Waiting in the Wings

Ooh look! It’s a rare moment of free time. Watch, children. Don’t startle it. It’ll run away if it senses you watching. Then we’ll have to do work.

The first edition is complete, in the shops and selling…. Maybe. In fact we have nothing else to do for it, apart from on-going advertising. I am pleased to report that we will also be interviewed by the local paper this Friday. So that will help us too.

Meanwhile, the second edition is yet to be started. It is waiting in the wings. The 2nd grade students are just starting a presentation project. They are comparing Japanese anime to Western cartoons. It’s a build up to their book project. Practice at expressing their opinions in detail. This time in the safety of their groups.

It should be interesting as we are telling them to use video and slides. I am interested to see what examples they pick. I have always been a fan of cartoons. I got into anime a little but the bad storytelling puts me off now. They think its great though. I’m wondering if it will bring any otaku (anime nerds) to the surface.

Once that project is finished, they will be writing their reviews for the book, over the holiday. I wonder what we will get this year. If you check out the book you’ll see that someone reviewed Shingeki kyojin or Attack On Titan which has become the most popular anime of the year. That’s how far ahead of the curve we were.

So if you want to know what’s going to be cool next year from Japan, support our next effort!

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Released!

This is it! The book is now available in all Amazon stores. So I guess our release date is now. As of 20th March, 2013 ”Let’s Pop Culture! o(^0^)o A guide to Japanese culture written by real Japanese high school students in English!” is released!
goo.gl/N4zf6 (US) goo.gl/HehUf (UK) goo.gl/m66yT (JP)
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It’s been a long, hard road.

Today I’m visiting classes to give them the good news, show the book to those who haven’t seen it, and deliver my annual ALT prize for those students who made an effort with English this year. I made some key rings featuring the panda mascot of my Japanese culture blog (http://sakurapandateatime.blogspot.com). Hopefully, they will have the sense to get curious and google it to find out what Sakura Panda Tea Time is. It will be good study for them to try and understand what I am saying about familiar topics.

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Yesterday, I sent out the exclusive PDF version of our book to the Indiegogo backers. I’ve already had one person come back with how happy they are,so that’s really nice to hear. I hope the others are suitably proud.

We’ll be able to fulfill the other perks when the school receives its first shipment of books. That should be April 1st.

That’s a wrap

Today I finished filming the video to promote the project. The students ran their annual half marathon leaving the school nearly empty. So I took to doing some location shooting without interruption. I finished my bits quite quickly. I had some speeches in the media room, I had some speeches in the halls, I even had some speeches while writing on the walls…. wait! No! Don’t got complaining to my school. I actually wrote on the blackboard and did some (almost) stop motion animation, but walls rhymed a bit.

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After that, I was stuck marking until the students returned from their run and were ready to film their part. At first we only had a few boys volunteering, but while we were waiting for some organization we all tried to rope in any girls who passed by, to give the project some balance. It’s bad enough having no students in the video and people thinking there is just me on this project, but neither did I want just boys in the video as its supposed to represent the school, and guess what?! We have girls! So we all kept asking girls if they anted to join in, but even though faces would be hidden, everyone was very shy. Eventually we got three girls to join in and filming got underway.

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It took a few minutes to explain what I wanted to do, but they are smart kids they got it. We had a practice and then filmed it three times before we got the perfect run. Then we filmed a goodbye message at the school entrance. This was more fun because other students were running around and we had to try and avoid them, but they got to see what we were doing.

Now this weekend I had to edit it, then it should be up on YouTube in a few days. It’s a week until the Indiegogo page goes live. So, I think, we will be ready! Please check it out.

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.

Multitasking

So here we are again. I’d love to update the blog more often but it takes a bit of time and I just keep getting busier. For quicker snippets of information keep an eye on our Facebook page and my twitter feed (below).

So, I had lessons with the second grade today, their first since they finished their writing for the project. So we’ve moved onto something else now, a discussion about environmental waste, but at the start of the lesson I made announcements about our final book cover image (see previous post) and the opening of our Indiegogo fund raising project. That’ll open on October 26th, so please join us and contribute, if you feel so willing.

I’m also putting together the reviews into one massive text file that will be our book.

However, mostly I am setting up the Indiegogo page for the project. As I reported last time, we opened a bank account to store the funding. However, before I can input that information into the web page I have to complete and post our introductory video. So I’ve moved that forward.

I’ve just finished the script. I’ve leaned towards the humorous, but it depends on if I can pull it off well enough to be charming to make people willing to hand over money. Hopefully, as long as they understand how passionate we all are about this – helping the students realize their potential, doing something creative, making changes to the English education system and helping victims of last year’s triple disaster – they will be convinced. Fingers crossed.

Now excuse me, I have to go speak to a man about arranging all the students in the hall to shout “Hello!” at my camera.

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!

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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.

Typing

Good evening,

It’s late evening as I write this. It’s also been a busy day, but the students are far into their final stage of the review book project.

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The weather was a tiny it cooler this morning so I decided to ride my bike all the way to work. It’s fun and good exercise, plus I get to enjoy the great views, but it often has me hot and tired by the time I get to the top of the mountain. I thought I would have time to recover, but I was wrong. As it turned out, I had three lessons in a row first thing with marking that needed to be done before those classes. This is the disadvantage of not knowing my schedule from day to day. So I taught the three lessons and then I still didn’t get much of a break after that!

But enough about me. You’re here to read about the project. I’m pleased to report that the students of 4 of the 5 classes had their final lesson today. They were in the computer room typing up their final draft of their reviews. Some of those students are quick! Then, some of them are really slow too. That’s ok. Nearly everyone finished.

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A few finished after school, but in the lessons there was a mad rush to save files as the bell chime creeped closer. We had a problem, because we had bought a few USB devices to save students data, but students were finishing too close together. So we ended up having the students save on their desktops. The problem with that was it was only temporary. If the students shut down the computers, then the file saved would disappear. We risked it anyway, and after the end of my three lesson run – while craving a cold drink and a comfy chair – I went from computer to computer with my USB drive saving each file in turn. I had to do this because the IT teacher wasn’t there today and only he knew how to access the network computer and save all the files together. So it was tedious, but the work got done.

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As it turned out there was only one student who ignored our numerous instructions to leave the computers on, and he did delete two other students work, but we fixed the problem later.

In general everybody has done really well, but there are just a handful who are still writing their first draft. It’s a shame, but normal at any school. Tomorrow I have one more lesson and then the students will be finished. Other than some promo material and the prizes for our Indiegogo fundraisers, their bit is done!

See you again soon

Interview

Hello,

It’s really stormy tonight…. So this is a quick update in case my Internet signals can’t make it through the nasty weather. Some snippets ahead:

1. Students are in the final stages of writing: the last review drafts are being chased up and the students will start to word process their final reviews later this week.

2. I’m still considering about contacting Miss Alodia to use pictures of her in our book. I want to, because she is the queen of cosplay (a very Japanese thing) and I’d like to write an introduction to the book which explains this and includes others, like Danny Choo who I already got on board. However, the thing I have realized is that Shopro the company behind Doraemon (a very popular character here in Japan) and his marketing said we can only use his images in the introduction and if he is featured alone….

3. I’m being interviewed about this project by one of the students for the broadcasting club. This interview will hopefully be translated into Japanese and it will be entered into a competition. So not only do I get to better express some of my reasons and motivations for this project but it will reach a wider audience and help advertise the book.

That’s all for now folks and folkettes! I’ll be back in a couple of days with news of the first finished reviews! I hope…. !

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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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