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How to approach the demo lesson during a teaching job interview

GENERALLY when you first make your way into teaching - most notably as a cover teacher - one does not cross paths with the observers of lessons. Understandably, you are at the school covering for the day, just passing by while delivering a small collection of lessons to kids in various subjects. This changes once you make the decision to go into more long-term teaching.
In the UK, for example, when you are asked to come in for an interview for a long-term cover position - or hopefully, permanent post - yes, there is an interview stage, filled with questions about your past experience, your specific schooling and the intricacies of getting to know you as an educator and a person. However, there is every so often the prospect of a demo lesson and observation to go through as a direct part of your interview process. Here, the lead teacher of the particular department you are applying for, will quite literally toss you into a classroom to teach a very short lesson - usually 20-30 minutes…

Recreating a post-war eating alley in the heart of Tokyo

AUTHENTIC, original and historic structures and buildings are hard to come by in the modern magnificence that is Tokyo. A typical shrine may look old, sprouting images of its long history sitting in a grassy field along a muddy path for centuries, long before the first concrete building ever arose. However, the effects of a war long over are not lost upon those who delve a little deeper into each building's history. Most were rebuilt and are only over seventy years old.Still, you cannot help but admire the country's decades long efforts to rebuild a sense of that beautiful and storied history of Edo in today's crowded streets and subtle alleyways.
And so wandering along the jungle that is Shinjuku, whether it is to exchange some money - or especially after stopping by the KFC or the fabled Uniqlo on the west side of the station - one does eventually and inevitably come across the tight alley that is Omoide Yokocho. The name itself means "Memory Lane" and that is…

Remembering those busy London days as a teacher

THE SUN's magnificent rays have just peeked over the horizon. Clouds hang scattered across the sky, intercepting the bright light intermittently. Rain will surely fall by noon. However, spring has arrived and the weather is heating up. Morning has come in London, the streets are growing louder and another exciting day of teaching beckons me.
I usually arrive at school sometime before 8:30. Many teachers choose to come to school much earlier in the mornings in order to complete any last minute marking or tweak a lesson plan here or there. I prefer to do as much as I can the previous night, enabling me to have a more relaxing commute the next morning. It really depends on the teacher's preference. Upon arriving at the school, I usually have some time to print out any necessary handouts for the day or just check my school e-mail account. At times it can be flooded in the mornings with new messages and awaiting reports that need looking at. However, that's all part of running…

Sinful Shinjuku

ESCAPING FROM the maze that is Shinjuku station, one always finds the senses confounded, distracted, and very much overstimulated. At any time of the day. I originally intended to write about exploring Shinjuku, Tokyo while the sun is up. Alas, I couldn't resist the allure of describing its incredible night life first instead. In all its glorious energy, sensations stimulations, cuisine, beverages and vice. A brief overview at first. The lights and chaos of this particular part of Tokyo cannot be encapsulated in just a single piece.
Working during the day in the concrete spread that is Shinjuku is an experience in itself. Buildings surround you at every turn, seeing as Shinjuku-ku (literally meaning "New Lodge") is one of the biggest commercial and administrative centres in Japan. The station has the honour (or not) of being the northern half of the busiest railway station in the world - It took me a few months to generally get the hang of the layout of the station. Fin…

The life of a full-time teacher in the UK

TEACHING in London offers educators the opportunity to earn some invaluable experience working in challenging, rewarding schools, while also having the wonders of Europe close at hand. It is also a chance to change your surroundings, exploring a new country - not unlike your own - but a place that nevertheless brings a new perspective and way of life. And there are many others who truly look to London as a place to grow their careers, blossoming under cloudy skies and establishing themselves in a profession they have spent some time preparing for. As a full-time teacher, this goal can surely be achieved.
Being a full-time teacher brings consistency in your morning routine, as well as the obvious advantages of of being able to go to the same school on a daily basis throughout an entire school year. Unexpected issues and concerns rarely disturbed my morning preparations as I calmly had my cereal and prepared for work daily. Your mind is at ease during the walk to the local tube station…

The magic of autumn in Japan

I REMEMBER vividly the first time I went to Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, Japan. I was living in Sendagaya at the time, a neighbourhood just beside Harajuku and only a fifteen minute walk from Shinjuku, one of the central hubs of the city. It was at the beginning of the autumn season and the hot summer temperatures had slowly drifted into the cool, comfortable atmosphere of the fall. It was one of the first times I had actually experienced proper autumn weather in my life - that slow gradual change of temperature and overall nature in an entire city. And I loved it right from the start.
Up until that point, I had already been in Japan for over a month or so. I was incredibly immersed in my work as a teacher and hadn't found the time yet to wander down the long lanes of Meiji-Dori Avenue towards the direction of Yoyogi Park proper. I had been to Meiji Jingu shrine, wandered the streets of Shibuya several times and even took a peek of Harajuku proper. But Yoyogi itself, that I was saving f…

Long-term cover teaching in the UK: A unique, rewarding experience

PICTURE this: You have just arrived in London after months of planning, preparation and effort. You are seeking a new adventure, something different from the lifestyle and routine you had back home. First and foremost, however, you are hungry for an opportunity simply to be a teacher. To be given a chance to do what you feel is the best career for you. You know it will be hard, tricky at the very least. Still, you revel in the challenge; you are excited and look forward to to this new journey in your life. Having arrived, you immerse yourself in a rich culture and style of life in old, majestic and eclectic London. Routines emerge, comfort levels are reached, and you discover new and interesting things about yourself and who you are. Life is good.
Day-to-day cover teaching is usually the avenue of choice for most new teachers. It offers the prospect of learning about the British school system, standard routines you must follow and the overall feel of working in inner-city schools. You…

Don Quijote: A shopper's paradise in Japan

AMID the plethora of bizarre and original stores that I have come across in Japan, one does not quite capture the attention and fascination of shoppers as Don Quijote. The grand Don! Better known as Donki to those who have lived here for some time. I'm not quite sure if anyone really remembers the first time they entered this respectful establishment with its tremendous mixture of useful products and general bric-a-brac.
What I do recall, however is the unending appeal Don Quijote has to shoppers both local and international as soon as they step past its threshold. Donki is indeed the most popular discount store in Japan with with almost 200 branches throughout the country. If one was to ask you to think of 10 completely random products and/or items which may or may not be useful in life, I am quite certain that Donki would come up with all 10 and 25 more to boot. A safe supply of each in the magical storage rooms, wherever they may be. You can find anything and everything in thi…

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 …

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'…