< class="pagetitle">Posts Tagged “ALS”

This is my old apartment in Kuwabara. It’s owned by ALS Matsuyama, my former employer, so when I left the company I had to move out.

It’s not a bad place, cozy-small, but the kitchenette was hard to work with sometimes. There was only one electric burner, built into the counter next to a sink smaller than most bar sinks, and the fridge and microwave were both dorm-sized.

I salvaged an unused plastic filing cabinet from work to use as a makeshift pantry because there simply wasn’t any suitable space otherwise.

The apartment was definitely built for a single person to live in, though at one point I had a 30-something couple and their infant living next door. I always wondered (a, how they kept the kid quiet at all times and b,) how they managed to keep from killing each other in such a small space. Maybe that’s why they moved out.

If you look closely, you can see four of my five bins for sorting refuse. If you look REALLY closely, you can see that the stereo has a front-loading slot for MiniDiscs.

If you’re interested, here’s a slideshow of the rest of the apartment:
http://www.davidhed.com/blog/2010/12/23/kuwabara-apartment/

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I know I’ve been a bit of an absent blogger lately. Work’s been kicking my butt, and I’m one of those people who falls into the “if I can’t do it perfectly, then I won’t do it at all” trap sometimes. So to combat that tendency a little bit, I’m going to throw up some information in what I know is a less-than-ideal format. That said, here’s what I’ve been up to recently:

  • I moved in with Yuko a few months ago. Her parents weren’t thrilled with the idea at first, but they’ve since come around, which brings me to my next point:
  • I met Yuko’s parents yesterday. They were supposed to come out to Matsuyama around Christmas, but her dad hurt his back. They brought a carload of stuff, including enough food to feed a small militia for a few days. Luckily, Yuko is a fantastic cook, and the veggies her mom brought are all really fresh.
  • I applied to JET for the 2009-2010 school year, and had to go to Guam in February to interview. This created a tricky timing problem. I had to tell American Language School in April if I was going to renew my contract (set to expire in July), but JET notifies participants through May (and sometimes later) if they’re hired for positions starting in August. I ended up not renewing with ALS but not getting a JET position either, which leads to my next point:
  • I started working for a different English school here in Matsuyama. I now work for Miki Study Pals (pictured at left), a school that caters to parents who can pay for their kids to become essentially bilingual. Even though the bilingual students only represent about 10% of the students at the school, they have a bit of a “halo effect”, much like the Toyota Prius makes people associate fuel economy with Toyota.
  • I mentioned that work has been kicking my ass. I’ve been tasked with designing the curriculum for the last three months of the school year (January – March) for one of my co-teaching classes, and decided to go with a music unit. So I’ve been reading a lot of lesson plans, worksheets, and exercises that teachers have put out there on the web, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the kids, who are all around ten years old, and mostly bilingual. Then I had to wrap my head around the best way to organize and present the material. My first lesson was Saturday, and it went quite well. =)

I think that’s all of the major stuff. I’ve done some traveling with Yuko recently that I should blog about. And I keep taking photographs of weird stuff with the ultimate goal of putting them up here. I’m sure I’ll figure out a way.

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Here’s a video I recently took of the inside of the English conversation school where I teach. 😀

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In early December of last year, I applied to the JET Programme, a program sponsored by the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations, a Japanese governmental organization. CLAIR places native speakers of English in private and public schools throughout Japan to promote English language skills and cultural exchange and understanding. Unfortunately, after going through the second longest and most arduous application process of my life (Las Vegas Metro Police being the first), I didn’t get an interview.

I was horribly disappointed but not totally surprised, as each year they get many times the applicants as positions they need to fill. To make it even more competitive, the application deadline was a month or two after Japan’s biggest private English language school, Nova, went bankrupt, so thousands of experienced, native English teachers, already in Japan, found themselves applying for work at about the same time.

I found out in late January they weren’t going to interview me, so I struck out on my own. I started by earning my TEFL certification in early February in one rather intense weekend from i-to-i International, a British firm that offers accredited TEFL courses in six English-speaking countries. With cert in hand, I started applying to private English language schools in Japan. I posted my newly-revamped résumé on job boards, applied for individual positions, and read as many forums and blogs and tips as I could.

One of the things I was looking for was a company that provided a good amount of support for incoming teachers. For instance, I would rather someone who knows the area find an apartment for me, so I paid extra attention to the job postings that spoke a few lines about the assistance they provide to incoming teachers. I found that in the company that ended up hiring me, American Language School. They provide a week of training on their particular way of lesson planning, separating students into grade levels, and how to use and integrate the different textbooks, workbooks, and supporting teaching materials that the school uses. After that, incoming teachers shadow the teacher they’ll be replacing for one more week, then they’re on their own.

I was excited when they offered me a second interview, and absolutely ecstatic when they offered me a job last Thursday, March 27th. The only caveat was that I needed to be in Japan on Tuesday, April 8th. Yes, that’s only a week and a half of notice to move across the Pacific ocean. So now I’m feverishly packing my house.

I’m really not that worried about teaching. I know I’ll do fine once I’m over there. I have a reasonably strong grasp of the English language, and I’ve taught plenty of classes with absolutely no supporting materials, so I think I’ll do fine with whatever they provide.

The position they gave me is the one I requested in my initial application, in Matsuyama. Matsuyama is a city about half the size of Las Vegas, and sits on the northwestern part of Shikoku island just across a channel from Hiroshima (kind of near Bunny Island, actually). My company-subsidized apartment is a five minute walk from the school, and I’ll be taking it over from the outgoing teacher, a New Yorker named Erin. The initial contract is a one year commitment, extensible in six month increments. I’m not sure how long I’ll ultimately be there, but it’ll be at least a year.

I just learned last night that I will be the only teacher at the school. Not the only American teacher or the only foreign teacher even, but the only teacher, period. I’ll have 25 hours of classroom instruction time per week, interspersed with prep time and paperwork time. Erin mentioned that the setup at this school afforded him a remarkable amount of freedom to teach how he saw fit, which is good in that I won’t have someone constantly telling me how they would rather do things, but a little unsettling in that I won’t really have much direction, or the experience to draw on to formulate my own teaching methods in the first place.

At the moment though, I’m more concerned with getting my crap in boxes and getting it to my mom’s house with my dog, car, and grand piano, so I can get my house rented. It’ll be a fun week, I tell you. In fact, I’ll be getting back to it right now. 🙂

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