Tag Archives: teaching

437 – Describe your absolute least favorite thing to do. Why is it so terrible?

Grading papers is the worst. It’s not the number or even sometimes the content. When it comes to projects, we spend weeks writing and editing only for me to take them and have to read them. I read all hundred and thirty or so. I get how much work they’ve put into writing them, well how much work some of them have put in, but man, reading them takes forever.

Imagine coaxing over a hundred people into putting forth a lot of effort. Getting them to exert themselves takes effort. You repeat things over and over only for people to forget things, sometimes forget to do them at all. You give suggestions. You argue with some people just to get to do it at all after which they basically do the bare minimum or worse.

Then, they hand them all to you, or in my case, upload them all at me. It’s like a digital barrage. I figuratively drown in non-existent paper. Sometimes I have trouble getting myself to open the program, but if I don’t the number of ungraded things stares at me like a judgemental, motherly eye. Just finish me they seem to say. In my head, I throw the silent adult equivalent of a toddler’s temper tantrum.

When I do finally get to grading them, usually the first thing I’m greeted with is an inevitable barrage of mistakes that could have been fixed with spell check but for some reason hasn’t. How you make spelling errors in the age of spell check and the red squiggly line is beyond me, but every project there is always someone’s paper with prose that must have been littered with red. How lazy do you have to be not to right click and fix it? It literally fixes it for you.

One paper in and I’m reading most of everything. By paper five I’ve had to reread things several times because my brain has inevitably wandered mostly because I’ve managed to find three papers where the writer seriously thought I wouldn’t notice that doing zero thought or editing was totally cool.

It’s not cool! Reading writing that makes no sense is not cool and it doesn’t make you sound smart to massacre words.

Then, I see it. A child who’s work should be great. They always write beautifully, and, you know what, they did. Except, that I’m still reeling about the person who honestly thought that riting is a word that means to put words on paper. See. Spell check! So I know that I’m not really enjoying this story as much as I should.

Twenty papers later and I’m literally having to fight my brain to stay inside of my head. It’s not allowed to leave just because a student wrote a nonsense scene about a jerk throwing coffee at someone that for some reasons happens a page after this person also inexplicably does something that has to do with sports. By the way, the next page is equally as nonsensical and confusing, but he managed to fix some of the spelling so that’s at least something.

This is the point that I look at the clock and realize that I’ve already been at this for forty five minutes, and I’ve still got twenty more to go in just this class alone. I seriously consider slapping random grades for about twenty seconds before I click to the next one.

Oh good, they’ve forgotten that you had to double space. Never mind that it was written on the board, on the project paper, on the schedule, on every draft assignment, and on the final project, but that’s cool. You clearly didn’t need to read the stuff that told you how to get points. You clearly didn’t hear it the thousand times I said it in class or personally reminded you to fix it when I saw that you still hadn’t done it three days ago in class. I’ll just take those points back.

At this point, I’ve found a space on the wall that looks like a particularly inviting place to smash my forehead.

I know. I’ll grade my honor’s class. 

Wait the first paper is forty pages long and the first four are description of the way the light perfectly falls on this perfect guys face, and how said perfect guy doesn’t know that the main character exists because she’s just so terribly shy. Well, the idea’s good except why has her name changed and is this guy supposed to be nice or a jerk.

Where’d that dog come from and why is he wearing a hat?

Well their vocabulary is good and the story mostly makes sense so. Next!

#206 Write a poem from the point of view of a lion at the zoo

I cannot see my enemy

And yet he’s in the way

The tasty things stay safe because

It’s too hard for my claws to break

Some day it will crack and shatter

And then, oh then, I’ll feed

642 Why I’m trying to write a little every day.

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I’m busy. Like really busy, but I love to read and write. So, how does one get better at something even when they’re busy?

They suck it up and make time for it anyway! They stop yammering on about what they’d like to do and they do it.

Anyway, cheerleading aside, I have been a bit absent in my writing. Fortunately, I have an awesome book next to me with lots of chewy, bite-sized writing prompts just waiting to be written about. So that’s just what I’m going to do.

I will be attempting to, little by little, write my way through the Young Adult version of 642 Things to Write About.

But Mrs. Emeigh, you’re an adult!

Pirates. Fairytales. Awesomeness. Besides, I’m not really sure I like being an adult all the time. Also, I like writing for young people, so why not write about those kinds of prompts.

Anyway, enough blah blah blah about the fact that I’m going to write and on with the writing!

Also, as a last note, I make no promises that my numbering is accurate. I’ve tried….three times…to number this book. I’ve managed to get to 642, but only with a slight bit of fudging. Oh well. It can’t be helped.

Teaching in Japan – Teacher Transfers

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I’ve been asked by a few people what the differences are between the education system and teaching in Japan versus the United States. This will be the first post of a possible few to talk about those differences. Clearly I am not an expert on either system, but I have worked in both and feel that I can at the very least comment.

Today’s topic is the Japanese system of transferring teachers. Since coming here, I’ve been shocked to discover that once teachers pass certification tests and become full-fledged teachers that they belong to the board of education they tested with. This means that they are guaranteed a job within the prefecture that they certify with. It’s kind of similar to the way some school districts in the States handle alternative teacher certification programs. Once you are accepted, it sort of guarantees a job. Again it depends on the district and the teachers themselves plus of course openings.

After a teacher passes, they are sent out to a school for what you could call a probationary period of a few years. Then the younger teachers will be transferred at some point. No one has exactly told me how many years this might be. I think it depends on your own personal accomplishments and the preference of the school, but you will be transferred at some point.

Here is where things get a little tricky. This process of transferring doesn’t end at some designated point of years or experience, or at least I’ve yet to discover one. For example, six of the twelve teachers in the English department at my current school have been transferred to other schools or programs for the coming school year. Some of these teachers are a good ten to fifteen years older than me and have been teaching for a long time.

To my knowledge, the teachers have no control over where they might be sent. A teacher may spend a few years at a school like mine, internationally minded with fantastic students, only to be sent to a reform or an industrial school or even a school with severe behavioral problems. The teachers go where the board of education wants them or in some cases where they think they will be the most useful. The teachers don’t really have a choice.

I can already hear you wondering about the problem of a teacher’s current living situation. Yeah, they don’t really take that into account either. They might send you anywhere within the prefecture (state for those of you who don’t know). This leads some teachers to only see their families on the weekends, or to need two apartments.

I will say that, while my own personal experiences lead me to dislike this system, I can definitely see the benefits. It does cut out the idea that a better teacher deserves better behaved students. It also spreads the talent around. The best teachers aren’t just reserved for the top schools. They are spread out through every type of school in the area. Students of all ability levels get to benefit from teachers who are passionate and motivated. In the States, we tend to have a problem with good teachers only going to good schools.

Students of all ability and motivation levels deserve good teachers. We often tend to forget that students are a result of their situations and not always of conscious choice. Giving them teachers who are able to perhaps pull them out of a slump is a great idea. It also strengthens the teachers by putting them into situations they might not consciously have chosen to face. Being in a difficult classroom can be just as much of a learning experience as being in a good one. Being in a difficult classroom can make you grateful when you do have the opportunity to be in a better classroom with more motivated students. Believe it or not, there are some teachers out there who take for granted how willing and motivated their students are because they’ve never struggled with difficult children. I kind of feel sorry for them for that because they don’t always appreciate what’s in front of them. Those are just my thoughts though.

Hopefully I’ve managed to focus on both sides of this. I’m afraid this came off a bit on the negative side. The system is what it is. I’m honestly just trying to report what I know or have heard because this is something I’d never heard of before coming here and working here. If you have questions, feel free to ask, and I will do my best to answer. Comments and more thorough perspectives are also always welcome.