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Amparo Bertram

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06:36 pm: How to take students by surprise
In one of my classes today, my team teacher asked me "What did you do this weekend?" (This is a typical warm-up to start the class with a bit of listening practice for the students.) When I mentioned that I had gone to the Kyoto Botanical Garden, she asked the students if any of them had ever been there. (Not many had.) She then made the announcement: "If you go there with your boyfriend, you'll break up."

The students, of course, were taken aback. The teacher then went on to mention some other place in Kyoto that's famous for breaking up couples. (Japanese girls LOVE these kinds of superstitions, both the good ones and the bad ones. They really eat it up.)

Since some of the English club girls mentioned that they wanted to do some "quick" cooking, I invited them back to my apartment to make muffins. )It was much easier than borrowing the home ec room, since I know where everything is in my apartment and I know I have the right implements for the job.) They were shocked that I was so fast to take them up on the idea; they figured it would take a bit of planning to go out and buy ingredients and such. (I had everything on hand anyway...) Only six of them showed up this time, so it wasn't too crowded, either.

So we baked cranberry muffins and then they sat around chatting until around six.

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From:firesign10
Date:May 30th, 2005 04:13 am (UTC)
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That's pretty funny about the places being famous for"breaking up" couples! I can't really think of any parallels here for that.

Mmmmmmmmmmmm cranberry muffins......I must look in my pantry now when I go start coffee and see if there's anything in there to whip up....
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From:spacealien_vamp
Date:May 30th, 2005 01:03 pm (UTC)
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There's the maritime saying that if you knit your boyfriend a sweater, you'll break up. Knitting it for your husband is ok, but it's an apparent deathknell to dating couples.

Fascinating...wonder if it's one of those "Whoa, this is getting too serious!" things...
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From:kataren
Date:May 31st, 2005 03:26 am (UTC)

*wanders in*

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Hi! :)
Hope you don't mind, but I'm curious. What I know of Japanese study culture is what's always been highlighted in the media, i.e. swot like mad, get into a prestigious U, get a job with a large company. But is this true of most of the students?

Have you ever come across anyone (or someone who knows of someone) who's taken a year (or more) off to travel, or work overseas like some western students do? Is a corporate job still the No. 1 dream job? Or are they now more adventurous?

The reason I'm asking is cos I'm a recruiter, & a client wants native Japanese (who can speak English) to work here. There's an expatriate community here, but we're open to options, so I thought I'd try to get a first-hand insight, so to speak. :)

*sighs* Wish I had a chance to work in a foreign country for some time. It'd be exciting...until I miss my mom's Fried Glass Noodles. ^^;
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From:spacealien_vamp
Date:May 31st, 2005 04:23 am (UTC)

Re: *wanders in*

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But is this true of most of the students?

Not at all. It may be true of the ones with clear goals, and the ones who live in/near big cities. However, there is still a HUGE "inherit the family business" mentality, particularly in small towns. Students who know they're going to take over the family farm or whatever don't bother doing more than the minimum of effort in high school--if they even go to high school, since it isn't mandatory. At the schools where I've worked, only about 1/4 or 1/3 of the students go on to college.

Trade/vocational schools are a popular alternative to four-year colleges. Also, it varies by gender. Girls are much more likely to want to go into cooking, nursing, or childcare fields.

Have you ever come across anyone (or someone who knows of someone) who's taken a year (or more) off to travel, or work overseas like some western students do?

Hmm...not really, but then, I'm not on the career guidance end of things. The information I have comes from A) student compositions on "my dream" or "what I want to be in the future" and B) copies of statistics on the career paths chosen by graduating students.

From what I've picked up, students receive lots and lots of career counseling from the studen guidance office. They have to tell the guidance office what they want to do after they graduate, and the teachers mediate with them (and their parents) to set goals and such. "I don't know what I want to do, I think I'll take a year off to see the world before deciding" is not a recommended path.

This is mainly because college entrance exams really are quite difficult. From what I've heard, you can't take one after a year of not studying and expect to pass. (There are students who fail the first time and take a year doing nothing but study, however.)

Is a corporate job still the No. 1 dream job? Or are they now more adventurous?

I can say that not a single one of my students has ever said "I want to be a businessperson" in a composition. Recently, that is no doubt because I'm at a girls' school and I'm only teaching the English major students. So the girls I'm teaching now (those who plan to go on to further education) generally want to become teachers or translators or work with foreigners in some capacity. My previous schools were all out in the mountains in small towns; those students had dreams of becoming dessert chefs or architects or nurses.

My current school does have a "business/information" major, so the girls on that track might be more inclined toward the office work path. On the whole, though, the students' dreams are a lot more varied.

One of the draws at my current school is the study abroad program, so I can say that many students would LOVE to spend time abroad. I think the key is that they would have to have a firm enough job prospect to convince the student guidance office (not to mention their parents) that it's worth pursuing. They aren't likely to go globe-trotting on a whim and hope they find a god job when they get there.

The ones who do a lot of traveling are young, unmarried office worker women. They earn a paycheck, so they have a way to fund their travel; they often live with their parents, so that frees up more of their money to spend how they please; and they don't have any children to tie them down. (The Japan travel industry knows this and offers lots of special deals and package tours only available to women traveling together.)
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From:kataren
Date:May 31st, 2005 09:25 pm (UTC)

Re: *wanders in*

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Wow, lots of useful info. Thanks! ^^

"I don't know what I want to do, I think I'll take a year off to see the world before deciding" is not a recommended path.

Same thing here. The Malaysian culture is such that if your kid doesn't choose a "normal" job (i.e. doctor, lawyer, teacher), it's the end of the world, as far as most parents are concerned. I blame the spoon-feeding education system - students are given facts, memorize them, churn them out during exams, & get stumped when they go for job interviews. (I was one of them, but somehow I always got lucky during interviews - naivete probably had something to do with that.) Not to mention they have unreasonable expectations; high salary, cushy job, etc. It's gotten me to wondering if it's the same the world over.


so I can say that many students would LOVE to spend time abroad. I think the key is that they would have to have a firm enough job prospect to convince the student guidance office (not to mention their parents) that it's worth pursuing.

Heh, that's good news for me/us (while the client(s) are willing to pay for work permits.) :) The only thing is, are they proficient (& confident) enough to speak in English at least half the time? The only Japanese people I've met who speak English fluently are expatriates' kids who lived overseas since they were very young (or born overseas). Even adults who've been here for ages still speak some broken English, but you can't find fault with their dedication whenever they take a language class! :)

Btw, is it true the Japanese are sun & beach worshippers? Thought they love their four seasons? (I wanna play with snow!)
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From:spacealien_vamp
Date:June 1st, 2005 03:39 am (UTC)

Re: *wanders in*

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I blame the spoon-feeding education system - students are given facts, memorize them, churn them out during exams, & get stumped when they go for job interviews.

That kind of reminds me of the article I found on my desk this morning that was about an interview with some guy talking about what Japanese education needs. At one point the interviewer asked, "Should we teach the students debating?" He answered, "You want to teach them a little, so they have a basis in logical thinking. Don't overdo it, though, or they'll turn into Americans." <snicker>

Not to mention they have unreasonable expectations; high salary, cushy job, etc. It's gotten me to wondering if it's the same the world over.

I'm sure wanting your children to be prosperous is a universal hope--especially, I imagine, when the children are expected to take care of the parents later in life. Then again, there are families where the attitude is, "Once you turn 18, you're on your own."

The only thing is, are they proficient (& confident) enough to speak in English at least half the time? The only Japanese people I've met who speak English fluently are expatriates' kids who lived overseas since they were very young (or born overseas).

That really varies from person to person. I've had some students--especially, of course, the ones who came back from a year abroad in America as exchange students--who were quite confident in their English skills. The English teachers I've worked with (with a few notable exceptions) also have excellent English skills, so those who put their minds to it can really do great.

For a rough idea...I'm in the English track, so my students are already "concentrated" in favor of having good English skills. Out of each class of 30-40 students, there are usually about 4 whose ability is what I would categorize as about as close to fluent as it gets in high school, combined with the boldness to speak on a regular basis.

If you look into Japanese universities that specialize in English as a major, you're likely to get an even more concentrated sample.

Btw, is it true the Japanese are sun & beach worshippers?

I know they tend to love the ocean. Okinawa and Hawaii are top vacation spots.

Thought they love their four seasons?

Oh, they certainly do. But that's because the four seasons are Japanese. If they go to a foreign country, they don't expect four seasons at all.
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From:kataren
Date:June 2nd, 2005 06:03 am (UTC)

Re: *wanders in*

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I have to thank you again for all the info. Your insight has helped us quite a bit. *sneaks look at boss on the phone to Tokyo* Not to mention that now I want to tour the whole of Japan & stay for maybe a whole year. *adds to must-do-before-dead list*

Now, back to counting Alek's costumes...
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