Category Archives: meet people

Culture Shock: Something Everyone Should Experience

With the holiday mixed with getting some kind of terrible sickness, I’ve decided to re-blog a flash from the past of my arrival to Japan.  This is more of a fun read, but hopefully it will inspire readers to experience a new world for themselves. 🙂

DSCF5573After a jolty and uneasy flight on an old Delta Airline plane (old as in no music or TVs available to our own private use, which apparently, some people were expecting) we exhaustedly exited the plane after 12 hours, a fairly shorter time than expected.  Everything was happening so fast, I couldn’t believe that I just up and left everyone and now I’m in Japan.  The good thing was that I was with a bunch of people experiencing the same phenomenon. We had plenty of guidance from JET volunteers to help greet and point us in the right direction.

DSCF5557We had one chance to re-arrange luggage and use the restroom before getting on the bus, so I thought it wise to use the bathroom before going.  I step into the stall, close the door and pause. Apollo 13 didn’t have as many buttons as this toilet did.  There were buttons on the side of the toilet, and more buttons on a contraption in the wall, buttons everywhere.  I thought to play it safe and just not press anything, but then I needed to flush.  How was I supposed to know which one is flush?  Everything is in Japanese, and the corny pictures didn’t help either… I stood in the stall, studying the buttons, frantically trying to find the right one and resisting the urge to yell “Houston we have a problem” to my friend outside the bathroom.  Frustrated and ready to give up, I put the seat down, and what do you know, a regular, western style toilet lever shined in my eyes. So of course, my first culture shock experience happened to be in the bathroom before I even stepped foot outside the Airport.

The next few days at orientation were a mix of jet-lag and overwhelming amounts of information.  Tokyo was very busy and I was able to go out with my friend who had a friend who knows Tokyo very well.  It took a while to find the restaurant, and I didn’t wear the right shoes for walking around, but we finally came to a little narrow door that led us to a small case of winding stairs, Harry Potter style.  At the end of the stairs, we came to the opening of a small restaurant, but between us and the entrance was a small pond with stepping stones, there were even fish in the water swimming around the stones that we were stepping on.

dscf5591I couldn’t eat, or sleep on the plane, so I wasn’t feeling the greatest.  Lara’s friend did all the ordering because we couldn’t speak Japanese, and the server just kept bringing plate after plate of very… unique foods.  I was a trooper and tried everything at least once, including raw squid and a little fish with the eyes and tails still on it, nothing suited my stomach. It was too much to take in at once, so I waited patiently until everyone had their fill and we took the same route back home to the hotel.  I collapsed on the bed at about 12:30.  When I opened my eyes, I look at the clock, and groan.  Its only 4:30….  I get up, shower, and get ready to start another jam packed day.

I was relieved to see cereal, finally something I could stomach!  DSCF5599Unfortunately, I had a pretty bad case of JET lag and had to go lay down after the first meeting.  I slept through lunch and almost missed dinner, which didn’t really matter anyway because they had Japanese food, and I still couldn’t handle it.  In the evening, our Kagoshima Prefecture spent some money and bonding time doing Karaoke, you know… “when in Rome”.  The people in our group are great, very kind, and very British!  There were only 3 of us who were American in our little group, so it was cool to be around those accents all the time.

DSCF5622When Karaoke was over, we went to the hotel and tried our best to sleep, but didn’t succeed…  We had helpful workshops and information given to us during the day, and then in the evening, I had the opportunity to meet up with an American family.  My roommate Stephanie and I went out to eat with them (I had udon soup, which was very bearable).  They then took Steph, their daughter, and I up an amazing skyscraper where we were able to see all of Tokyo from the top of the building.  The whole floor had large glass windows in which we saw the amazing lights of Tokyo extending farther than the horizon would let us see.  It was beautiful.

The pictures I took unfortunately don’t do the experience justice, DSCF5670but if you are to view Tokyo, I highly recommend going to a tall building and look out the windows at night.  It made New York seem like a baby.  After another long day, Steph and I went back to the hotel to get ready to depart for our actual home in Japan, Kagoshima!

This was written by me over 4 years ago, I have a few other posts from my blog in Japan, but those are for another time.  See you next week!

The Realities of a Young Teacher (Plus…4 steps to Success!) Share with new teacher friends!

The harsh reality, at least for me…

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Literacy Lesson (3rd grade)

If you are thinking about being a teacher, either currently in college, or about to go to college, my number one piece of advice is…don’t? Someone needs to let younger generations know of the reality, so here it is… long story short, it is extremely difficult to independently live if you are a new teacher. I was 100% positive that teaching was the career for me, and I love it, but I’m also extremely grateful that I’m married because I would otherwise be 27 and still living with my parents. The payroll system is corrupt and the likelihood of the system changing anytime soon is extremely slim. If teaching is your true ambition, then awesome, but plan on either marrying soon, living with your parents, or living with roommates. As a graduate of the year 2009 from the nation’s TOP teaching school (GO GREEN). Here’s my story, as well as some critical advice to those younger generations.

If I didn’t scare you off yet, or maybe you’re just starting out in the teaching world, here are four simple steps to success from my personal experience.  Please comment below with your teaching experiences!

Step one: Take chances.

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Teaching about the holidays in Japan

If there are opportunities to get up and move right after college, DO IT. The chances of opportunities like this later in life is unlikely. Before you settle down, plant your roots, and start your official career, get out and teach in another country. I was chosen to participate in the JET (Japanese Exchange and Teaching) Programme and was sent off to teach in rural Japan right after my internship. That experience could be a blog in itself, and even though it was difficult, it made me mentally stronger and open minded…and I’m appreciative of that. There are many different opportunities to go around the world, especially if you’re a teacher, I challenge you to take a day and investigate the options!

Step 2: Take what you can get, but try to stay focused on a purpose.

To graduate and find a job right away as a teacher is not impossible, but it’s unlikely. The reality is, you may be subbing for years before actually landing a job, but don’t sub in a school for too long. If you have been there a year and opportunities to hire you have been passed by administration, GET OUT OF THERE. Subbing after getting back from Japan allowed me to get experience in all different kinds of subject areas and grades which made me realize what I eventually wanted my end goal to be… A middle school science

teacher. The problem? I wasn’t science certified… The difficult job market allowed for me to look into additional certifications. It was busy, but I earned my science endorsement in just one semester and

Leopard Geckos in Class
Leopard Geckos in Class (5th Grade)

was then marketable with the endorsements of science, English, and geography. All three endorsements led to long-term and permanent positions. Point being…furthering your education to doable, and totally worth it.

Step 3: Be a PAIN in the @$$. 

The jobs will not come to you, some professions have recruiting companies that do the research and come to you with a job and a salary, but teaching is a whole new world. To get a job, you need to find a district you are interested in, and mail out your resumes with cover letters that are specific for their school. Do not address them “to who it may concern”. Once you’ve mailed out to all the districts, check every other day for job openings between the months of April

Student teaching Students
Student teaching Students (6th Grade)

and September. If you see a job opening, apply online, but then take the time to drive to the school AND central office and give them your resume in person, introduce yourself, make yourself known. Taking the time to do this is exhausting, but trust me, it got me a job and it will for you as well.

Step 4: Experience is Experience, so make the best of it!

In 5 consecutive years, I haven’t taught the same thing twice… My teaching career in 5 seconds goes like this.

3rd grade internship > English in Japan > long-term science sub > 5th grade charter school teacher > (got hired in the public schools) 6th grade Science, Sixth grade social studies, 8th grade academic intervention (yes, all in one year) > 7th grade science and social studies (currently teaching) > next year? something different… but hopefully full-time science.

It sucks to constantly put your heart and soul into creating, just to have it not be able to be used the next year, but everything I have done in the past has led to better opportunities and teaching

7th Grade Scientists
7th Grade Scientists

strategies.  Even though these jobs seem to have little in common, they have all built on each other, and will eventually lead to even greater opportunities.  It is difficult to be patient, I’ve definitely felt the frustration this year, but I make the best with what I’m given and have as much fun as I can.

Teachers please do this…

As a middle school teacher now, I make it a point to show CNN student news and every single opportunity to show the kids a new

Mt. Kaimon, Japan
Mt. Kaimon, Japan

kind of profession, I pause the news and address it.   Lack of exposure to all the diverse and engaging careers out there in the world was something that was extremely lacking when I was in school, probably the reason why we have had such a surplus in jobs like teaching, because it is what everyone knows and are familiar with.  These ten quick minutes once or twice throughout the week gets the wheels turning in the minds of our future generations.  It is so important to keep them open-minded, because we are preparing them for jobs that haven’t even been created yet!

Oh, and don’t forget to actually enjoy yourself in the free-time between the educational experiences 😉

View from my moped off the side of a mountain, Japan
View from my moped off the side of a mountain during a mini random road-trip, Japan

Find “Your People”

MeetUp

You don’t have to go about pursuing your ambition alone. This is a well-known site, but I wanted to post on it because it could really help if you didn’t know it existed. This resource is called Meet-Up. I recently took a poll to find out what meet-up groups I should feature but unfortunately did not get much feedback to guide me. I hope you at least get an idea to check it out for yourself for your specific ambitions!q

There is something for everyone on meet-up, and always options no matter where you live. I’ve gone on hikes and camping/backpacking trips with the Michigan Adventurers Club (featured image above), played pick-up soccer with the Sunday Holly Soccer Players, and improved skills and increased my enthusiasm for rock climbing through the Detroit Area Rock Climbers group. You can set your account to send you notification of future meet ups. The use of the website is free, but I do think there is a small subscription fee if you wanted to start your own meet up group (which is usually divided amongst the group members).

Meet up is a fantastic way to meet people of similar interests while you participate in things you love doing.

These places are featured in Michigan, but you can do this for ANY STATE. And PLEASE comment on recommendations if you have them, as I am always looking for new things to try!

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Metro Detroit Fun and Fitness: “Enjoy fitness activities like Wallyball (winter), Volleyball (summer), Cross Country Skiing, Ping Pong, Bocci Ball, Biking, etc , laugh and have fun while at it. When weather permits outdoor games like Sand Volleyball is also planned. We have biking too… not so light fitness but fun fitness…riding several different trails located throughout the Detroit Metro area. For just plain fun, there’s concerts, eating out, or just meet’n’greet events.”

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Beer Snobs of Michigan: “Michigan is bursting at the seams with 90+ Microbreweries. Everyone that we have tried have been better and better. We know there are people out there that appreciate good beer as much as we do so we started this group to begin sharing these Microbrewery trips with others.”

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Metro Detroit Athletes: “MDA is all about sports—every sport—from popular ones like volleyball, tennis, softball, and soccer, to more obscure ones like parkour, bocce ball, and curling. During the warmer months we’re likely to play ultimate, sand volleyball, and a third sport at least every week; as well as bike, skate, and socialize.”

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Adventure Quest: “If you love being active and enjoy spending time outdoors – this group is for you! The main focus of the group is spending as much time outdoors as possible participating in many diverse activities including hiking, camping, bike riding (road, trails, mountain, and touring), canoeing and kayaking, backpacking, geocaching, and orienteering, XC skiing, and snowshoeing Our events are hosted all over the Metro Detroit area, Michigan, and other states. We also occasionally throw in some cultural events like visiting museums, going to exhibits, movies, or just meet at a restaurant to socialize.”

Get out and do stuff you love with other humans!