Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Teaching with hay fever

I hate ragweed. It is the bane of my life. I have a runny nose, itchy eyes, sore throat. I manifest all the yucky symptoms of a cold but without a fever. Ugh.

So in bungo today, we were learning the interrogative/emphatic particle や (ya) and I used a famous poem as an example. I set up the poem explaining how Narihira was hooking up with the princess Takaiko who was already promised to the emperor. Of course, when the powers that be found out--her brothers--they secreted her away where he could no longer meet her. A year later he goes back to the place they used to hook up and recited a poem expressing his loneliness:

 Is the moon not there?
  Is the spring not the spring of old?
   My self alone being the same self...

So as I recite this poem, I sniffle a bit and suddenly feel a tear streaming down my cheeks.

Juliana: Sensei! Are you crying?!?

MarieClaire: It's the pol...

Juliana: "The poem?" she blurts out before MC could complete the sentence. "Are you so moved?!?"

The class--MarieClaire, Xavier, Monica, Irene, Mark, Phoebe, Pim, Yuta, Chloe, et al--exploded into laughter, as I try to explain my issues with hay fever.

Did I mention?: i HATE RAGWEED!!!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Speaking of Learning: Learn Self-control

So CDI this past week was quite stressful. From Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, we discussed: 
  • Course goals vs. objectives
  • Assessments: to measure or not? 
  • Do I know the subject so well that I don't realize what my students don't know? 
  • In-class activities: are they engaging or is it busy work? 
  • Et cetera, et cetera.
Addressing these kinds of questions and confronting my own syllabus was pretty intense. So to alleviate some of the stress--I guess--they made sure we had PLENTY OF FOOD. So everyday at 8:30am we had breakfast, at 10:45am coffee break, 12:15 lunch. While it was not crazy good, it was better than the usual fare we've been served lately during these days of budget cuts and belt tightening: Tandoori chicken, salmon, shrimp and avocado sandwich, just to name some of the better options.

The killer, tho', was the snacks. In the back of the study room, there was a table with a large urn of coffee, water, soda and FOOD: 
  • Fruit (bananas, plums, apples, and--omigod!--cherries!)
  • Energy bars (Special K, granola, and--oh no!--peanut butter W/ DARK chocolate)
  • Bagels with cream cheese
  • Potato chips (regular, wavy, ruffles, BBQ, and--my favorite!--kettle)
  • Muffins (plain, whole wheat, cranberry, blueberry and--gulp!--coconut)
  • And a bottomless bowl of small Trail Mix bags.
They were constantly restocking the table ALL DAY LONG. So of course, I had to try EVERY single treat available. And to confirm which one I liked, I had to try them again... and again. I was like a puppy dog who found open and unattended bags of Puppy Chow, Milk Bone and Beggin' Strips. I swear, I think 


So before I get back to work, I need to exercise a bit, maybe for a couple of weeks. I feel sluggish and kinda dumpy. Ugh!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Course Design Institute (CDI)

All week long, I participated in the Course Design Institute (CDI) at school. The goal was to awaken us to a Learning Centered approach to teaching. I am not against such an approach, but I learned that I am not as learning centered as I thought. I usually think:
  • Are students studying? 
  •  Did students do the reading? 
  •  Are they writing their paper? 
Of course, implicit in this attitude is the hope that student are learning.

But instead of focusing on what I want them to do--study, read, write--I should have focused more on what they want to do:
  • Are they learning? 
  •  Are they thinking about (engaged in) the topic? 
  •  What can I do to facilitate their comprehension of the subject? 
Well, I addressed my own demons, and focused on the issues that my students should address in my class on The Genji. Based on the ideas and feedback I received from my colleagues, I reworked my current syllabus and submitted it this morning and... I ended up with the second best syllabus/course design for the Institute this week! Woo hoo!

This is not official and the recognition comes with no prizes, but it was nice to be recognized by my peers and colleagues anyway.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

GW Men's Basketball Advance to NIT Championship Game

There's a four-character Chinese proverb often used in Japan. 鶏口牛後 (けいこうぎゅうご keikō gyūgo). Literally, it means the chicken's mouth over an ox's ass, suggesting that it is better to be at the top of something small and modest than at the bottom of some large prestigious organization. My mother used this expression to encourage me to do well at a community college: better the Chancellor's Distinguished Student Award from East Los Angeles College than some anonymous graduate in the back row of a huge college. Indeed, it was this kind of encouragement that led to an education at UCLA (BA & MA) and Stanford (PhD).

So why am I talking about this?

Well, this is all a preface to say that GW is in the Championship game of the National Invitational Tournament by soundly beating San Diego State. Bet you didn't expect that.

No, the NIT is not as prestigious as the NCAA Tournament. Not by a long shot. But it might be better to be at the top of the NIT than be a bubble team and go down in the first round of the NCAA. One of my students--Yuta Watanabe--is a starter for GW so he's missing class this week. I think I'll give him some slack, as I've been giving him a hard time after a few untimely losses as the season wound down. Hope Yuta and Kevin (both on my fb banner) and the rest of the team play well Thursday against Valpo. Go G-Dub! ‪#‎raisehigh‬ ‪#‎GWU‬ ‪#‎A10MBB‬

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

2016 Research Days at GW: Alicia Taylor

Today was 2016 Research Days at GW. Students were selected to exhibit a poster representing their research. Research Days is heavy with hard science and social science heavy and there were only a handful of humanities students. But among them was our very own Japanese major, Alicia Taylor who is researching Japanese TV ads and how they are effective. Way to represent. And I love supporting our major! Alicia is using the critical approach of Roland Barthes' Mythologies to break down the effectiveness of a Pokari Sweat television commercial, and the ineffectiveness of a yakisoba ad starring Nagase Tomoya. Barthes approach builds on Ferdinand de Saussure's theory of sign (signifier and signified) and demonstrates the effective association that can be manufactured between multiple images and emotions to build a message that feels "natural", effectively building a "myth". Can you see the "myth" in the Pokari Sweat ad with images of high school baseball players pursuing their dream of reaching Kōshien through hard work and "sweat"? Or how about the colors of the uniforms--school and baseball--and other items that reflect the Pocari Sweat image? Anyway, I look forward to reading her final research submission.

Friday, February 05, 2016

National Japanese Exam 2016

The National Japanese Exam (NJE) is an online, proficiency-oriented, standards-based and culture-related assessment tool for middle school (junior high), high school, and college students who are studying Japanese as a second language. It was developed by AATJ (American Association of Teachers of Japanese) as a way for such students to test their Japanese skills and participate in a nation-wide exam with awards for high achievement.

The NJE helps teachers see students’ strengths and weaknesses in various areas including reading and listening. Teachers can use the results to give various school-level awards to students (Gold Level, Silver Level, Bronze Level, Honorable Mention, and Participation certificates) and to highlight the success of their Japanese programs and celebrate their students' accomplishments.

The NJE is an entirely online test that teachers administer in their classrooms. It features Listening and Reading sections at three levels.

Registration for the 2016 NJE is open! Registration will close at 5:00 p.m. Pacific time on February 19, 2016. The cost of the exam is $9 for the AATJ members (Nonmember fee is $17).

Saturday, January 30, 2016

J-LIVE Talk, a TED-like speech contest in Japanese, for 2016 will be organized by GW 's Japanese Language and Literature Program. Information on the upcoming contest coming soon in February. http://jlivetalk.com/

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Happy New Year to everyone

It's the 1st of the year and I'm rarin' to go to make 2016 the most productive year possible. As you can see, to celebrate the Year of the Monkey, I'm wearing my monkey suit and already working on my Blackboard page for the coming semester. Hope the new year brings you productivity--not to mention Love and Happiness--for a great 2016. Peace to everyone.