The school year is almost over

ALL elementary schools plant pansies in winter to bloom in March for graduation ceremonies
ALL elementary schools plant pansies in winter to bloom in March for graduation ceremonies

School ends in late March here, so for me that means I had my last school visit of the year last Monday and I will be sitting in the office until at least April 20th. I have a few tasks to take care of, writing year-end reports (that no one looks at) and pulling together some materials for the next school term. It is so disheartening to work for an organization that has no interest in the work I do, as long as I show up and don’t cause trouble. I show up every day and they rarely say anything  beyond the morning greetings, never ask what I am working on,  show no interest when I show them what I am working on,  and have conversations about elementary school English without including me.

Now it's clear which way I should do
Now it's clear which way I should go

From their point of view, I am an English language teaching assistant only to be used when someone asks for assistance teaching English. I understand that, but I also think I have something to offer them, but they don’t recognize me beyond my job title (there is no job description). I see several areas where work could be streamlined and resources centralized, but because the system “works”, they are not interested in making any changes. One example is the use of the fax machine for teaching requests. When a school requests an assistant visit, they send a fax that has been filled out on their computer with information about the date, time and teaching content.  My supervisor makes a copy for his file and gives me one copy. I read it, prepare appropriate lessons and then recycle the copy (of the fax). Seeing as we are all on the same email system, it would seem easier, more efficient and less wasteful to send all the requests via email. Apparently not. I am going to try to suggest it again as a trial system….

However, they did ask me to do two translations last week which was challenging, but interesting. It was satisfying to realize that I can do this type of work now. One was a flyer and emergency checklist for a potential global pandemic outbreak and the other was a notice to foreign residents informing them about the government income supplemental payment. All residents of Japan are about to recive 12000 yen (about US$120) as part of a stimulus package. Those under 18 or over 65 will receive 20000 yen. It seems to that translations of this nature should be handled centrally by the national government or the prefectural government. However, each city seems to be doing this type of publication on its own. It was a fun project that kept me busy for a couple hours though.

As much as Japan is perceived as a global leader in technology, the use of technology in my workplace is very limited. Everything is on paper and email is


hardly used at all. I was gone for 2 weeks in January and came back to an empty inbox. I realize they don’t communicate with me much anyway, but rarely do emails go out to to the Board of Education list. We have about 10 phones in our office that ring constantly and it seems so much of that communication could be handled online.

So I have about 3 weeks sitting at the desk with time to work on my own projects. I will spend 2-3 hours a day working on kanji and I am collecting resources to put online for the teachers in the district. I don’t think the BOE is interested, but I think some teachers will find it useful and it will be fun to work on.

I am glad I didn’t spend much time fretting about the job I applied for, they never contacted me for an interview. I’m a little disappointed, but it would have made my life more complicated.

For Jiro’s birthday we went out to a small restaurant right on the water. We had a huge seafood feast that included sashimi, grilled fish and also a plate of shellfish to grill at our table. I wasn’t able to eat the abalone that arrived live at our table which then was grilled right there. too squirmy…

Jiro's birthday dinner
Jiro's birthday dinner
Monkeys being monkeys
Monkeys being monkeys

Last weekend I met up with a group of middle school students traveling from the school I worked at in Portland. They came to Kyushu and I met them at Takasaki-yama, a national park with wild monkeys. There are  about 1200 wild monkeys that live in two separate colonies, and they come to the park center daily to get food. A park ranger gives a looping non-stop talk about the monkeys and some of the monkey behavior research that they do there. 15 people in green uniforms carrying pooper scoopers wandered about unobtrusively while tourists gathered round to listen to the ranger and take photos of the monkeys being monkeys.

The wild cherries are blooming. The mountains surrounding Saiki are dotted with light pink splashes and the city cherry trees are about to start blooming. This is a 3-day weekend-yesterday was the vernal equinox, a national holiday. I am going to try to make tofu-spinach-eggplant lasagna and then head out for some hiking.

Wild cherries on the pond behind our house
Wild cherries on the pond behind our house

3 thoughts on “The school year is almost over

  1. Andrew Cowan March 21, 2009 / 12:15 pm

    It’s funny (or maybe tragic) the amount of paper I see flying around as an ALT. I’ve not checked my school email account for weeks either simply because they never send me anything through it!

    Your blog popped up when I was googling ALT sites. Building websites and studying kanji are great ways to put our free time to use though 🙂

    I’ll be back to read your blog. Your pictures are rather nice too!

  2. Sue March 25, 2009 / 7:01 pm

    I wish you could find a job that would make good use of your organizational and problem solving skills. They are wasting a wonderful resource at the school. Doesn’t sound like anyone there is interested in creative thinking or in doing the best job possible. Maybe something will come of the translations.

    the pictures are great! I can see why you would pass on squirmy food. Yikes! I bet it was fun for you see your Oregon students and for them to see you in Japan. You are an international girl, to be sure.

    Take care!!

  3. Chrisitne March 29, 2009 / 10:00 pm

    I’ve had similar experiences regarding technology. At one place I worked, the VP went to all this trouble to get computers for everyone, email addresses, etc. Rather than use the computers, people would leave sticky notes on each other’s computer monitor.
    In another instance, a teacher showing me how to run an II lab asked me to add up about 100 or so scores then find the average. I was surprised when he handed me a pocket calculator! I said that I would be less prone to mistakes and more comfortable doing it on a Excel sheet. There was what looked like a seldom used computer off to the side. Although I think he was speaking about himself, his reply was that most teachers don’t know how to use Excel. So that it is easier to use a calculator. When I finished the average on the calculator, the score looked a little low, like I had probably skipped a number while adding. But since the letter grade, an A, would not change, I left it as it was. But it made me wonder how many students grades were not accurate.

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