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ParaParaJMo's Blog

May 3, 2011 1:28 AM
Well, I had my second full week of work, and I had Friday off, and will have Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday off due to Golden Week, or as I call it in this case, Three Golden Days since I got Tuesday-Thursday off which I think if a little messed up to be honest. But what will I be doing during those days off? I ain't going anywhere. Just going to stay in Niigata, and I will be going to Niigata Kita High School's boxing practices on Tuesday and Wednesday to see what I can do to make these kids into chicken salad, hah (but more on that later)!

Anyway, I teach at 4 schools, and I have only been to my Tuesday and Thursday schools 2 times already, and I won't be going to my Tuesday school again until the 24th. Of course two days from now, I have the day off, and the week after, is preparation for mid-terms, and the week after is mid-terms itself. So what do I do? I go to my "base school," Shibata Shogyo (Commercial) High School where I just chill (aka when I'm supposed to be preparing stuff, but I have already prepared most of my stuff until July). And yes, at my Tuesday and Thursday schools, I am still doing my self-introduction lesson. For that, I'm doing is a bingo game. I have these questions and there are 3 answers, and the kids pick whatever think is the right answer and write it in a random bingo box. Very rarely do kids get bingo. Hell, even the teachers who I let play can't get bingo either, and the fact that I'm playing both "maru" (circle for correct) and "batsu" (X for wrong) bingo makes it more interesting and fun. Well, it's not that they don't get bingo, they get the "batsu bingo." My questions are "What's my name? A. Justin B. Johnny C. Jack; Where am I from? A. America B. Australia C. Canada, What's my favorite sport? A. Boxing B. Soccer C. Poker," etc. It turned out to be a lot of fun. There were some classes that thought I was from Australia and there were others that thought I was from Canada, so I got a kick out of it. One of my questions is also "What's my favorite Japanese band? A. Dreams Come True B. L'Arc~en~ciel C. AKB48," and if you live in Japan, you know that AKB48 is the biggest group right now, and most students actually believed it was AKB48 and were also shocked to know that I was a fan of L'arc and that I knew a lot about their music and the controversy with their drummer back in 1997.

Also, I showed pictures of my family, my trips around the world, my sketchbook of fan art (I have Yuu Yuu Hakusho in it, and most of the kids couldn't recognize Yusuke. Am I really that old?), and all that so it's very easy to connect with everybody at the schools. As I said in my last entry, I have lived in 4 cities in less than 2 years around the country and my co-workers at the school joke that I know more about Japan than them. Most of them have never been to Shikoku where I stayed when I first came here, and some of them have never been to Hiroshima. When Japanese people tell me they've never been to this place where I've been, it just makes me feel more blessed with the opportunities I have now. Hell, when I told my co-workers in Hiroshima that I was moving to Niigata, all of them told me that they've never been there and all they told me is that it has a heavy duty reputation for snow. Thankfully, by the time I got here just about a month ago, the snow has melted, but it's still pretty cold for a May 1st by my personal standards (being from Arizona and all where it's 35 degrees Celsius by mid-March).

I came up to Niigata because I wanted to try a new place and thought it would be a great time to start over after everything that happened last year after Kagawa (had a lot of crap in Matsuyama, but I felt things were going good in Hiroshima, but not in the direction I needed it to go professionally in the long run). So far, I've had nothing but a great and welcoming time, and I think I've made the most of it. But back to my self-introduction lesson for a second, one of the teachers asked me in front of the class at my Friday school (Niigata Kita) why I would come to Niigata since it is next to Fukushima, where the plant is, and being at-risk exposed to radiation. I told her before I could answer to the students, my answering would be too difficult for the students (well, difficult in expressing it philosophically). She said it was ok and that she'd translate so I could express it with that complexity (I could have answered in Japanese myself just to let you know, but I'm discouraged from my parent company and the school staff from using Japanese during lessons). Well, first off, I'm honestly not concerned about the radiation. There are scientific reports out there that I've posted repeatedly on my facebook profile that the radiation isn't as bad as people are making it out to be. Plus, there are the mountains that separate Niigata and Fukushima so that could keep us safe. And last, here is my main reason. I could have gone somewhere else and died in a very $#*tty way, and I could have died without have the opportunity of being in Niigata with the good times I'm having so far. I also said that it's much better than being in the wars in the middle east and getting shot at and blown up, so I got nothing to worry about in comparison to that. The teacher thought that was a good point and after translating to the students, everyone actually clapped at my answer.

Then at my Tuesday school in the English staff room (in most Japanese high schools, departments get their own offices), my supervisor at that school, asked me the same question in front of the staff at that room. I gave them the same answer, and plus, I added something new to it that I felt would be a bad influence to Japanese kids by their cultural standards, and that in the end, I quoted lyrics from Bon Jovi's "It's My Life." And that "it's my life, it's now or never, I ain't gonna live forever I just wanna live while I alive," etc. All the teachers got the reference and thought it was quite an American way at looking at things. I didn't exactly give them my life story, but I just told them I had this bad experience while in Matsuyama (didn't tell them what happened, just told them it was a bad experience) and it just changed my view on things and what I got out of it was that it's my life and it's mine to live however I want it in whatever productive way I can. I just like being in control of my life.

Even though a good majority of my co-workers in Japan have been teachers for 10-20 years of exclusively teaching high school, as opposed to my 2 3/4 years of teaching all grade levels, they find my experiences to still be unique and valuable to them. I'm sure my buddy Jeff can vouch for that. I'll be honest, coming into a high school teaching position with that experience was more valuable that I could imagine. Teaching all levels are demanding, but they are all demanding in different ways and in turn, distinctively rewarding, but all the stems of the problems are the same: motivation. I never considered myself a great motivator, but all I just had to do was find out ways to make my lessons fun and interesting. It's just something I can't explain, I just did a lot of experimenting and it just turned out to be a success. At the elementary, I just acted like Adam Sandler as he was in Billy Madison and Chris Farley as himself with his crazy reactions. During lunch with the first graders at my Wednesday school in Hiroshima, this girl was trying to start a gibberish contest with me for all I know, and I just did what Billy Madison did to Eric at the dinner table and the kids and their teacher got a kick out of it.

Of course I can't exactly do that in high school, so I was still my teenage self. Into anime, the jpop at that time (like SPEED, Morning Musume, Suzuki Ami, Folder 5, etc.), and the games of that time, etc. I let the kids know I like the same music as them and that I like to play games at the arcade. I also tell them of my home stay in Hiroshima so the students and teachers know that I have an understanding of their trials and tribulations of being a Japanese high school student....and the schools girls are still the same except without the loose socks which were a big hit when I was in high school in Japan. Three of the teachers I work with at my Tuesday school are around my age (and chou bijin if you know what that term means) and when I showed the students my sketchbook of my manga/anime fan art, they were also surprised to see that I was into it as well and that I was a good artist. Plus, most of my drawings are of Dragon Ball and YYH, and two of the teachers were also fans of Yuu Yuu Hakusho. If you want to know the picture I'm talking about, go to my fan art gallery on my profile and it's the picture of Yusuke, the boy in the gakuran/traditional school uniform.

SK-Sensei (not going to use real names here directly), one of the teachers was a Dragon Ball fan. She has a pen of Dragon Ball and at the top, has the 4 star ball that Gokuu possessed. Actually, the first class we were teaching together was actually her first time team teaching. This is her second year teaching. She admitted that she was very nervous. I'm not sure if I was being insensitive to her, but I had to find some way to make her relax. I told her about my times of teaching in elementary back in Hiroshima, and that at this second grade class I taught at my Tuesday school, I had this student (we'll call her M2-chan) who would cry 3/5 times because she had difficulty trying to say a word. I told her that every time I went to that class, I was always worried about that girl, and since the class we were teaching were full of 17 year old boys with one 17 year old girl, in comparison to what I experienced, it was nothing to worry about. Plus, my first grade class at that school at the time was full of little girls and I told her how I felt awkward about that and SK-sensei laughed about it and thought compared to what who we were going to teach, it wasn't that bad, in the end, we just did our things and it worked out.

In another class at this same school, I worked with another teacher (I'll call her Athena-sensei, in reference to a character from King of Fighters series) who i think is younger than me. When I show kids that I can draw, I usually show that picture of Yusuke since it's one of my personal proud ones. In this class, some of the students said they didn't know who it was and it made me and this teacher really felt like we were old since Yuu Yuu Hakusho is like a classic to us. To an American, it's like not knowing who the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are. Which is a total bummer as Michaelangelo would say LOL. After I finished English club that day, that same teacher left a note on my desk saying she had a good time in class and drew hearts, XOXOs, and wrote her phone mail on it. Did I just hook up that instantly or something? If I were going to pick up a girl, I'd might as well try the old Chris Farley orange peel trick. I do get the usual ALT question from students (and even from teachers) if I'm married or if I am seeing anybody special, but ALT companies will discourage ALTs from directly answering that question. I answer honestly and say stuff like "hey, i just moved here, think I'd have one already," and all that. But knowing my lifestyle where I've been moving around 3 times in less than 2 years, I just can't have a relationship in my life.

But anyway, what shocks me is that none of my schools have the gakuran or sailor uniforms. For the longest time, thanks to watching Sailor Moon in my last 2 years of elementary, my impressions of Japanese uniforms were those styles of uniforms as portrayed. When I went to Hiroshima 10 years ago, that was the kind of school I went to. When I taught in Ibaraki 5 years ago, that was the uniforms of the school I taught at. In Kagawa, I taught at a school that had that style (though one other school used blazers, and at another school, the girls were a uniform like you see in Ranma 1/2). In Hiroshima, I taught at a school that used blazers but I still saw the gakuran and sailor uniforms around. But here in Niigata, I have not seen those uniforms ANYWHERE!!! It's all the blazers. Don't misunderstand, but it's just my conception since childhood has had a major shift. It's just strange to me NOT to see gakurans or sailor uniforms. To me, those uniforms represented Japan's youth since I was 10, and to not see that is just a bizarre kind of eye opener.

And yesterday, I went to Niigata Kita to train the boxing team. I was helping the freshman students for the most part, and sparred with a couple of juniors when one of them stepped out since he hurt his hand a little bit. For a little bit, we had to pull the freshman aside to another room to help on their jabs, one-twos, and parrying them. Since all of them are right-handed, I had to assume a right-handed stance. Judging from that sentence, you can easily make the conclusion that I'm left-handed and fight in the southpaw stance in which my right side faces forward (examples: Rocky Balboa, Manny Pacquiao, Antonio Tarver, Zab Judah). I'm used to parrying jabs with my right hand as my front hand and I had to parry with my right hand as my back hand and I'll admit, it was hard for me to adjust when teaching these kids. Back in my old gym in Sakaide, I was helping a 9 year old boy and he fought as a southpaw so it was easy to teach him. Plus, standing in a right-handed stance really changes your zones and really changes perceptions and all that. I got caught with a few punches since I wasn't used to seeing punches from that angle and catching punches. To me, it was doing everything the opposite, but in time I caught on and was able to properly help the students.

Also, teaching them footwork. Some kids are doing ok, but a few kids have an awful center of gravity. While shifting, they don't keep their weight/body centered, so I really had to point that out a lot. Some kids caught on quickly, some still need progress. Eventually, the main coach took over and had to sub in for a sparring partner. I'll admit it's pretty cool to hit a student under these conditions =P. But I can go back to fighting in my southpaw stance and use my Winky Wright style of defense and jab. I'll admit it does piss people off on the team since it's too defensive....which is the point... But hey, Winky has had to put up with the same criticism and he became the undisputed champion at 154. I can't fight offensive. I don't know why. I suppose my tae kwon do background where it's defense/counter based has a lot of influence in it. Plus, the only time I can put power into my punches is when I counter and that's when people get pissed off at me in boxing. The Japanese really do emphasize on offense (in a Freddie Roach way of course, hell, maybe even more extreme than Freddie Roach), but offense just isn't me. As long as I'm controlling the pace, that's what matters. Plus, I showed videos of Mayweather and Wright and Toney of how defense is important and they are slowly coming on. But the thing that got me respect as a boxing coach is from this video. I pulled this on the coach.

Watch this video. You'll get a laugh if you can imagine me teaching the coach this stuff. Thanks to my brother Derrick for showing me this last winter break.

After that, we went out separate ways. I rode on the train with some of the students and told them about how I got into boxing and MMA and all the boxers and MMA fighters I trained with over the years. I showed them my pictures with Ioka Kazuto, Kuroki Yasutaka, Inoue Yo, Jamie Varner, Ryan Bader, Aaron Simpson, Hermes Franca, and all that got me more credibility and coolness factor. Then on the train, the last person to leave is a girl I'll call Miaka-chan, who is one of the assistants to the boxing team. As for why I call her Miaka, I honestly don't remember her name, but she looks a lot like Miaka from a shoujo series called Fushigi Yuugi.

Also, 4 of the members are going to Hiroshima for Golden Week for some tune up fights. I was talking to the head coach about it, and I told him that I used to live there and all that. If I knew about this sooner, I would have gone. Miaka-chan over heard my conversation but missed the part about me mentioning that I used to live there. But damn, does this girl get personal. But I'll leave it at that. As for my Golden Week, I'm staying in Niigata and will be helping the boxing team at Niigata Kita.
Posted by ParaParaJMo | May 3, 2011 1:28 AM | Add a comment