ParaParaJMo's Blog

August 26th, 2012
Anime Relations: JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken
Sorry for no new entries since last May. Just been busy and what not. But my life in Japan has been pretty adventerous and I do feel the need to share, but I am always exhausted.
Posted by ParaParaJMo | Aug 26, 2012 5:35 AM | 0 comments
May 13th, 2011
Well, I may not have gone on vacation during my Golden Week, but it was sure as hell quite a refresher. I didn't get out of the country. Hell, I didn't even leave Niigata prefecture. I just practiced and coached the boxing club at my Friday school, Niigata Kita (meaning north). Three boys from the team went to Hiroshima for tune-up fights. If I knew much sooner, I could of gone with them. I'll get into what happened there a little later. Anyway, since I don't have a gym to train at anymore, I just use the school's facilities. Since trains ran at a less frequent basis in comparison to Hiroshima and Tokyo, I'd take an early train just so I could do my own thing until the team arrives.

Since this is a high school sport, they train and compete by amateur rules. As opposed to 3 minute rounds, they are 2. So when I'm by myself training in the mornings, I just train for 3 minutes. Other rules are points are scored by how many punches you land as opposed to a 10 point must system. If three out of five judges ring a bell when a punch lands, it is one point. I really don't like the system. It's screwed up in the olympics as well. The amateur style is more technical and not as aggressive as it is in the pros. I could never compete in amateur boxing ever. Regardless, my experiences and being a sparring partner (better yet, a paid human punching bag) for prospects, journeymen, contenders, and champions and training with them has been a value asset to the team.

First, I want to talk about work last Friday. I'll admit I did have my frustrations during my last class. The first class went so-so. I felt I made my explanations and demonstrations too complex and time consuming, but my students got the picture. My next class I corrected all the mistakes I was making, but I felt there was something still missing. Despite that, it was still a very productive class in comparison to the first one. The last class, I was able to fit that final piece, but the kids just didn't listen. They would really talk over me and the Japanese Teacher of English. I was close to screaming "HOW DO I REACH THESE KEEEEEDS!!!??" at the top of my lungs.

Then when it was time to do the activity, they didn't know what to do. They asked us to explain it to them, and we told them we did. We had the class demonstrate it like 5 times and all that mumbo jumbo. Students would just chit-chat. Moments like that make me miss my old 8 year old student back in Hiroshima who used to cry all the time. Not because she sucked, but because she tried hard.

After class, these students just wanted to annoy me, so I had to go Chiaka Shinichi (the main character from an anime and TV drama series called "Nodame Cantabile") on their asses. Sadly, they got the reference way too much, and I think I made things worse. The Japanese teacher of English I was working with that period was like "whatever" attitude the whole time.

In my second class that day, I was relying on two boys from the boxing team who I know can and will respect me to get things working. And thankfully, it did. Being involved in a club at times does work. Just glad I found a school that has a boxing team for once and hope to stay here for awhile.

But in the end, I'm glad that my short but various experience are paying off. In order to I wouldn't say succeed, but to pretty much do the job day-by-day, you just have to go with the flow. Everybody might have expectations of things being systematic and organized, but changes can and will happen at the last second. This has been a bit more common in the jr. high and elementary, but in high school not so much in comparison, but can happen. But when things like that happen, always have like 5 back up plans. Thankfully, I haven't had to just yet.

But I'm sure in time, everything will work out, but since I've been here, time has been my best friend and worst enemy for a variety of reasons. I just really want things to just simply work out. I still got August 2013 left on my visa, so I got to take advantage of it while I still have it.

But back home, I'm glad things are working out. My cousin Robyn got married, and it was the birthday of an old friend, Brandon. Plus, Pacquiao dominated Mosley and America's best takes out bin Laden, so all of that factored into a highly spirited break for me.

Anyway, last Saturday, I checked out the footage of 3 members who went to Hiroshima. One member one his matches, and won by 30 second RSC (meaning Referee Stops Contest; equivalent to a TKO when the referee stops a fight). The truth is, this kid fought lousy competition. If this kid continues to fight crappy opponents, I'll corner his opponent and tell how how to beat him. His opponent in the fight he won by points just wouldn't fight. He just threw a couple of jabs and that was it. Plus, I heard that kid he fought was the captain of his team. I wonder how that kid became captain.

Unfortunately, one of the students lost by RSC. He was officially knocked down two times. In amateur boxing, getting badly rocked even when you don't touch the canvas can be counted as a knockdown. This kid was badly rocked twice in the second round, so the referee stopped the fight. The kid had no defense what-so-ever and just showed bad form. It really pissed me off. Looks like I have to work on keeping his right hand up whenever he throws his left.

Anyway, I'm back to work, but it's mostly mid-term preparations and mid-terms for now, but I'll have time to catch up on some personal and professional stuff.
Posted by ParaParaJMo | May 13, 2011 4:24 AM | 1 comments
May 3rd, 2011
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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdPP0TmqKiU



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 | 0 comments
April 23rd, 2011
So it's been over a year and a half since I've left Arizona for Kagawa; a little over a year since I've left Kagawa for Ehime; 11 months since I've left Ehime for Hiroshima; and 4 weeks since I've left Hiroshima for Niigata. Ever since I've made the decision to come back to Japan back in 2008, I knew that I wanted to stay here for maybe at least 3-5 years, and if my first city didn't work out, I'd move to a new city and see how life would work there, etc. So far, in less than 2 years, I've lived in 4 places in Japan. Did everything work out the first time? Well, yes and no. I thought things were working out back in Kagawa. Sure I had a few obstacles here and there, but I worked them out and a good portion of the teachers I worked with always praised me for my progress by January. I really loved my base school (which was right by my home) a lot and I was close to everybody there. By that time, I made a decision that I wanted to stay. But then, my weasel of a boss at the contract company I was working for at the time releases me and gives me no reason. I had this happen to another friend of mine who was working at Okayama at the time, but his circumstances were different, but still, the reasons they gave him were very trivial and worst of all, inconsistent. I had a lot of plans and this really screwed things up.



Thankfully, I had a friend in Ehime, and he hooked me up with a job. But I had some complications at the time that really messed up my plans for Golden Week, etc. Hell, all the crap I went through at the end of February until May really messed up my plans not just for Golden Week, but for summer vacation as well. By the middle of May, I got another job in Hiroshima. Hiroshima wasn't 100% the fresh start I needed, but I just did this job just to get back on my feet and just to be in Hiroshima again. After my home stay in Hroshima back in high school, I knew one day, I would be living there again, and hey, a boy hood dream of mine came true. I lived right by Itsukshima island and I made some great friends in Hiroshima that I will never forget. I can't exactly say I had a love/hate relationship with my job, but I just didn't feel the same appreciation for my efforts, contribution and accomplishments as I did back in Kagawa, even though I did get along with my co-workers at my junior high school.



I was teaching high school in Kagawa, but I was teaching elementary and junior high in Hiroshima. And I will tell you that being an Assistant Language Teacher at the junior high and senior high schools are very opposite experiences, while teaching elementary school, depending on the homeroom teacher's mood, I'm free to act like I'm Adam Sandler and/or Chris Farley. I'll admit it feels good to be paid a descent amount of money to be a human tape recorder for early stage teenagers and to be bored to death (and to be a 1990s SNL performer a couple times a week), but when attempting to be productive or contributing, I just didn't like being shot down about it, while it was more encouraged in the high schools. Even after a week and a half of teaching in high school again, I feel these differences. Plus, I'm really awful with 13 year and 14 year old kids.....or maybe they're awful with me....well, I don't know, but I'm much better with elementary and high school kids for some reason. But the circumstances of the education system in Japan, especially for junior high, I can understand why a significant percentage of ALTs are reduced to being human tape recorders.



Well, I'll take the time to give you a brief look into Japan's education system. Keep in mind I am only speaking based on my experiences. In Japan, the ALT world has this saying, "every situation is different," and hopefully, someone has a different experience than mine that can contribute something more distinct.But moving on, yes, Japan has one of the most respected and demanding education systems in the world, but it has it's not perfect and it sure has its problems. If anything, there are some things that I strongly disagree about their system which I think is counter productive for society and development. Compulsory education in Japan is first through ninth grade, and high school is actually not required but more than 90% attend, and 2% I believe actually drop out. Most high schools are prefecture-sanctioned as opposed to city-sanctioned like in America. To get into high school, students have to take entrance exams. The prefectures have their own exams, and private schools have their own. Some high schools are low, medium, and high level.



Junior high school curriculum is based on getting these students ready for the entrance exams, and us ALTs being born in a foreign country whether it'd be America, England, Canada, and/or Australia or wherever, we really are in no position to of course really teach English we idealistically want to at times. Because teachers are focused on getting these kids ready for exams, there is really no opportunity to teach English as a communication tool at that particular level. A Japanese student can understand the functions of English grammar, but really wouldn't know how to apply it. A lot of the system is revolved around just rote memorization for the sake of exams, but not on applying what they learned. I heard from a former supervisor of mine that the problem isn't exclusive to English, but in other subjects as well. Yes, it is very strange, but it is what it is. At my junior high in Hiroshima, I had very little opportunities to really do a cultural exchange in the lessons and it was mostly textbook reading and the teacher explaining vocabulary and grammar, and me just being a human tape recorder as I wrote before. I just mostly stood in the back and just took notes and I must admit, in some ways, it is now paying off.



Even though ALTs may have no opportunity to have students apply what they learn in class, the things you can do out of class is I wouldn't say limitless, but a lot more relaxed. You can talk between classes, before school, after school, and during club activities. In Japan, teachers are given great respect and even at the junior high level, lessons are teacher-center oriented so students are required to be obedient, and at most times, they are, though there will be a class clown now and then. As for the exams, it is of course Japanese based which I hope saying that explains it all because it would be too long and drawn out to explain the high school entrance system. But knowing Japanese, at times, I was given opportunity to familiarize myself with the exam system and help students get ready.



Even though I previously established that "every situation is different," I'm sure a huge amount of people in my line of work have had to experience this. There will be students who will not come to school for whatever reason. It could be mental health issues in relation to bullying, having trouble with studies, or is just a troubled student. With the students who don't come to school and just stay home, this is called being a "hikkikomori," someone who is just withdrawn from society altogether. This is not to be confused with the otaku phenomenon where they just stay home and play games on the computer or whatever. This is a serious issue and I just don't like how the Japanese handle it, but it is how their culture and society is that is part of the problem. In Japan, despite no matter how many times you may have seen the hit anime "Evangelion," people are discouraged from acting negatively such as talking about their personal problems. The purpose of this idea is to keep the work environment energetic and happy. Heck, in most Japanese songs you may hear, you rarely hear anything negative or about how difficult life is in certain neighborhoods, etc. Most songs in Japan are made to keep people positive hence these singing fad groups from Morning Musume to AKB48.



Moving on, in America, you will always have a co-worker tell you that they're getting a divorce and what not, but you don't do that in Japan, no matter how close you are. Even though Japanese co-workers go out and get drunk almost every night, even when a person is drunk, they shouldn't talk about their personal problems. If it happens, they get that person a taxi to go home in. The whole point is to keep things positive and going. I agree that's a very good thing, but everybody has their limit and I think in Japan, a lot of people have hit their limit. Thankfully, this has not happened to anyone close to me during my experience in Japan as of yet, but Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and only a small fraction of them ever seek any professional help. In Japan, they have some very bizarre ways of trying to discourage suicide by telling them of consequences. For example, if a person jumps in front of a train, then their family has to reimburse all the passengers on that train. If someone kills his or herself in their apartment, and people move out as a result of the suicide, then the family has to pay rent for those rooms until its filled. As oppose to telling them consequences, they need to find ways of helping these people who are really sick. Just don't leave them alone, or tell them that their families will be in a huge ass debt. Also, the thing is, it is also looked down upon to seek a psychologist in Japan. It's seen as a sign of weakness. In turn, some of these Japanese people will just seclude themselves from society. Just being cooped up in your home isn't going to do anything, it's just going to make it worse.

Sadly, there are a huge number of people like this, and I'm sure every ALT has had to have students of this particular nature for whatever reasons.



Then there are students who just simply play hooky (or was it hookie?). In Japan, through the cultural idea of "giri ninjo," meaning duty and obligation, moral education is part of the curriculum. Even though Japan's system is based on the exams, moral education is also part of getting students ready for society as well. As a part of this idea, if a minor gets in trouble with the law, say for example, they were stealing, it is not the parent that is contacted, it is usually the school that is responsible. At one of my previous schools, a student was caught stealing at a SATY department chain store near the station by the school, and the police had to have a meeting with the teachers about the situation. If a minor commits a crime in America, I know the school will be informed about it, but they of course have no legal obligation to the student outside the school. Well, schools in Japan, it is not legal obligation, but more of a culture and society obligation because of "giri ninjo." Since I am a contract worker with the schools, I do not have to participate in this part of the system, but an ex-ALT I met during an orientation for my home stay when I was in high school had to pick up students at a police station at 2am.



But where does this lead to now that I've gone on a large tangent so you can get an understanding of the context to my entry? Well, here's the thing, from first to ninth grade in Japan, you can't hold a kid back a grade. When I was in jr. high, if you failed JUST ONE class, you'd have to repeat the entire grade. In Japan, it's not like that. A hikkikomori who doesn't participate and a kid who plays hooky for 95% of the year, and a kid who could fail EVERY class he or she takes will graduate and move on regardless. A part of this is of course due to culture and society differences. Japan is a group based society and it is not as multi-ethnic and religious as America. 2% of the population is foreigners and a huge fraction of those foreigners are Chinese and Koreans. The student has to be part of the group and can't be alienated or whatever. The group has to be united, etc. Not only is it a cultural thing, it's also a constitutional thing as well. Kids in Japan have a right to an education and all that which is a good thing, but I just feel the way it is, it's very abused like a red headed step-child.



Of course the media portrays Japan to the west as having some of the best students in the world, but being here first hand teaching high school, I see the problems of this system at the compulsory level carried onto the (optional) high school level in Japan. A good portion of the high schools I'm now teaching in Niigata are not at the level you see in the media. I find myself teaching things they should have learned in junior high. Heck, I'm having to teach them things I could teach elementary students. For example, a lot of my students couldn't understand the word "favorite." This is a word that is heavily taught I believe in 8th grade English classes in Japan in accordance to my copy of my notes, and the textbook I used. If anything, that word should be in their entrance exams. I just feel if they did away with this automatic grade promotion and graduation regardless of performance and attendance, I think the levels between high schools in Japan would be more equal. I don't know, but I just really don't like the idea of graduating from junior high school without having to attend a single day of class, or bombing every subject. As for those kids, as I said, will go on to high school, but low level public or private schools. Then again, I know I am living in a different country and a different culture, in the end, you can take me off America, but you can't take America off of me.



Even though my current students may not make it to Tokyo University, I of course still care about them and they are still nice, friendly, and talkative. My Friday school is actually one of the lowest level schools in Niigata city, but I still love those kids. It has been easy for me to transition there compared to the other schools because it has a boxing team and I practice with them when I'm there and on weekends. They really complain about my defense based style and my reliance on my jab way too much. I told them, it's just the way I fight and I'm not suited to the brawling nature that the Japanese are trained in. Plus, I told them a lot of American champions are defense based like Winky Wright, James Toney, Pernell Whitaker, and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. I even show them videos of these guys on my iPod touch and they don't even buy why I do that even though I humiliate their captain with my counter punching and defense. Plus, we do a lot of BJJ rolling so I can't complain. I do a lot of 10th Planet moves on these kids and they give this WTF reaction on their faces. It's a lot of fun.



With the 11th and 12th graders on the team, I'm just maus boxing or sparring with them, and with the 10th graders, I'm teaching them the basics. I also teach the kids not to telegraph punches with this trick I saw in a video with Michael Jai White and Kimbo Slice. I feel by getting involved in this way, despite their academic abilities, an ALT can get the respect of the students and other teachers. Plus, the kids like it that I've met a world champion, Ioka Kazuto, WBC minimumweight champion, and that I sparred with him and that I've met MMA fighters like Hermes Franca, etc. So, I think things are ok.



And outside of Friday, I'm at 3 other schools for the rest of the week. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I'm at a commercial high school which is down the street from my apartment. On Tuesdays, I'm at another school near my home, and on Thursday, I have to take a train to that school. So its pretty demanding that I'm teaching at my best estimate, maybe over 1000 students. It is demanding, but I wouldn't say it's a cake walk, but if you really enjoy it, it is easy to overcome the obstacles and very productive.
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August 23rd, 2009
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August 21st, 2009
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