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Immerse yourself in extra-curricular activities

FINDING yourself knee-deep in marking essay papers, exercise books and general school work is something quite common in the heart of every education institution. It's "part of the deal" when it comes to responsibilities and a teacher's solemn duty. Albeit time consuming and tedious at times, it naturally helps a great deal in assisting you with keeping track of student performance and progress throughout the school year. You sigh at the end of the day as you trudge home with bags filled with papers upon papers, your trusty red pen - in your pocket - anxious to comment, correct and criticise. Amid all that hectic progression and time-consumption, I often found myself asking: Why not enjoy yourself at school sometimes?
There are so many opportunities to achieve this enjoyment, too numerous to mention in a single post. However, there are some more obvious activities an often over-burdened teacher can get involved with. First and foremost, however, you must always make …
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Why I love sumo wrestling

ONE DOES not come across sumo wrestling so easily in everyday life Japan. It is as if it is a hidden art form, a closed doors meeting place where men of extraordinary skill and strength gather to do battle. Its rules seem simple enough: to push and/or throw your opponent out of a circular ring (dohyo) or onto the ground. But even then, sumo's delicate grace, its subtleness and tradition does not reveal itself until you immerse yourself fully in the sport. One discovers these things slowly and in time, finally culminating with a visit to the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo - an indoor sporting hall specially designed for sumo wrestling.
I had heard of the sport as a child in North America in some form of parody - perhaps in a cartoon - a shadow of its actual grandness as a disciplined, highly dedicated practice. No, a way of life. I was unaware of the true reality of its existence until I had casually come across a broadcast of an event in Japan on one of the TVs in my share hou…

Cover/substitute teaching 101 in London, England

YOU WOULD be amazed how early a person can get up in the morning when they really make an effort. We all have different internal clocks, personal time zones and habits, but when you become a teacher in London your body learns to live with the misty haze and fog of 6:30 am - every day.
This particular time in the morning becomes such a part of you that even when you do reach the weekends, your body diligently beckons you to open your eyes and rise to the same early tune. Thus, robbing you of the vital weekend sleep in. I find this useful in so many ways. Firstly, you get more out of each day, especially when you discover in one inspiring moment how much work and things you can do in a single complete morning. Secondly, and more importantly,this is the time you need to wake up in order to be a successful cover teacher.
Starting off in London as a cover teacher is no small task. Yes, responsibilities are at a minimum and there is no lesson planning involved. However, there are other asp…

Do you REALLY need to learn Japanese when you move to Japan?

THINKING back on it now, the first time I actually started studying Japanese was when I lived in Abu Dhabi, two years before I actually moved to Japan. At the time, my main focus was to learn common, useful phrases that I could apply in any daily interaction in Japan, whether that was in a store, meeting someone for the first time or asking for directions. Japanesepod101.com was the website I went to in those early days. It was a brilliant site, filled with fantastic audio that emphasised  correct pronunciation, natural phrases and Japanese vocabulary, flash cards - content galore.
I spent many days driving to work in the desert, saying common phrases out loud. 'Good morning', 'Excuse me, how do I get to ____', 'How much is ____?' Repetition and repetition. This was the way of learning which suited me best. With the result that, to this day, the Japanese phrases and words that I am always most comfortable using are the ones I learned those days in the Middle Ea…

The importance of school holidays

THE bells could be heard chiming from the Abbey nearby in the beautiful city of Bath in England. In front of me, a steady procession of locals, tourists and citizens from all walks of life wandered amongst the historic buildings, shops and cafes. Spoken Italian, French, English - among other languages - could be heard in the air, a gentle intertwining of laughter, exuberance and excited deliberation about where to eat. I spared a glance upward, noticed that the skies were clear as the birds soared past majestic spires above. The River Avon continued its gentle flow through the city centre as I took another bite of my panini. This moment best summarises my life as a teacher living in the United Kingdom.
Everyone has heard of the tidy and mouth-watering assortment of weeks off that a school teacher has in the UK. It is beyond comprehension. Words that come to mind include: dream job, amazing, unfair. What you quickly learn teaching in inner-city London is that you earn those weeks off.…

The joys of parent-teacher nights

HAVING freshly emerged from the second of three parent-teacher evenings scheduled one spring term at my previous school in London, I noted that it was past 8 o'clock at night. My stomach demanded food, further lesson planning awaited me at home, and my arms had already started groaning in discomfort with the weight of 30 exercise books that had to be carefully marked.
Nevertheless, you will find no intended hint of sarcasm in the title of this post. Simply put, I love parent-teacher evenings. I find them stimulating, enlightening, and one of the best ways to communicate some of the most important educational information you want your students to know, along with their parents.
Parent-teacher nights were like one big comic book convention. Each teacher from every subject had their very own table in the dining hall. They encircled the middle of the hall, forming a perimeter of knowledge and experience. In the centre was a cluttered collection of chairs - some full and some empty - …

The Cons of living in Tokyo's share houses

WE'VE all been there at one point or another in our busy, eventful lives. Sitting in our rooms, on the couch, in the kitchen, outside a public stall, anywhere really. Sitting or standing, and waiting. Waiting for someone to finish using the bathroom. It could be your brother, sister and very likely a friend or stranger. It's just a regular part of life. What really matters is the urgency of our visit to the toilet - how desperately we need to go at any given moment. And that is where the issue becomes more complicated, especially when living in a share house in Tokyo.
I've always been open about the fact that I like share houses. The benefits of living in one - particularly when living abroad - are immense. However, certain negative points do pervade this style of living, one way or another. Issues such as conflicts of space, noise, privacy and general upkeep and cleanliness are the biggest ones that I have come across during my habitation in several share houses.
Let'…