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Best book review ever

I have friends who have written books like this.

Best book review ever
Here is my mandatory end of year report. I tried not to write it at all, but I got re-asked this morning.


Based on my two years experience teaching here, there are a number of
suggestions I have for the improvement of English education and team
teaching. Unfortunately, many of these suggestions are constrained by
the dependence of the Japanese education system on poorly designed,
poorly thought out and poorly implemented testing. English in this
country is taught and evaluated with the same basic techniques as math
or science. Countless studies throughout the world have shown that
this is a poor method at best, and may actively hinder learning in
languages and critical thinking.

I also realize that no one really cares about my recommendations, and
that this letter is largely perfunctory because "everyone" knows that
year end reports should be written. If Japan was interested in
improving English education, then they would have started taking the
advice of ALTs and JTEs decades ago. Truthfully, I resent having to
write this at all, and think it is a waste of time for me and for the
few people out there who may actually read what I have to say.
That being said, hope springs eternal, and I do have some suggestions.

The first and most important is the removal of the separation between
speaking and grammar. English is not a dead language like Latin.
Nowhere else in the world is language taught with this kind of
segregation, and Japan lags almost last in the first world in English
comprehension. These two facts are not isolated. The lack of English
comprehension does not reflect on either the students or the teachers,
but rather on the system in which education is performed.
Memorization is not an effective way to teach a language. Stop
teaching English as a series of "sound bites" or phrases that need to
be memorized with little or no understanding of how they are used
contextually. Despite the similar use of the word "on", the following
phrases should not be taught together:
On Time
On Board
On The Table
I have personally seen this kind of grouping for memorization, and it
is pointless and frustrating for students.
Second, the text books for English are the worst texts I have ever
seen in my life as a teacher and a student of language. Instead of
starting simply and building in complexity, they merely give new
examples of word usage for memorization. I have seen almost no
complexity difference between the 1st year Junior High School book and
the 3rd year Senior High School text.

Third, English classes should be taught in English. I can't believe
how obvious this one is, and yet 99% of all English grammar classes
are taught almost exclusively in Japanese. If teachers aren't
comfortable teaching in English, they should be replaced by either
native speakers, or JTEs with a higher level of ability.

Fourthly, creative use of English should be stressed. Students should
be required at minimum to write as much as possible in English, and
speaking drills should not be memorized, but rather interactive.

In regards to my school in particular, there are a number of
suggestions that I feel would improve English learning. The first is
that ALTs at my school are incredibly under-used. I, and my
predecessor before me, taught less than 6 hours a week. My strongest
recommendation is that each class be cut in half, to double the number
of classes taught by the ALT and to improve one on one interaction by
shrinking the class size. It is impossible to teach spoken English
effectively in a class of 40 or more students.

In terms of the tests, exams should be graded on a positive scale
instead of a negative one. In other words, a student should start
with 0 points and gain points rather than starting at full points and
losing points for trivial grammar or spelling mistakes. The current
system encourages mediocrity, as students who play it safe and write
the minimum are much more likely to get high marks.

Finally, if the school were truly serious about teaching English, the
ALT would be used for 2nd and 3rd year students in addition to
freshman. It is incredibly sad that the average high school student
is best at English their first day at school, and that their ability
to speak and listen decreases throughout their three years in high

Those are my suggestions for improvement. To tell you the truth, I
wish you would stop asking ALTs to write these sorts of reports,
because they just bring home to us how under-valued and basically
useless we really are. I have never in my life before felt more
helpless to enact change or to effectively do my job, which is
teaching incredibly intelligent and motivated students how to speak
and understand English. Clearly, the Japanese government does not
really want it's citizens to speak English, as they fear any change
that might reduce the country's "Japanese-ness".

Tree stump in a forest

Another one I'm quite happy with...maybe I'm actually making progress? *grin*

It's Stump


Rules: Post 3 things you've done that you believe nobody else on your F-list has done. Indulge in remorse if someone calls you out on a listed item.

1: Talked to Roger Zelazny in an elevator in Greenville South Carolina. He called the facehugger model my friend Scott was wearing "One hell of a monkey on your back." Roger died soon after.

2: Been to a Magic: The Gathering Grand Prix in Kita Kyushu, Japan. Hung out with professional magic players for a weekend. (hey, I'm a nerd, deal)

3: Had photos I've taken printed in a professional body building magazine.


Yosemite Sketch

Quite pleased with how this one turned out.

Time: approx. 90 mins


Yorkshire Moor

Just a quick sketch, haven't really felt the creature urge to paint for a while, but today I wanted to do something, so I re-created a photo I found on google images. (This means I didn't paint over the photo, I just used it as a reference)

Yorkshire Moor

Bunkasai Day #2

Here are the picts from the 2nd day of our Culture Festival.

Bunkasai, 08/06/22

Bunkasai Day #1

Here are some pictures from the first day of Nobetaka's Bunkasai (Culture Festival) '08:

Bunkasai '08 Day #1

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July 2008



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