Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Being Remembered by Students

I really work hard to initiate, nurture, develop and maintain a relationship with students. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But I am tickled if my former students remember me, even for silly reasons. I often refer to myself as Onigiriman--onigiri means rice ball. I am, I think, soft and mushy on the outside and easy to eat, but ultimately hard to swallow, as I ask student to do what I say if they expect a good grade in my class. For better or for worse, they do remember my as Onigiriman, as post on my facebook page reveal.
Lynn wrote: "This, of course, reminded me of you, sensei."

And Hannah wrote: "This reminded me of you!"

Oh well, I guess I'll take anything...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Wonderful Colleagues

I feel like a very lucky guy, today. Previously, I mentioned the nice birthday gifts I received from students. Well, today, I went to the house of a colleague--Takae Tsujioka--expecting a Year-End Party 忘年会, but I was instead greeted with a surprise birthday party! Tsujioka sensei and many of my other departmental colleagues such as Shoko Hamano, Anri Yasuda, Mitsuyo Sato, Miaochun Wei, Miok Pak, Hang Zhang, and Liana Chen--along with their significant others--were there as well to wish me a happy 60th. Since I had NO idea it would be a b-day party, I didn't think of bringing a camera to take pics--maybe some of my colleagues can send some if they took some. (Actually my wife--Chiei Hanami--was taking pics but I got the sense that she was taking shots of mostly food.) But I DO have photographic proof of gifts! It was a grab bag of stuff harking back to the year I was born. It included Smarties Candy, Red Hots, a mini Slinky, an ultra-mini Etcha Sketch, as well as a T-shirt lauding the year 1955, a Vintage 60-Year-Old Dude coffee mug and a pair of gloves to keep warm these crotchety old hands of mine. Takae's son, Akkun, also gave me a gift--a character from some anime, but I'm unsure who and from where. Maybe one of you anime geniuses (aka former students) can tell me the name of that white-rabbit-looking thing to the left is. Anyway I had a pleasant time and I must say it made me feel rather special. Thanks to all my colleagues.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Imaging Imaginings

I must be the slowest grader on the face of the planet, but I've reached the home stretch, down to my last class. Grading is not so much fun usually, unless I make my students use their imagination. In one story--チーズケーキのような形をした僕の貧乏 (My Poverty in a Shape Like a Cheesecake)--Murakami Haruki asks his readers to imagine a piece of property of a house he once rented by comparing it to the shape of a slice of cheesecake. Understanding text often requires the reader to image what's going on, but how do I see if students are doing this? Translating is fine and it's something I usually ask them to do in a literal and grammatically precise manner (thanks Epp sensei), but since Haruki asked his readers to imagine his explanation of the property, I asked the students to convey their understanding of his explanation through images. Tell me: Don't you think these might be more fun to grade? :-)
BTW: "My Picasso" at the bottom of the sheet is not meant represent my expectations of students' artistic abilities. In fact, I might even be the exact opposite. (^^;)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

B-Day Presents

I feel pretty lucky to have such thoughtful students. Shandao knows that I'm lactose intolerant so instead of cake she dropped by to wish me a happy birthday with egg foo young. Shandao graduated a year ago. Senior Alicia knows my favorite cookies are peanut butter and she dropped by with a home-made batch--she used as little butter as possible, she said. Shirley also came by with some Ghirardelli caramel and milk chocolate. Yum. Bad for my stomach but still tasty. She's a freshman so wouldn't know about my dietary situation (she does now), but I'm eatin' them anyway! Thanks guys. It was really thoughtful of you!
It's nice to think that I have students who appreciate my classes, especially when they represent a nice range of students from freshmen who are just getting to know me, to seniors who have known me for a few years, and graduates who have yet to forgot me. Of course, the student who graduated comes with a caveat: she also asked for a letter of recommendation.

Friday, December 11, 2015

JAPN 3111: Heian Newsletter

It's end of semester and I'm down to grading, grading and grading. And I have photographic proof! Here are students' submissions of their Heian Newsletters (group project): After reading a number of prose pieces in translation--Tosa nikki, Ise monogatari, Genji, etc.--they take that info as "facts" and create a newsletter reporting on happenings during the Heian period. Best article was a reflection by Michitsuna (Kenny Hoffman) after having read his own mother's diary (Kagero nikki) years later. Best advertisement was for fence repairs (Samuel Chan) to prevent "peeping"! (You know how those Heian guys are...)

Monday, September 28, 2015


This past weekend, with colleague Takae Tsujioka and Georgetown's Kumi Sato, we held a workshop at the Foreign Language Association of Virginia (FLAVA) 2015 held in Williamsburg. We presented Murakami Haruki as a viable tool in learning Japanese at the advanced level. Many times instructors find Haruki's material too esoteric or even incomprehensible. So we presented a couple of stories--"Coffee" and "High Heel"--to show how we may use them not only as stories to promote Japanse language learning, but as literature to promote discussion on matters beyond a huge store sign that says coffee (think Text with a capital "T") and an elephant wearing high heels on the subway (think marginalized people). I'm not sure how many people we convinced, but our presentation was received well, if the evaluations are any indications. I hope to take this to a larger audience, but we will see.

SIDE NOTE: I think that FLAVA is pronounced in a way that rhymes with "guava", but I want to pronounce it like "flavor" but in a more urban way: flay-vuh.