Category Archives: EDUCATION

Luke Straka – Philosopher and Bohmeian

Seated opposite Luke Straka, 28 year-old teacher and philosopher, in a rustic cafe on a Sunday afternoon, one can learn a lot about how to view the world.

“I think that language is the key to many of
the philosophical and psychological conundrums that we face as humans
in this world,” says Luke. “If I can do anything, I want to
learn how to address those issues and use them to bring people
together across boundaries.”

A big part of learning to transcend those
boundaries is being comfortable with being a stranger in a strange
land, a comfort Luke has been cultivating all his life.

As the oldest of three siblings, Luke has always
been the trailblazer of the bunch, and this has offered him unique
opportunities to break through boundaries he encounters.

“My brother, Carl, is the middle and Haili,
my sister, is the youngest,” he says. “Haili actually just
finished up her undergraduate education, so now we are all trying to
find our own ways in the world. I’ve always thought about how I want
to be a role model for them, and I want to show them they can go out
into the world and be their own people.”

Luke’s family in Denver, CO is a very tight-knit
band, and a large part of that bond is the journeys that have shared.

“We did a lot of family travel,” he
says, “and it was every couple years we would go somewhere else.
In elementary school we went to Cancun, in middle school it was
Greece, and then high school was my first trip to Japan, which was
with my aunt and uncle. My family has also always been super
supportive of me going out to travel the world even on my own, but it
has not been a friction-less road.”

Breaking Boundaries, Changing Bonds

During his time in university, Luke was afforded
the opportunity to study abroad in Ethiopia through a pilot program
offered by the International …continue reading


How to use 〜げ ( = ge)

DLPT (犬語能力試験)1級 合格したよ。」

= DLPT (Inugo nouryoku shiken) ikkyuu goukaku shitayo.

= Hey, I passed DLPT (Dog Language Proficiency Test) Level 1.


= Nanka, tokuige dane.

= You look so proud.

Hi everyone! I’m Cookie.

I am in charge of the first lesson of the year.

First of all, I have a big announcement to make.

I passed DLPT (Dog Language Proficiency Test 🐶) N1! It is more difficult than JLPT test. I bet none of you could pass it. No offense.

OK, today I will teach you the usage of ~ ( = ge)

A lot of time you see it in hiragana but the kanji for ( = ge) is which means “atmosphere/feelings, etc.”

* How to form:

adjective + ( = ge)

* i-adjective

Delete ( = i) and add ( = ge)

Ex. 楽しい = たのしい= tanoshii = fun

楽し = たのし ( = tanoshi) + ( = ge)

楽し = たのしげ = tanoshige


いい ( = ii) よい ( = yoi)

(irregular) よさ ( = yosage)

* na-adjective

Delete ( = na) and add ( = ge)

Ex. 不安な = ふあんな = fuanna = uneasy, anxious

不安 = ふあん ( = fuan) + ( = ge)

不安げ = ふあん = fuange

verb + ( = ge)

masu-stem + ( = ge)

Ex. ある ( = aru) = there is/are, to have

→masu formあります = arimasu

→(masu stem) あり ( = ari) + ( = ge)

あり ( = arige)


ない ( = nai) →(irregular) なさ ( = nasage)

Vたい ( = tai) = want to do ~

→delete ( = i) and add + ( = ge)

Ex. 言う= いう = iu = to say

言いたい = いいたい = iitai = want to say

言いた = いいた = iita + …continue reading


The Zen Art of Class Management

My personal teaching philosophy is to put a strong focus on the development of a student’s self-awareness during the learning process.

The reason this is useful to a student, might be best summed up by the following Confucius quote:

“Give someone a bowl of rice and they will eat for a day, teach them to grow their own rice and they will eat for a lifetime.”

Other pearls of wisdom for developing a student’s self-motivated learning practice, might include the following:

“What we think, we become.” (Buddha)

As Charlie mentioned in his article, Classroom Management Tips from a Veteran, cultural values play a role in shaping ESL learning outcomes in Japan.

What is the effect of the Japanese custom of deference regarding the expression of one’s achievements. The phrase: “sono koto wa arimasen,” (that’s not the case) forms a polite refusal to accept a compliment. To what extent may such sentiment take root in the student’s mind as a more literal truth? And what effect may it have on their learning curve?

Japanese ESL students often have a tendency to place excessive focus on the obstacles in their ESL learning process, as opposed to their innate potential to overcome them.

For example, when a Japanese ESL student consciously or unconsciously labels learning material as “difficult,” they seem to be engaging in a form of unhelpful cultural programming. Could this be hindering their their ability to absorb and integrate such material?

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” (John Heywood)

This classic quote, can illustrate the nature of intrinsic (inner) and extrinsic (outer) forces in affecting a learner’s motivation. Having worked with some apathetic ESL learners over the years, I have added my own little caveat:

“True, you cannot force a horse to drink, but you can try to feed …continue reading


Decision Time: ALT or Eikawa Instructor

Source: Gaijin Pot

New teachers coming to Japan to teach English face a binary choice right at the start: to work as an assistant language teacher (ALT) or an eikaiwa (private conversation school) instructor.

My first job in Tokyo in 2006 was with an eikaiwa company. I soon realized that teaching with that particular organization wasn’t a good fit for me and, at the earliest opportunity, I switched to ALT work the following April — initially with a dispatch company and later via direct hire.

Since then, I’ve worked in both spheres and while my own personal preference leans more toward ALT work, teaching at an eikaiwa is not without its attributes.

So, let’s break this down and look at the pros and cons for each role. Perhaps, if you’re one of those people sitting at home now with competing offers in front of you, I can offer some help with the decision.

First up: eikaiwa.

Advantages of eikaiwa work

1. No early morning starts

As a general rule, most eikaiwa jobs start mid-morning to early afternoon and continue on into the evening. This is to meet the needs of the majority of its students — who are either kids studying after school or adult professionals coming for lessons after work or on days off. For example, when I taught in Tokyo, my day would start just after lunch (around 12:30 p.m.) with the first class at 1 p.m. and my last class usually around 8:30 p.m.

Within this time frame, it’s unlikely you would teach more than six or seven classes. So, you’ll still have time for a lunch break as well as a bit of lesson planning time, too during your day.

Weekends are the busiest times and you’ll need to start a bit earlier on Saturdays and Sundays (usually around 10 a.m.). However, this also means you’ll …continue reading


Table for One: How to survive Christmas in Japan if you’re single

Source: Gaijin Pot
Table for One: How to survive Christmas in Japan if you're single

Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year. As the songs say, it is a time for joy, a time for family, a time for presents and various other forms of merriment.
In Japan however, Christmas is very much about families and in particular couples.

Perhaps even more so than Valentine’s Day, Christmas is the time of year in Japan when couples fully express their love for each other, usually in the form of elaborate, extravagant dinners and over the top gifts.

However, for some, it can be a very depressing time. If you’re single, Christmas can be a pretty depressing time. It can often seem like you are the only man or woman in the entire universe who doesn’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend.

And even for those of us lucky enough to be in a relationship, Christmas can often be a solitary experience in Japan, as our Japanese partner, and sometimes even us too, are forced to work on Christmas Day, since Christmas is not a recognized holiday here.

It would be very easy to go all Ebenezer Scrooge on the whole thing, just say “Bah! Humbug!” and try to forget Christmas even exists. It doesn’t have to …continue reading