Posted in YouTube Videos

If You Wanna Get Caught Up…

So I’ve been vlogging a little bit more than usual, and my channel has been growing a little bit.

Basically in this video, I talk about how unhappy I was with the old way I was doing things and revamping the ideas on the channel.

Actually managed to do a semi-daily thing for a week, just talking about different things as they happened in my life.

And here we have the BEST THING I’VE EVER BOUGHT AS AN ADULT WITH MY OWN MONEY!!!

Ranting about the rainy weather and typhoons. Hahaahahaha, little did I know that I would have 5 more after that. 

Hello other typhoon, how are you? Man, these past couple of months had some brutal weather. Really, really tired of rain at this point.

Eating things I shouldn’t, also Mondays are cursed.

This one got the most views and hate. A LOT of people came out to defend Japan, which is normal. A lot of times whenever you talk critically about Japan, you’ll have tons of people try to tell you how wrong you are about the racism in the country. And most of those people DON’T ACTUALLY LIVE IN JAPAN, so it’s super frustrating. Somehow this little thing accumulated over 1,000 views, I guess because it was a hot topic at the time. Oh well, opinion unchanged (actually Japanese media is already proving me right in some instances, but what can you do?).

Anyways, hope that gets you caught up!

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Posted in cultural differences, Teaching Things

On Making Sick Kids Go to Class

If I was ever to do a “Ten Things I Hate About Japan” video, for the most part I would just spend 8 out of those 10 things complaining about the summer and the summer heat. #1: The fucking humidity, #2: The fucking heat  #3: THE HELLFIRE COMBINATION OF THEM BOTH-!

I’d figure it out. But until then, I do know one particular aspect of Japan that drives me up the wall: forcing sick kids to go to school / class.

One my students today came in- let’s call him Nashi – coughing up a lung before he even walked in the door.

“Hey, are you ok?” I asked him in English.

He responded with, “I have kaze.

Kaze is Japanese for “a cold.”

I sighed and let him in. Nashi coughed and coughed throughout the whole class. He could hardly breathe. Every single time he tried to talk he would have a fit. On top of that, his twin sister – let’s call her Natsu – was in the beginning stages of his sickness getting passed to her. Both of them proceeded to spend most of that class time DYING from coughing and coughing and coughing.

For some reason their mom prepped Natsu with a water bottle, but Nashi got nothing! I actually stopped the class about ten minutes in to grab some water for him so he could at least attempt to get through class without coughing his voice raw.

This is a class of four students, so that meant 50% of my class was sick. Because I’ve been in very similar situations before, I’m predicting the other two kids are gonna get sick. Both of them will still come to class. Fast forward to three weeks later, and I’ll be sick.

As Nashi and Natsu left I asked them, “Where is your mom?”

“Oh,” Nashi said as he sipped on the water I gave him, “she’s at home. She’s making dinner.”

And I couldn’t help it, I got a bit judgmental. So a stay at home mother just forced her sick kids into a closed in space with me and two other much younger kids? And she also forced them to go to school? I didn’t say anything, I just gave them stickers, told them to take care, and off they went.

This aspect of Japanese culture is perhaps the one aspect I cannot tolerate very well. In the United States, if a kid has a fever, they stay the hell home. At least in my generation, anyway. We don’t force kids to fight through fevers and coughing to show up to class miserable. I’ve heard that nowadays some schools have ridiculous absentee rules, but back in my day (she said like a granny) the kids stayed home to get better and then come back to school healthy. This way the germs didn’t spread around to half the school population and take out the whole class with a sickness.

In Japan, if you’re still able to lift your head and not pass out, you’re going to school. Even with fevers, I saw my high school kids come into my classroom with glazed over eyes and obvious red cheeks that signify “I am super sick, yo, someone take me home!” But they would only maybe go to the nurse’s office to sleep for an hour and then right back into the next class!

Technically, if you have a fever of over 40 degrees Celsius you should go home, but I’ve seen kids be throwing up with no temperature to match. It’s crazy to me that at so young an age kids are already being trained to kill themselves for the sake of school and then work. Health should take priority over one day of school, right?

I don’t know, maybe I am “too American” in this mindset, but I feel like science would also support my idea? Stress is considered a strong factor in keeping a sickness lasting longer than it normally would. Wounds are shown to heal slower if someone is stressed versus staying in bed. Not to mention that Japan already has a problem with stressing their children into becoming hikikomori – wherein a person wants to stay inside and never leave their house due to overwhelming anxiety.

In addition to all that, making children go to classes and school while sick is actually the opposite of the collectivist outward thinking of other people that Japan usually prides itself on.  The sickness will always spread to another person, regardless of face masks being used or not. Whether it’s the student in class or the teacher or someone on the street/in the train/on the bus, you get the idea.

So really, forcing them to go to class doesn’t really help anyone. It doesn’t help the kids, it just keeps them sicker for longer. The sickness always spreads to other kids, and to teachers. Therefore, it’s not helpful, it’s detrimental in every conceivable way.

The only argument “for it” bothers me. “Well, when they grow up, they’ll have to go to work sick too!”

But once again, science kind of says otherwise. Until you’re about 18-21 years old, your immune system isn’t developed enough to handle viruses like a fully grown adult’s body. That’s why we need kids vaccinated for the flu: they can literally DIE from strands of that yearly virus, unlike a healthy adult that can bounce back from it.

Demanding that children perform to the same expectations as an adult seems a bit of a ridiculously impossible expectation. Kids’ bodies just are not developed enough to handle the bombardment of illnesses and stress all at once.

I don’t really have any solutions to give here, I’m just a foreigner with an outsider perspective, but I worry, I really worry about my kids. Be they Nashi and Natsu who are only nine years old with colds to my high school teens with obvious flu-like symptoms, I worry about what kind of message they are learning from being forced into class and school with a sickness.

Because perhaps the thing that bother me the most is the underlying message, that your well being doesn’t matter as much as what you’re supposed to accomplish. Sacrificing your health, your wellness, your mental strength, all for the sake of…what? What does it really do for kids but set them up to feel like their wellness and health don’t matter? Not in comparison to the things they’re supposed to get done. Tests, exams, tests, exams, studying, studying, studying, all for the sake of the exams!

I don’t know, it just seems like prioritizing exams and tests over kids health is such a bad way to go all around. Once again, I’m coming from a different generation and from another country, so maybe I’m wrong. Still, I think it’s not just a cultural difference at play, there’s also a kind of cultural dissonance too. I’m sure that the kids will be alright, but I worry what it does to them.

After all, I’m a teacher, that’s kind of part of my job.

Posted in Teaching Things

On Eikaiwa Schedules

Now that I’m back in the eikaiwa schedule, let’s talk about a few things real quick, mainly about how the irregularity of these schedules can be maddening.

I understand that everyone gets the warning in the application process that some people will get more hours than others, and that some days will be more busy than others. But holy hell, man, sometimes when I get home I’m just EXHAUSTED. And it occurs to me as I sit at home eating crap food because I feel like crap that these schedules are so freakin’ weird.

I get some of the schedule irregularities. It’s business and customer service oriented, so when we do taiken (trail) lessons then we need to set aside time for those. Alright, fine enough. But then there are times when I’m working a day of back-to-back classes and I go, “Gee, wonder why this turnover rate is so damn high?!”

I can understand wanting to keep customers happy, so you prioritize their time over the employees. But I also don’t understand why you’d fail so hard at scheduling things that your employees end up wanting to quit.

My hard day is Saturday, where-in I teach four back-to-back classes in the morning. This wouldn’t kill me if it weren’t for the following classes in the afternoon, which are all kids group classes. Young kids, as in toddlers and elementary school kids. The amount of energy required to “teach” them, as in play in English with them, is more than the energy I actually have in a week.

This particular schedule has cycled through three other people before me, all of whom based on those who worked with them, also hated the schedule. It was apparently a factor in one person leaving.

And I know for a fact many eikaiwas do this practice of impossible workloads with demanding time constraints because god forbid we pay you a full lunch hour instead of the allotted forty five or actually give you overtime hours for doing extra prep.

Nope, gotta keep them labor costs down.

I get that owning a business is difficult, keeping customers must be a difficult endeavor, but consistently making impossible schedules isn’t going to fix those problems. Making schedules that give little to no prep time means that students get little to no quality in classes, it means teachers having little to no energy to get through the day, it means students leaving because they’re paying for these lessons and they want good quality for what they pay.

In the case of this Saturday schedule, they’ve added more children into my toddler class. I can already foretell a trend of adding more students into other classes of mine. I guess that’s because I do good demos, perhaps because my class times are more convenient for moms. But a really obvious solution, one would think, is instead of adding more students into an already full-ish class or shoving make-up students all into this particular day, would be instead to hire one more teacher for the school.

But we can’t because gotta keep those labor costs down, right?

It drives me crazy to think about how often these schedules happen in eikaiwa work, and they’re needlessly bad. If you can tell on paper that a schedule is causing a turnover, then maybe it might be a good idea to, I dunno, fix it?

Or even prevent it from happening! “Prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is a quote I often think about when it comes to problem solving. If you already tell there’s going to be a problem, then do your best to prevent it from happening, and maybe you’ll be better off for it. It’s simple, but in the eikaiwa industry they often seem to shoot themselves in the foot and ruin good instructors by demanding too much with harsh schedules.

Essentially in giving instructors enough time to plan, enough time between classes for set-up, and that forty five minute break, the quality of lessons will be better. It seems like common sense, and yet I saw this in Coco Juku before this current eikaiwa. Schedules are often designed on some days to simply cram as many students in as possible. Once again, I understand the need for a customer base, but if you have more customers than instructors for classes, that’s an over-extension of resources no matter how you look at it.

Now in fairness I’m actually really, really lucky. My boss chose schools that were close to my apartment, so I’m not spending two hours on a train to go to and from a school. My Monday through Thursday hours aren’t back-to-back madness at all, mainly because I get a full hour of prep on these days. These schedules are well designed to maintain a regular customer base.

But all too often the consistent customer base isn’t a part of the “quotas” and “targets” of an eikaiwa school. Constant customer growth is higher on the ladder. Quotas and targets won’t keep customers coming back, instructors do. Allowing the system to ruin instructors is how eikaiwas go under, just look at NOVA for that reminder. Push people too hard and something will give, be it in the form of a one month notice or a lawsuit or an angry tirade on a blog…

I’m well aware that this post won’t really solve anything. I’ve already spoken with several people about the harshness of that Saturday, and everyone basically shrugs their shoulders and says, “Yeah, Saturdays man,” and go on with their lives. Also, it’s not like one day out of the week is gonna make me quit (lived in Japan for seven years now, please, I’ll be here a while longer).

And yet, I worry about the new people, the ones who came half way across the world to be instructors and might have way worse schedules. I worry about my friends who talk about their eikaiwa work where they get zero personal days, just days without pay, sometimes even a whole unpaid summer. Instructors in the eikaiwa industry have little incentive to stay loyal with any company what-so-ever, scheduling is just one of many factors that bothers me about this work.

Once again, I’m lucky. I work for a company with personal days, paid leave, insurance, so the basic non-slavery-like package deal. And yet, I can already see cracks in this foundation. I can already start to see parallels to problematic system practices. I wish that things could change.

What kind of changes? A cap on back to back classes would be a good start (like perhaps three-four), a minimal ten minute prep before each class, and a standard hour of a lunch break (because come on, everyone uses it for prep time, who are we kidding?). But I know those changes are never gonna happen. A person so low on the ladder is never gonna get the attention of the big administrators and the company heads, there’s just no way that’ll ever happen.

It’s nice to talk about it, though, at least just a bit.

 

Posted in Poetry, Travels in Japan

A Future Made

I knew psychics couldn’t be trusted when

a woman read some cards upon a cloth,

“You will be married!

Three children and a man,

what a happy home!”

And I promptly replied,

“Oh? That’s all?”

Her eyes widened in shock

that I would dare

to want more.

 

“When will you get married?”

asked my cousins when

I told them of plans

to move across the globe

and teach children

in a foreign land.

“Not a priority.”

The sheer dismay displayed

as if I’d chosen to

opt out of  happiness

forever.

 

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

asks a clueless salaryman

as I walk with my travel bag

to Terminal 1 at Narita

to catch a fight.

“You’ll never know,”

I tell him before

I head off to

Sapporo.

 

“Do you think you’ll marry a Japanese man?”

asks a student in class

with well done intonation.

I laugh at the sudden query

caught off guard in a lesson

on Japanese matsuri and

festival food.

“I have no idea.”

I say in truth for my next plan

involves a weekend away

in South Korea

with old friends and lots

of beach, sun,

and fun.

 

“What are your dreams for the future?”

she asks me with a smile.

My heart beats loud

in my ears.

“I want to be a writer,

and I want to travel the world,”

and I want to do it

with you

but no, don’t say it.

“Sounds like you’ve got it made!”

Yes, but maybe, or no,

who knows?

 

But better a future made

than a planned path

meant to serve

some mystery man.

Life demands action

so be true to thy ambition

and not some archaic

expectations.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Poetry, Uncategorized

Break, Broke, Broken

I go through a class with my tongue sliding on

all the textbook words knowing I

will stumble over some

syllable or two

because it takes

all my energy

just to

stand.

The next day I call in with a cold for a cold

is easier to explain than some

twisted up version of a

messy thing I call

my own

soul

is

breaking.

The weight on my chest pushes heavier

into my rib cage to steal away

all the breath I need

to cry, to form tears,

to speak,

to get

help.

There are stories told at meetings.

An ALT went home because

someone found out

about the therapist

and no B.O.E

wants to keep

broken

merchandise.

And so I contain within the apartment walls

these festering abysmal thoughts

praying that tomorrow this

so-called cold

will just

leave me

be.

Two days later, I return to school

with a very big smile

so no one will guess

that I am still

carrying this

sickness

crushing

my will

to

just

stay

alive.

 

 

Posted in Poetry, Uncategorized

Enter the Underground

Deck your body in tight black

with high black boots to match,

but throw on crimson eyeliner

and ruby paint on lips

so your lover can find you

on the dim lit dancefloor.

Watch green lasers slice through

the air around the stage.

What a lovely neon halo

around the fallen angels

singing on the stage.

The one drenched in blood

pulls out a heart to eat

for what is art if not

your heart exposed.

A woman in a silken robe

lets a man write kanji

on her skin

from head to toe.

She smiles at the crowd

as she turns to display

the seal against evil

along her spine.

We in the darkness cheer

as the man puts another line

on her inner thigh

set to the shamisen

and fast taiko beats.

Next comes the rock stars

decked in leather.

The one with the operatic chords

and the other with screaming energy

give the fans a taste

of Gothic beauty with a hint

of wrath.

At the end of the show,

your performing friend

comes to hug you.

“Did you enjoy the show?”