Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What I want to say to my students...if I could.

If there weren't a language and cultural barrier, and I could really get through to my students with these simple pieces of advice, here is what I would say to them:

It is possible to get an A or even an A+ in my class. Every semester, there are at least one or two students who get an A. In most classes, there are several A grades...believe it or not.

Coming to class and being on time are not optional. You would not be late for your part-time job. If you were, you'd get a warning, and then next time, you'd get fired. Classes are the same way. Every time you saunter in late, you are docked in points. It may come back to bite you at the end of the semester because those lost points add up.

Homework is not an option. It's a requirement. If I assign homework, it's because I actually expect you to complete it and then...wait for it...submit it. I am a softie. I will even except late a point. I won't accept it AFTER my own grading deadline, but I will accept it up to our last class. Go ahead. Try me.

About this optional homework thing, let me remind you, it's not optional. You follow the instructions, you complete it, you submit it. You ask me or your classmates if you don't understand something. No excuses.

If you feel you are in danger of failing or getting a low grade, do whatever you can to increase your points in other ways. Attend classes. Submit all homework. Do well on your essays or presentations. Go over and above.

Don't act surprised when I approach you and ask you why you have not submitted that essay yet. You know the one. The one that was due 5 weeks ago. I know you have not written it yet. And, I hope you know that not turning in an essay for a writing class will cost you. A lot. Don't be surprised when you see your grades.

Asking questions is a positive thing. I won't think you're stupid. I won't feel like you are wasting my time. I became a teacher because I like people, especially young people. And, I like helping them. So, I will sit next to you and help you with whatever you need. You just have to ask. I cannot read your mind.

One more thing about asking questions. Curious students are students who care. Students who care about learning, about improving, about their grades are looked at with great awe by us teachers. We will commit ourselves to you.

Attending class alone is not enough. You also have to participate in the lesson, write stuff down, ask and answer questions, do homework, etc. That is called being a student.

I know this will surprise you, but there may be some students who were absent 4 times, yet they still managed to get an A or B in the class. It's because they fulfilled all other requirements for the class, and they did them well. (This is rare but it DOES happen.)

I think this will also surprise you. Some students attend every single class (or almost every class) and they can still only manage to get C or D. Why? Maybe they never handed in their homework. Maybe they were never ready to do their presentations, and then refused to do it when called upon. Maybe they were always playing video games on their phones and never seemed to know what was going on. Just because you are present does not mean you are actually learning anything in the class.

While it is true that you "get to have 4 freebie absences", it doesn't mean you should try to be absent 4 times. In fact, I would not recommend missing more than 1 or 2 classes. Coming to every class is, of course, going ensure you the get all the information you need to pass the class.

In the same vein, even if you miss a class, for whatever reason (sports, family issues, illness, skipping, etc.), you are still expected to submit homework, perform presentations, make arrangements for missed quizzes or tests, etc. Seriously. Don't just walk into the next class and say you didn't know about the today's presentation that was announced 3 weeks ago. Don't just forget about the test you missed. It will come back to bite you when I calculate your grades.

Missing all four of your freebie classes right at the beginning of the semester is probably not a good idea. Why? Because it is likely that some bad luck will come to you towards the end of the semester. You might actually become ill, a family emergency might come just never know. Better to play it safe.

If you know you will be absent in the near future, don't hesitate to tell me. I will still mark you absent, but at least I won't be worried about you not knowing when the next quiz, presentation date or essay deadline is. I'll still expect you to do the work.

If you know you are running late, it's very courteous of you to email me and let me know. However, you're still late and you should have taken an early bus or train.

If being late is common for you, you should try to fix that. Take an earlier bus or train that day...every you can get to my class on time. It's not rocket science!

I think of college students as adults. They don't need to be reminded about assignments and deadlines because they keep track of everything in a planner. They also keep their papers neatly in a file folder so they never lose things. It is not my job to chase after students and beg them to turn in assignments. So, the end of the semester, you receive a low grade, it might be because you are the type of student who expected to be reminded several times a week.

That said, even when I have reminded certain students about their assignments, well-past the deadlines, they often smile sheepishly at me. They tell me that they "forgot it at home", or they "forgot all about it but will do it TONIGHT!" But usually nothing ever comes of these promises, so it's really not worth my time to chase after anyone. Students who want A's or B's will do the assignments, and they don't need reminding.

It is not hard to figure out what your teacher wants from you. Of course, every teacher is different, so it takes time to figure this out. Observe your teacher closely. What kinds of things does she praise students for? What is the purpose of her class? What can you do in this class to ensure an A or a B? Once you figure this out, you should be able to follow through with it. If you remain confused, you probably haven't been listening or watching closely enough. (Yes, stop staring at your phone.)

Finally, teachers are human too. They like to be thanked for their hard work. They like to feel somewhat appreciated. If a teacher hands back your homework to you, say thank you. She probably stays up late every night scoring loads of homework for all her students...and she still manages to get to work on time.

So, if you ever wondered how to be a student, these guidelines should help. If you really think about it, being a good student is not that hard. It all comes down to showing that you care about learning, and that you want to learn more. If that means showing up for class on time, asking and answering questions, writing some stuff down on paper, handing it in to your teacher, among other things, then just do it. Pretty soon you will be in the real world and you will long for your student days when life was so simple.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

OLW Wrap-up for 2017

My One Little Word for 2017 was "Heart". I needed more LOVE in my life, whether that meant caring for my family, self-care, passion for reading and other hobbies...HEART can encompass a variety of meanings.

For me, heart came after a culmination of past words, such as nurture, simplify, and breathe. Self-care and making time for it is a big issue for me, as is being present for my children and making sure I give them the love they need and deserve. Often I find myself wrapped up in household management, work or volunteer projects and then don't have enough patience left over for them or myself, and that motherly kindness (and self-kindness) just goes right out the window. I also have issues with frustration and anger, and at times go through periods of darkness and hopelessness. It often happens around my very busy times (mid-semester, for example!), and the only way to dig myself out of it is to just keep moving forward through my to-do lists, daily, not giving up until the deadlines have passed. It's not like I can just quit my job or my life. 

The HEART-related sayings are not part of Ali's class, though they were at one time. I continue to make pages like this, and I always hang the page up in my kitchen so I can see it every time I am preparing snacks or meals, cleaning up, etc. It's a daily reminder of my OLW.
In order to have some daily reminders, I made a kind of logo of my word and used it as my background photo for my Facebook page. This is important because I use FB a lot. I also had a couple postcard versions printed up so I could keep them up around the house.
One more thing, I asked Erinn at Off on a Whim to create a key chain with the theme colors using power stones and a metal pendant with “Heart 2017” stamped on it. You can see it in the photo below. I wasn’t sure what to do with this keychain, but I ended up hanging it by my calendar in the kitchen. I intend to have her make more, one for each year of OLW, and then maybe keep them together on one chain somewhere.

One task in February was to choose three action steps and try make them in to habits. I did okay, but later in the year, I found an app called Habitat, and this has helped me keep better track of my goals rather than doing them on paper. We also had to fill out this form about how we feel regarding our word so far.

For the past few years, an early assignment takes on a collage format, using old magazines. It’s hard to stop at just one collage, and this time, I made several to cover the various aspects of HEART. I liked how they turned out. I didn’t have a lot of space to display these 8.5x11” collages at home, so I scanned them and put the collages themselves into 2 digital collages. I used these collages as my background image for my iPhone. I also printed color copies and hung them by my desk at work. Daily reminders really do help.

Action Steps and Reflection
At the beginning of each month, we are supposed to write down some action steps or goals for the month, and then reflect on the month at the end. I’ve never been good at doing this before but I made a special effort to do so this year, at least for the first 9 months. I did find that it helped. Even just expressing a few goals for each month helped to keep me on track.

April's assignment had something to do with taping up Post-it notes around the house to remind me of my word. I still find these post-it notes around the house. I did not make a layout to go with this month.

Making photo collages out of the photos in my collection that have arrived there somehow, either from my camera, phone, my husband's phone, etc. are a great way to see how my OLW is playing a part in my life, however big or small.

In June, we had to fill out another form about how the OLW was going so far. By mid-semester, I start to find less time for my own personal life as I am bogged down at work. Frustration starts to fester.

July was a really dark month for me. I was feeling so down that I just wanted to sleep whenever I had the chance...which, unfortunately was not often enough. It’s a busy time of the semester with three family birthdays, planning for the trip to the USA, final projects in classes, grades, etc. It sometimes leaves me so bitter and irritated. I dreaded doing this “creative” type of layout as my tank was empty, but when I finally sat down to do it, I felt it was good therapy for me. Making good choices on a daily basis, even if I don’t always get it right, and focusing on the good things in my life were two ways I could start to see my way out of the darkness.

August is a halfway point for OLW, so it’s a good opportunity to reflect on what you’re struggle with, what you can celebrate, and how you feel right now in your journey. Anyone who has made it this far with their word will feel very proud to have made at least a little progress. In the thick of it and while visiting the USA, my homeland, I was coming to realize that patience was a big part of having HEART. Also, love and friendships were what would carry me through to the end, even when my parents can no longer be there for me. And finally, that self-care is ever-important.

This was a good chance to reflect back on the summer break and consider some discoveries I had made. I shouldn’t feel guilty about needing time to rest my brain or my body. Taking a much-needed nap on the weekend, or getting in some no-brainer TV time at night - these rewards were well-deserved. I also noticed how much I enjoy cooking for my family, as that is one way to show my love for them. It’s not always about cooking healthy for myself or providing the easiest meal I can muster, but about making things we like and enjoying the time together.

There is often one assignment related to music and lyrics, which I really like. Usually, throughout the first six months of the year, I compile an album of songs that stand out to me. They don't have to use my OLW or be about my OLW, but they just have to be songs that speak to me for some reason. When I do the assignment, I take a look at the lyrics and try to figure out why I like the song so much. Usually there is something related to my word in there.

A letter to myself. It turned out to be long. There were a lot of things I wanted to remind myself of, especially since I didn't feel like that HEART was that great of a word for me. Maybe in the end, it was a perfect word to help me get through what I needed to get through this year.

It's always good to go over the reality of the year (what did happen and what did not happen) and how you feel about it. In the end, I felt okay with my OLW, made my peace with it, and was ready to say goodbye as I welcomed in my new OLW for 2018.

Last Actions and Reflections of the year

Most of the pages in this album were completed using Photoshop Elements, and the following digital kits, all which can be purchased at Sweet Shoppe Designs:
A Beautiful Mess - Crimson by Libby Pritchett
A Beautiful Mess - Razzmatazz by Libby Pritchett
Splendiferous by Libby Pritchett
All class-related materials and digital products are from Ali Edwards. The digital kit can be purchased in her shop. Her online class is a live class that starts in January each year. This is my 7th year of being part of this wonderful community.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Project Life Update / Work/Life Balance Update

After spending 2 1/2 months, mainly at home, chipping away at my long to-do list, which included work projects, family obligations, home organization, and lastly hobbies, I FINALLY got around to working on Project Life 2014 in the very last week of spring vacation. During this final week of vacation, I was also in throes of lesson planning, but by taking my laptop to bed with me, I was able to slog my way through it. The album was printed by Blurb and is likely already at my mom's house. I told her she could read through it first before sending it to me, as is our annual tradition. This year's book was 140 pages, but the price turned out to be the same as past year's books, so I am assuming that all my PL albums have come to about 140 pages. Now to catch up on 2015's pages so that I don't fall behind and live to regret it again.

Here is the link for my 2014 Project Life. You can see some of the pages here.

In March, I decided to quit Central Fitness Yogapis (I know, much like Calpis, this name is hilarious!) and take on a membership at Lava Yoga, which is a chain and has studios all over Japan. They are open daily, have a more flexible schedule, shower facilities, and a variety of classes. You don't have to commit to the same time/day every week like CF. I thought I was being so smart when I located a studio two blocks away from my campus in Tokyo. I decided that since I am free on Tuesday mornings, I would take their 9:30 class, shower, dress and prepare for work at the studio and be at campus in plenty of time to eat lunch and attend my shift at the English Lounge.

This was a great plan before classes started. After two weeks of this though, I realize it is not such a good plan. I have 1st period on Wednesdays, so two days in a row, I have to take a 7:30 train. Get Luka to daycare by 7:00. Carry a heavy gym bag to and fro on Tuesdays, my obento on both days,  along with my regular backpack. I am limited to this Tue 9:30 class because of my work schedule also. It seems illogical now that I think about it. Lava has a studio in Inage, right by the station. I can drive there or even take a bus. Or just ride my bike. Or walk. It's not my regular station, but my condo is located halfway between my regular station and Inage station. Lava is open on Mondays, my work- at-home day. I can go on weekends, or even other days, like Tue mornings or Thursday afternoons, if I want to. WTF was I thinking? So, I've decided to try and switch studios. We'll see if Japan allows this or not.

Classes are going well. Better than I thought, but I still struggle to make time to plan and coordinate all the different classes. Mondays are for Tue/Wed classes. Thursdays are for Friday classes. Luckily, one of my colleagues made the first unit handouts of my N2 class (Thursday's class) but that won't happen every time. I was making a Power Point slide show for my Friday morning lecture morning...during dinner last night. So, I'm not always able to compartmentalize my life. The Widgets book is harder for my sophomores than I thought it would be. But it would help if they had the textbook! Apparently, it's still not available at the university bookstore. Marathon Mouth is perhaps easier but in a welcoming way and I'm enjoying this style of class with my re-takers. N2 is delightful and we laugh a lot during our classes. K7 and K8 are brilliant and enthusiastic, and so far, I am quite impressed by them. Stretch for my sophomore English majors is going well now that I have a plan of attack. Oyo Writing for my juniors and seniors may be my biggest challenge as I had more students than I expected on the first day, but we'll see what happens tomorrow because not everyone will actually register for the class. I think I can do this for 13 1/2 more weeks.