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Amparo Bertram

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05:59 pm: Sympathy helps
The exchange student and I went to Kyoto as planned. We stopped at the first bookstore on our itinerary, conveniently named Book 1st...and found an announcement posted on the door saying that the store would be closing on January 31st. In fact, ALL the shops in the complex, including two movie theaters (one of which was the place I watched the Muroi movie last summer), were closing because the whole building was being renovated. Unfortunately, we didn't find any textbooks in English other than Japanese-language textbooks for foreigners there. However, I bought an Asian food cookbook from their bargain English book table.

Secret note for wednesday_10_00: I found this cookbook and thought of City of Glass, though I didn't buy it because it was mostly fish recipes.

Next we stopped at Kinokuniya, where again we could find books of instruction on the Japanese language and all types of Japanese culture (calligraphy, tea ceremony, origami, etc.), but not on any other subject. Here, again, I bought a couple books. One was called All About Creating Japanese Gardens, which I thought would be a great reference for future art projects as well as potentially usable in a classroom. Another was The Book of Kimono, because it also seemed to be a good resource. (I'm linking it because people have expressed an interest in English references about traditional Japanese clothing.) I then picked up even more books on sewing things out of used kimono fabric.

The exchange student bought a couple books herself. I pulled a copy of Dave Barry Does Japan off the shelf to show her. She read about two pages and decided she needed to have it. (If anyone out there hasn't read this book, I HIGHLY recommend it. Not only is it an absolutely hysterical look at Japan, it's ALL TRUE.)

I tried asking at the counter if they could order an English-language math textbook. The lady helpfully ran a search for "Algebra II," but apparently got 600 hits and was at a loss how to narrow down the search. I tried to think up a publisher name...but who remembers math textbook publisher names offhand? Not to mention how to SPELL them? I tried for "Houghton Mifflin," but I couldn't get the spelling right, and no matter what I attempted, the search kept getting zero hits (judging by the poor lady's concerned expression). Eventually I thanked her and gave up.

We wandered around, stopping at the food import store (where they sadly no longer carried mango ketchup), and dropping in another bookstore in an underground mall. No luck there either. So when I got home, I searched Kinokuniya's website myself and came up with a highschool-level Algebra II textbook. I printed out the page and handed it to the head of the English department this morning, so he took care of ordering it. It was on the expensive side, about twice what he had wanted to pay, but he reasoned that they can use the book for future exchange students as well.

I was also hit by TWO Surprise!Solo Lessons out of my three classes for the day. I wouldn't ordinarily have minded, except that one was the Listening class. Urg. I decided that, rather than trying to monitor participation and call for answers and work the computer equipment and write the answers on the board all myself, I would do a different kind of lesson. I tried the method megory told me about, using storytelling and having the students respond after every line and answer questions about what's happening as it happens. I picked a story from the Mother Goose book megory gave me, one that didn't have any bizarre vocabulary or nonsense rhymes.

Well...the class got into saying "Ohhh!" as their listening response the first couple times, but after that they went back to doodling on the computer paint program or playing solitaire instead. Getting them to answer the questions about the story was maddening. Since some seemed lost, I added an aspect where I would call students up to the front to draw a picture of the story on the whiteboard. (It was a simple story about a boy trying to reach cherries in a cherry tree.) Even that was frustrating, as the student would just stand there, stumped, as I would read the same line three times, and she still didn't know what to draw. (It's a boy standing in front of a cherry tree! How complicated is that? Japan is FAMOUS for cherry trees! It's the one kind of tree they all know!)

I was thoroughly beat by the end of the lesson. As I gathered up my things, and most of the students had filed from the room, two girls came up to talk to me. One of them apologized, in English, for the bad behavior of the rest of the class. She continued in Japanese, saying that she thought they were usually naughty because they don't like my team teacher, and she had expected they would be more attentive with just me, but she was disappointed by how they refused to participate. She said that if she were the teacher, she would have gotten very angry with them. In her opinion, they could easily understand the English I used in the lesson if they tried, but they simply made the choice not to try. It makes the class rough for the students like her who actually want to learn things.

I was really grateful that she took the time and effort to come say that. There still isn't much I can DO about it, but knowing there are students in the class who appreciate the work that I'm doing goes a long way toward making me feel better.

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[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:January 30th, 2006 03:52 am (UTC)
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I found this cookbook

Hee! I wonder if that's the guy who owns that restaurant they were talking about?

That was really sweet of those girls to come and talk to you like that. I know that once in a while I've had my students tell me that they like my lessons or appreciate the work I'm doing, and it always makes me feel better that at least one person does.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:January 30th, 2006 12:34 pm (UTC)
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I wonder if that's the guy who owns that restaurant they were talking about?

I'm pretty sure it is. He had a "New York" button on his shirt.
[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:January 30th, 2006 05:53 pm (UTC)
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Is it wrong that I want to go visit that restaurant? I wonder if they have any vegetarian food...

*checks* Hmmm, not much. They charge by the piece for tempura? Ouch. I bet avacado tempura is good though. Mmmm....
[User Picture]
From:firesign10
Date:January 30th, 2006 04:46 am (UTC)
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They just sit there and do other stuff? Yikes! That's sounds SO frustrating!! Is there any recourse? :-( Nice to at least have some positive feedback, that was very nice of the girls to talk to you like that afterward.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:January 30th, 2006 12:39 pm (UTC)
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They just sit there and do other stuff?

Yep. This is why I hate having class in the computer lab. There are so many distractions.

Is there any recourse?

I'm doing the only thing I can, which is monitoring participation. They get checks for answering questions (or at least trying to) and minuses for playing on computers or chatting or putting their heads down or whatever. There are some students who haven't brought their books to class all year and get minuses every single day. They were told at the beginning that participation counts as a large chunk of their grade, and they were reminded again at the end of the first semester, but they just don't care.
[User Picture]
From:megory
Date:January 30th, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC)

So sorry...

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I'm sorry that there was such a negative response to the story telling. I have some days like that. Some times we have to treat it like a game. I have to act practically the clown and get all excited and involved in the story as I say each sentence. Even then there are days that the response is minimal. Other days, the students will play along. When they do, they comment on how the class seems to go more quickly.

Lately I've taken to posting the week's grades identified only by student id number in random order. Every Monday the students look to see how their participation and other work is affecting their grade. They like to see their grades high and tend to comply and cooperate more when they are hopeful for a good grade. Once their grades are low they give up, I think.

Kudos to the two who stopped to give their apologies. It really does help.

I'm also sorry it was difficult to find an Algebra II book. But I'm glad you found other interesting things on your trip.

[User Picture]
From:photonrecycler
Date:February 1st, 2006 12:51 am (UTC)
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It's hard to get math textbooks right now because all the publishers have recalled them to put on stickers that say "Algebra is just a theory, not a proven fact."
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