Two Buses

Hello folks, how are you doing? Summer vacation is almost here and that will mean some downtime for the blog, but before we go, I just wanted to update you on whats happened recently.

As you know, we’ve been finding advertising the most difficult part of this book project. I think we have a really great idea, with a really unique method and we can help a lot of people in all walks of life here in Japan, but it practically means nothing if people don’t know about us. We’ve not had any good marketing opportunities for ages and then, just like buses, two appeared at once.

Recently, the local newspaper, Kahoku Shinbun, came to the school to interview us. They visited twice. The first time they spoke to me and the Japanese teachers about the project. Then they came back to interview some of the students. This week, the article appeared in the paper. It was a small section on page 17, but advertising that article on Facebook has got us a lot more views and likes. Unfortunately I had to take it down due to copyright issues. I was going to post it up here too but I can’t. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it was cool, because heaven forbid more people should actually read the article that they wrote for the express purpose of people reading it! When will japanese companies stop thinking so small? We could help so many more people if we could show the world what we were doing.

However, I’m just happy that It’s been a good time for marketing the book at the moment.
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Our second opportunity was that yesterday, Katie Adler of English with Katie interviewed me on her live Internet radio show. It was mostly in the name of my Japanese culture blog, Sakura Panda Tea Time but we talked a lot about my writing and the books I have published too. She was very interested in the school’s book project so we talked a lot about that.

If you want to check it out, there is a link to the recording here: link

So that’s it until the end of August. The students are working on their anime presentations and I’m off to China for a couple of weeks. I’ll update Facebook when I can, but otherwise, see you in the new term!

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Last Chance

I’ve formatted half of the book now. The traditional section is actually very long. The movie section is quite short, Most movies are by the two animation greats of Japan. Do you know who they are? If you don’t you should definitely buy our book, and if you do, you should buy our book to check!

There’s only 3 days left on our Indiegogo campaign! We’ve raised less than a quarter of the meager target!

So I don’t know what else to say except PLEASE share this link like crazy: http://www.indiegogo.com/letspopculture

If not for me, who has, by the way, worked so hard for this project I might seriously have depression if it completely fails, then do it for the students who desperately need help but don’t even realise it, and all the disaster victims who need new homes.

Please! Just two seconds of your life can change so many others for the better.

20121129-102734.jpg if you don’t help, this cat will hate you forever, and probably die horribly cursing and screaming your name…

Have a nice day!

Damaged

So here is a video I recorded today of me running around the school looking for cracks… It shows youths damage that is still waiting to be repaired after 20 months (I said 18 in the video because I was too lazy to count).

Countdown

This is it! Or rather, tomorrow is it. Tomorrow the IndieGoGo page will go go live! In 24 hours you’ll be able to start donating to our project, and we sincerely hope that you will. All the teachers and students here at Mukaiyama are counting on you to help them and those people still struggling to rebuild their lives after last year’s earthquake.

Full information can be found on this site (hint: try the links above) but to donate, and watch the awesome video, you need to go to our IndieGoGo page at http://www.indiegogo.com/letspopculture

Please, please please tweet this link, Facebook it, tumblr it, anything, just spread the word, especially if you know someone interested in Japan, helping charities or teaching. This project really can make a big difference, but only if more people know about it.

So tweet away, my friends. What would you have me do in return? I’ll do it! I promise.

The making of the introduction video

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Hey viewers and welcome to another exciting edition of “It’ll Be Alright On The Night”. I’m your host, Matthew Rowe, and… I guess I got carried away with the whole video making thing.

I’ve been filming clips for the Indiegogo project introduction video. It’s been fun but harder work than I imagined. Now, I try to make a short video on YouTube about my daily life every day, well, five times a week, but I don’t spare much time for production because I don’t have that much time every day. However, for this video I want it to look good so I’ve been practicing lines, setting up shots, dressing the set and patrolling security too.

The results are quite good, I can’t really tell until I edit later, but there have been a lot of bloopers. I never realized how hard it is to remember and deliver lines correctly, and then it’s even hard to remember what you are supposed to say after a difficult bit. So, if there is enough room on my iPhone and iPad to save the clips, I might make a bloopers video as a bonus later. It’ll be nice to post on Indiegogo.

Slowly, I’m getting there. The wrapped footage – ooh, look at me, I used a proper filming term – is piling up. I just have to work out a few location problems. Basically, I want to do a walk down the corridor as I talk through a few points, but they keep having lessons in the extra lecture rooms so I can’t disturb them. Hopefully, in today’s last period I will have the space I need.

Very soon, I’m going to visit the classes to instruct the students who want to appear in the video. Due to permission problems and personal safety, students will be appearing wearing masks, but still I have only had a handful of volunteers, and all boys! I want to get some girls interested for the sake of balance! So I’m also thinking of how best to use students in masks. I might get them to do something else funny. We’ll see what happens.

And that’s it, production continues.

Covered

Hello again,

Sorry to keep you waiting for almost a week. I have spent the past 3 days at work marking exam papers. It was exhausting. Each day my brain just could not take in any information. Then last night, I went the other way and I got all hyper. My brain was racing! Anyway, I’ve calmed down a bit now.

I posted on our Facebook page that I had received the final image for the book’s cover and promotions. Now, I finally ave time to post it here. So please have a look and let me know what you think.

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It was drawn by the talented Chevi. I asked for a group of students cheering on as a crowd, in the iconic Japanese school uniform even though my school doesn’t have a uniform, with the school mascot, the triangle headed guy. She delivered!

Over the next few days, between more marking, lesson planning, book formatting, work training and extra jobs, I’m going to play about with the lettering and get the text for the cover sorted. I’ll post some samples here and I’d like you to tell me which one looks best. So please stick around, visit regularly and help us out with our huge, life changing project.

Cheers, me dears!

Image

Interveiwed

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Good evening folks,

It’s very late and I’ve had a tiring day. Only two lessons and a bit of organizing with the students files, turned into a marathon session of helping as students came to me for their saved files and for access to the computer room. Also, at lunchtime I helped a student with pronunciation for a speech contest. She surprised me because when we talk she makes quite a few mistakes, but she obviously practiced hard. I also recorded myself reading the speech so that she could listen to my pronunciation. However, we had some trouble transferring the file to iPod. So many ways to do it but not many ways that do not reveal private information, like emails. We got that done in the end though.

The exciting thing today was that I was interviewed by a student about the project. It’s for a broadcasting club competition. He has to read a report about one minute and 30 seconds long and he chose this project as the subject. Therein lies the problem, as I am very passionate about the subject and I gave him a lot of information. He will have difficulty making it short enough.

However, I was really happy to do this. Not only is it a chance to talk about the project, but it will also advertise the project to other schools. Another thing is that just by the fact that he wanted to interview me, it shows that he is excited and interested in the project too. That’s what’s really important to me because one of the main reasons I did this project was to make students more interested. We talked for a long time, with a teacher translating the hard parts. Below is a transcript of the interview

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1. What made you start this project?

My main reason is I wanted to do something exciting for the students. Lessons can be very boring and although the project is mainly writing, I think the goal and the end result is very exciting for all of us. But I think it might be too exciting. I think a lot of students don’t believe this s going to happen. Not until I show them a copy of the book. If I could have proved it before I think a lot more students would have tried even harder. The sad thing is we may only do this project the once, this year. Other reasons though, reviews seemed like a logical next step since everyone ad been learning how to express their opinions. Also, I was looking at what skills I can offer as a teacher that others can’t. It occurred to me that I’m a writer and I knw how to publish books. So I started thinking of ways I could use this for school. Also, I may be dreaming but I see no reason why this book cantbea big success and f it is we can help a lot of people by donating profits to disaster victims

2. What do you think when you read sentences students wrote?

Honestly, this sounds cliche, but I was really surprised. I knew students were capable, otherwise I wouldn’t have done the project, but so many students wrote long reports on their first draft. I really expected I would have to force more information out of everyone. So I was very happy. On another level, what the students write is very concise. Reading their work mad eve realise that a lot of what native English speakers write and say is unnecessary, but I think language learners choose their words very carefully. I hope the readers realise this. For example, a student said that her favorite groups music videos were very original. If I read this from a native speaker I would assume it was just a tag word to gain my interest, they didn’t really mean it because everyone says that so get viewers interested, but I believe that she really meant the meaning of the word: that the groups music videos are unlike any others. I hope this book will not only show Japanese schools what students can really do with English but help native speakers reexamine how they use the language too.

3. What would you write if you were a student?

Well, I’m going to be writing an introduction to the book, talking about ways I experienced Japanese culture and ways it has already influenced people around the world, but if I was writing a review for the book, I think I would write about my favorite Japanese group:Scandal. No one has written about them and they are my favorite.

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I don’t understand the lyrics so their music is probably all for girls, but I really like the songs. But more importantly I really admire the people. In a music industry with too many idol groups who just sing and dance, these four girls learned how to play instruments, write their songs, perform and they sing and dance. Theyve come straight from high school to a major record label and are really living their dream. I really think they should be supported for that and so that real music bands, especially girl bands, don’t disappear completely from the music charts.

4. What do you want students to think about by practicing this project?

I think this project works on so many levels. If they think small, it’s Simply another writing exercise to practice their English and expand their vocabulary,but i hope its a bit more interesting than that because they can write about something they love and I think that’s a big motivation to use language. Plus, they have the goal of their book being published and perhaps helping many people in need too. But I hope many students think more deeply about the need for this book. People all over the world are interested in Japan and that’s kind of huge. As far as I know, we are the only people to do a book like this, its the first of its kind and although it won’t be as in depth as many guides, because of the language problem, I think it will be a great starting point for people who want to know more and it will show the world what aspects of Japan’s culture are important to real Japanese young people today. So this book will help a lot of people interested in Japan. But I want them to think about the power of their words. Students often learn English and it seems boring with no real use, often the way English is taught is boring. But with these words that students have learned, studied and written down, they will spark people’s interest all over the world, they will be a gateway to people’s deeper knowledge and learning of Japan, maybe even the start of their lives in Japan. Not only that but if our book does make money then these boring English words you wrote will earn money that will help earthquake and tsunami victims improve their lives following the disaster. English will help people recover and get back to normal lives. And if this project goes on to be really successful, it may be one of the first changes in how English is taught in the future. So I really want students to look beyond their piece of paper and see the impact their English learning can have on the world if used in a certain way. Maybe then students will like English more.

5. What kind of people do you think of as potential readers of the book? (What kind of people do you want to read this book?)

As I have already said, this book cannot be the most in depth guide to Japanese culture available because it is written by language learners while others are written by native speakers with expert knowledge of their subjects and years of experience and research available to them. We are just a few people in a classroom. That doesn’t mean we can’t do anything but it is what it is. We can’t compete. So we play a different game. Our book will be interesting and easy to read because the language may be simple. So younger people can read it. It will also be a small, cheap “gateway book”. Maybe someone with a casual interest in Japan buys it because it is aches, they read students reviews and they gain more of an interest in Japan. So they buy more books, learn the language and eventually go to Japan to study or teach or live… Its completely possible. There may also be people who are searching for what really is popular in Japan now and they don’t trust other guide books because they are inevitably written with a foreigners perspective. Our book is different. Hey can get the real up to date opinions of current Japanese high school students.

However, I think the most important audience for this book is other teachers, students and people within Japan. It will show people that language learning doesn’t have to be boring, language learning can be creative. It will give other teachers ideas of what to do in the classroom and perhaps make great collaborations on projects even bigger than this. We are only three teachers and five classes of students, but we made this book and I’ve talked about the effect this book could have. Imagine what we could do if many schools worked together? I also hope it will inspire students. Not only show them that English isn’t boring, but show how they can make an impact with their learning and skills and show them how any skill can make a big change if you just think about how to use it. Japan’s English education has been struggling for many years. One of the things holding it back is the attitude of many language learners and the inherent shyness of Japanese people. If this project can open even a few minds it will be successful. It doesn’t have to be about English either. Please anybody, go forward and use your maths skills on a great life changing project, go and use your science, your French, your computer programming, your drawing skills, your basketball skills, anything at all and just know you can use them to do whatever you want.

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Fundraising ends!

The EndDecember 1st, 2012
Our big fund raiser is coming to an end... Here's when. Thank you for all the support! We all really appreciate it.

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