Just two days after bed rest ended, Golden Week began. Some of you might remember this from way back, but Golden Week is roughly a week long string of holidays near the beginning of May in Japan. Sometimes it’s less than a week, sometimes it’s a three day weekend followed by a 4 day weekend, and some, glorious, years it is a full week off. Why so different every year? Well, the dates aren’t fixed for these holidays.

What happens during those extra golden weeks is there’s usually a holiday, followed by a non-holiday, followed by a holiday. Sounds like a nightmare, right? Day on, day off, day on, day off… Japanese law states that any calendar day which has a holiday both leading and following it becomes a holiday in and of itself. Pretty cool, huh? Also, if a holiday falls on a Sunday then Monday becomes a holiday as well. I love Japan sometimes.

Anyways, enough education! Time for the fun stuff! I went to Tokyo!!! (Illaura, how did you go to Tokyo in that cast?) Well, I’ll tell you. Wheelchair fuunnnnnnnnn!! Well, not so much. I rented a wheelchair for my trip up. I was NOT missing out on my game group and, come hell or high water, I was NOT going to miss the Taylor Swift concert. So, with the help of my friend Cheeze (her nickname) and numerous passerby and train station staff, I went to Tokyo where I eventually made it to Tokyo Dome. Cool thing about going into the Tokyo Dome was I got to go in through the VIP entrance (because that’s where the elevator is). Not so cool thing was, due to the lighting setup, they moved the wheelchair area. Meaning I was wheeled up the STEEPEST RAMP EVER onto a box that was a good 3-3.5 feet tall. And then they took the ramp away until the very end.  Otherwise, the concert was a total BLAST and we all had cool lightup bracelets.

Golden Week over I came home, hunkered back down to work and my severely reduced workload (they cut 10 of my 15 teaching hours for now). You’d think this would have made things easier (and it did, IMMENSELY), but I was coming back into the game just two weeks before midterms. Schedules were behind (as happens when you teach) and I had NO IDEA what my students were struggling with, their abilities, etc. So it was one massive catch up game doubled with “You have nothing planned for after the midterm because you hurt yourself like a giant dork.”

So, I’ve been doing this thing called 自転車操業 (Jitensha Sougyou), or, basically, work, work, work, work, constant work. As it was explained to me, 自転車操業 is like your work is a bike that you hop on and never get off, you’re just CONSTANTLY working and trying to play catch up. So yeah. I hate that, and finally, I’ve finished the next 6 weeks or so worth of lesson plans. I’m going to give myself a week as a breather and start planning the fall term. I want to have (for the most part) my lessons charted out and my worksheets made for my conversation classes all the way up through April during this summer so I can get off that work bike and hop on my study bike.

Next comes the part where I’m ALLIIIVVVEEEE AT LAST!!!!

Two weeks I got out of the cast!! Yippeee!!!! But, still couldn’t really walk yet. Or really, anything. Last week I started going to rehabilitation and, by this past weekend, I was starting to walk again. WITH ONLY ONE CRUTCH. Yes. That did need capitals. Life is a lot more pleasant now, but I’ve still got a long road ahead of me. At least I’m not in the wheelchair anymore though! Graduated from it last week.

I even went to a festival last weekend. The (ほらい橋ぼんぼり祭り) Horai Bridge Lantern Festival in Shimada, Shizuoka. I was mostly just excited to be outside on a Saturday though. Outside AND not doing work stuff. Yippeee!! I even put up some of my pictures on my other blog ( On Being An Extra ).
So yes, I am alive. Sort of. For the time being. I’m sure to die again soon enough though as I’m planning on taking both a Japanese course (to review before I study for the N2) and a TEFL certification course beginning this fall.

I hope I can bring you guys more interesting updates (and have a more solid leg again) soon!