Category Archives: EDUCATION

Second Semester Update

Second semester, as it always does, is flying by. It feels like literally last week that classes started, and I near panicked the other day when I realized I only have two months left in Japan, and that my midterms are approaching fast. I’m not sure which bothered me more.

At this point living here feels so natural that I’m almost worried about the reverse culture shock of transitioning back to life in Philadelphia. Things that used to seem so daunting just a few months ago, like ordering in Japanese at a restaurant, or reading street signs while navigating Tokyo traffic on bicycle are now second nature to me. I’ve been working my part time job, have started to recognize some of the other locals in my neighborhood (and they definitely recognize me; my roommate and I are seemingly the only foreigners in our area of the city), and have even befriended and hung out with some of the guys who work at our local Konbini.

I am definitely glad that I decided to stay in Japan for the entire year, instead of a single semester. During my first semester it seemed daunting, and there were a few times when I had no idea what I was thinking, but it has been worth it, and I would very strongly advise any future study abroad students who can to do so. I especially see the benefit reflected in my Japanese, which, while still objectively awful (I speak, as David Sedaris described his own grasp of French, like an “evil baby”), has improved so much from the constant exposure. While the Japanese courses I’ve taken at TUJ have undeniably been a huge part of my improvement, the month off we had in the winter, where I was forced to essentially fend for myself and …continue reading


Living In Japan Makes You Fluent In Japanese

What would I have like to have known before I arrived in Japan? Well…There’s this crazy idea floating around – kind of like when you step in dog poop and the smell lingers with you all day… It’s that nasty. The idea is that living in Japan magically gives you fluency in Japanese. Sorry to burst your bubble (how is it in there with the rainbows and unicorns?), but no, it doesn’t. Shall I lecture you about why?No expectations. Japanese people don’t expect you to speak Japanese. In fact, sometimes they are disappointed when you do! So, gestures and single words are enough to survive in daily life. Why study more? A quick look at my weekday routine; walk to the station, catch the train (buy my ticket at a machine), stop at the convenience store on the walk to work, teach all day in English, converse all day in English with my colleagues (as per the schools request to maintain an ‘all English’ teacher), walk to the station, catch the train (buy my ticket on the train because it’s a small stop with no machine), stop by the supermarket on my walk home, arrive home to my fellow foreign husband with whom I speak English. Now not everyone will live like this, but how many times do I get to use Japanese in a day? I say good morning to my local convenience store staff and comment on the weather, buy my return train ticket from the conductor on the train, and say good evening and again comment on the weather to the supermarket staff. That’s it. Each of these conversations can be avoided or completed with minimal Japanese. I have to really push myself to use Japanese even though I live in Japan. How do I learn anything? …continue reading


Teaching in Japan: An Ode to School Lunch

Source: Gaijin Pot

When the bell rings after 4th period, it’s time for lunch.

I need to bring my brimming tray from the staffroom to the class I’m eating with today. A whirlwind of activity threatens my careful ascent up the stairs: kids chase each other to the sinks to wash their hands, while others wheel carts laden with food to their classrooms. They’ve listened obediently to their teachers all morning, but lunchtime is their domain. The soup splashes precariously in its bowl as I maneuver around them all.

When I reach the classroom, it has the atmosphere of a busy kitchen. Everyone’s rushing to push their desks into the lunch groups and grab chopsticks and place mats from their cubbies, but they see that I’ve walked in and hasten to play janken—the Japanese name for “rock, paper, scissors”—to choose who I’ll sit with. A victor emerges and pushes a spare desk over to his group for me. He runs to rejoin the line, where the servers are ladling out portions of food. They look ready to perform cartoon surgery in their colorful aprons, handkerchiefs wrapped around their heads, and reusable cloth masks on their faces.

Everyone’s been served and seated, and a duo hovers by the lunch calendar, waiting to announce today’s menu. “Quiet, please,” the boy says meekly. They gaze imploringly at the Sensei, who shakes his head. He won’t help. I look out the window. It hasn’t stopped snowing since this morning, or the morning before that, or some morning weeks earlier. The classroom is well-lit and cheery.

The girl finally finds her voice. “Be QUIET please!” she shouts. The chatter fades away and they finally get to read the menu. Today’s lunch is: gohan, white rice, the essential staple only noticed when it’s absent; grilled saba, or mackerel, the silvery charred skin gleaming; …continue reading


The Adventures of Banana Teacher- 03 Boss Queen

One of the most rewarding things about living and teaching in Japan is seeing how much progress your students are making and how proud they get when the can communicate with you effectively. With that being said, there are…times… when things don’t quite make sense or words that you don’t normally use every day are thrust at you with so much enthusiastic force that it makes you pause a bit. Here are some of my favorite phrases that my students have come up with.1. “It’s 3 hot outside.”It was a hot summer day and my students were changing from their swim clothes into their uniforms. I made the comment, “It’s too hot today,” while wiping the perspiration from my brow. My quietest student Ko-kun looked up at me with a deadpan face and said, “No Banana-teacher. It’s 3 hot today.”2. “My an*s hurts.”One of the requrements for my upper level students is to write a weekly journal. I let them choose whatever topic they want. This gives them an opportunity to tell me things that they normally don’t have time to tell me in class. Ma-chan decided that for her weekly journal she would tell me in vivid detail that, “My an*s hurts because I diarrheaed all night.” It was definitely unexpected.3. “You are a boss queen.”I was reading a story to my kindergarten class when the word “boss” came up. I explained to them what a boss was and how it is an important job. Yu-chan looks at me and says, “Banana teacher, you are a boss queen.” Yes, yes I am + power suit = boss queenSituations like these always add a little extra fun to my day. Have your students ever said any interesting phrases? …continue reading