Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A book of messages.

This morning, I saw my daughter struggling to go to school. I know the face with a little anxiety and less motivation. She had it when she had a tough time at the beginning of this year. I asked her if she was ok and she nodded in a way she wasn't. There is not much I can do to help her except to hope that she would be strong enough to go through one of the most complex period time of her life, especially in the age of 15 before the entrance exam to a high school. The air at school must be intense and everyone gets edgy. I can only imagine how insecure and nervous she feels now because of the uncertainty of the future ahead of her. It seemed impossible to face and deal with the tests you have to take in the school days. It is precious when it's over, but when you are in the middle of it, you want to escape from the stress from time to time. Perhaps she was in such a pessimistic state of mind this morning. I felt the heaviness in the air around her. After sending her off to school, I came to a cafe and talked with one of my dearest friends in Canada via Skype chat for a few hours about my worries and our future projects. I felt calmer and positive after having a nice chat with him. MCU. his nickname)

Then I decided to plan for the Halloween party with kids. While I was searching for a book to share for the occasion with kids on Amazon, I found two new books that Momo's favorite author, Naoko Maehashi, published. A book has been one of a means to communicate with her heart. I've been telling her an important message when I get it borrowing other's voice via words of a book. Since this author's words touch her heart the most effectively, I hope this book also talk to her well, reminding her how rebellious and unbeatable her soul is. Momo has learned so many lessons from books, especially Children's literature and the ability to connect with words in the deepest sense is one of her gifts. 

While I was struggling with my own matters, I might have missed the signs she sent to me for supports. My words from the mouth might not comfort her enough but I am sure the books will do the job. It is a gift for me to hear reviews of books she read. I look forward to sitting down at a cafe with her and listen to her interpretation of the books. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Final stage of M.A. Mama

This blog has been inactive since the last post in March: I’ve been through one of the most critical phases of my life. The good news is it’s been educational and rewarding in terms of my personal and professional development.

Personally, I have had a breakthrough or a Eureka moment as a mum. As my daughter, Momo decided to go to a public school from her private school, my role as one of the decision-makers of her life to a financial sponsor of her project, called life. This radical shift was more nerve-wracking and challenging than I’ve imagined. I have no idea how many times I bite my tongue, literally. Whenever she looked disturbed, I had to look away to make myself zip this interfering mouth. Whenever she says her troubles aloud, I needed to tell myself not to give her any responses in my own perspectives before she reaches her won response to the issue at hand. Oh, how simple my motherhood was a few years ago in Momo’s pre-teen era. Her troubles mean her demands for my help. Within this asymmetrical relationship I can always feel powerful queen of justice and compassion. I can indulge in the role, feeling like a VIP of the entire universe.
But as soon as the little girl entered self-realizing phase of her life, she started developing critical thinking skill, which denies any interferences of her own thinking process. It was so fast development that I couldn’t follow and because of the mental gap between the mum and the daughter, constant conflicts occurred. It was the daughter who brought the concord within the conflict by stating the declaration of her independence. She even clearly stated the obligations as a parent, I must follow, including the human rights to be protected and cared physically and mentally in terms of the UN convention (http://www.unicef.org.uk/UNICEFs-Work/Our-mission/UN-Convention/). “Who told you this?” was my question to the statement and her answer was, of course, “You did.” Indeed, I learn things in a hard way.

Professionally, I finally reached the last stage of my MA course: Dissertation. Luckily, I had enough time and supports to complete the first draft of my dissertation in the first week of August 2014. I started to feel hopeful to turn in the paper in November 2014 instead of April 2015, which is much earlier than the plan I’ve made in the first module. It depends on the meeting I will have with my tutor at the end of this summer: She might suggest so many revisions.
This thesis is a portfolio of my work in the MA course and a gateway of my life as a teacher/ researcher in the field of TEYL.

The parallel personal and professional development in the couple of months transformed and empowered me as a member of “World society” (http://www.e-ir.info/2013/05/14/world-society-as-humankind/)

Thursday, March 27, 2014



As soon as I held my little baby in my arm on the night she was born, I experienced something I've never felt. Perhaps it was "LOVE". Unconditional one. As the little girl grows older, my expectations grow as well. "She can be something and changes the world." Whatever she did in her childhood was a  miraculous progress to me and formed my belief that she would make a beautiful butterfly. As she marched into her teenage era, suddenly my perception towards her was questioned. My little girl started acting out in a way that I had never seen, trying to rip off the colors and patterns I have painted on her wings. Panic came in. My Project - Get her back on the "right track"- launched. What I failed to remember was she was a different person from myself, although she carries some gene from both of her biological parents. She is a beautifully complex human-being who has unique characteristics and is capable of being responsible for her choices. It took me a year to really realize what she needs, wants and her potentials. I knew this kind of humanistic perspective and studied in my research paper. It has also been my philosophy for everything I do. But I was trapped with the blindness of socially constructed "rightness" of parenting. But this type of discipline tends to be conditional. By definition, Love should be unconditional, but my actions and words towards my daughter contradicted my belief. I tried to stop her before she stumbled without knowing how my supports deprive her of developing her potential. While I struggled to put her in the perceived rightness of mine, she suffered and lost all the motivations to live as who she was. We were stuck in a socially constructed box of rightness and almost choked to death.

The good news of human tendency is when you are in the darkness, instinctively you search for the light. And I knew from my experiences, my experienced mum friends are the light to reach. So I did.
By some of big slaps on my silly face, my senses came back and started breathing again. With the opened up senses, I managed to listen to my daughter's current voice. It wasn't fully convincing or the best  choice under her circumstances, yet it was her choice.  "I don't want to go to the private high school. I want to go to a public high school in this city."

My inner dialog had been just too ugly to publish. It was as if two characters fight within myself: Maternal instinct vs Socially constructed right parenthood. But fortunately the feeling I held her in my arms for the first time, the maternal instinct prevailed. Thanks to all of my friends for offering the insightful comments and the courage I needed to say, "Oh-oh. I was wrong It is not my job to color and paint her wings".

From the moment I admitted my error, I was quick enough to call all the institutions and experts to support my daughter's decision. From April, my daughter will wear a different uniform and goes to a local junior high school. I don't know if this is the "right" move or not. Besides, any radical reformations take a bit of the aches. She might have to suffer from the different types of aches. But avoiding errors and aches does not resolve anything. In fact, it numbs the youthful hearts and souls leaving them only colorless life. By giving a freedom to make errors and experience aches, the youth may come out from their cocoons and become uniquely beautiful butterflies.

What I wish to see is the day when my daughter flies away like a butterfly, whatever the colors and patterns she may chose to wear.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Notes for a story to make with my young learners.

I've been pondering about an idea, a series of short episode of a Japanese girl. Her findings through her innocent and curious eyes. Her name can be Momo and her pet cat named, Brownie from its color. Perhaps one little boy, Morrie moved in her suburban town in Tokyo from the UK. Each episode, Momo and Morrie learn something about their differences and their remembrance. Brownie always joins their mental and physical journey as a mediator as the nature represents.

Episode 1  New neighbour
Episode 2  New mate
Episode 3 At the park
Episode 4 At the supermarket
Episode 5 Lunch time
Episode 6 At school
Episode 7 Sleep over
Episode 8 The Secrets
Episode 9 The bullies
Episode 10 The diary

Each episode requires some things to decide like the main character hobbies, friends' names, families and their names, ages, works and hobbies. I can ask the kids to decide these details and make this story a collaborative work!

Oh, I will start drawing the characters :-)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Why do we read?: Empathy


The title of the article says "Why should we read?" but my puzzle is, "Why do we read?". My daughter has become a bookworm and nicknamed, Kinko after a Kinjoro Minomiya who is famous as an intensive and extensive reader (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninomiya_Sontoku). She was addicted to stories and always carry a book in her hand wherever she went before iPhone era. She still reads, but book addiction has shifted to online addiction. Some may argue she still reads a lot of texts online and it is just a matter of different platform to read- from Physical book to digital ones. But I have been wondering if it is the case. My heart tells me that these are absolutely different experiences. There is some kind of magic to the reading with physical books, but I couldn't say articulately what it is. This article with scientific researches did the job for me. It is the depth of reading. The simple paper and ink nothing else invites you to the world of stories, the collaborative work of storytelling with the author of the book. It takes your mind to live in the story. The simplicity of the physical books allows you to have the space to be as creative and imaginative as you can be. Within the space or the entity, you become a co-author of the story. But such reading takes some time and space to be immersed.  In the fast-paced and instant online world, the depth and freedom of the mind will most likely suffer in order to catch up the speed and distracted by so many other stimuli.

The human race has a fairly long history and evolved constantly. But for a simple minded person like myself, a deep thinking process requires simplicity of a physical book and inner dialogue with its author. Without such a deep thinking process, some feelings such as empathy that requires vivid imagination and sensitivity to all your senses can't be developed. Without empathy, your sentiments are paralyzed and become edgy and abusive at worst.

In the children's conversation, I often hear those abusive words are exchanged so casually and frequently. I wonder how you can feel someone else's aches  and how you can live in peace and harmony with others without empathy.

Yesterday I got one of bestseller books about a high school girl who transformed from F student to A+ and entered Keio university, one of prestigious academic institutions in Japan. On the journey from the bottom to the top, she met some inspiring literature and a teacher and realized her potential and acquired empathy. Now this book is in my daughter's hand who is standing at a crucial time of her life. I am sure this story resonates with her and inspires her to hear her true voice.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A note before writing the last chapter of MA Mama.

Back in 2011, I was skeptical if I would be able to enroll the TESOL master's course at Aston. To my surprise, I got enough overall score in IELTS in the first attempt. With a little mistake in paper work, my enrollment became official in April, 2012. By July in 2012, I managed to pass the foundation module which was the first introductory module of the course. By March in 2013, I passed the second module which was the most challenging one for me, Methodology with so many struggling. Passing this module accelerated my motivation to complete the third module, the most unfamiliar one, Written and Spoken Discourse Analysis. With so many helping hands and minds, I completed the paper by  October, 2013. Having written two research papers in one year got me a wild aim to complete the third one. Due to the familiarity of the module, Teaching Young Learners, I could achieve the challenging goal. As soon as I completed the third research paper, I registered the fifth module, The Course and Material Design in January, 2014. And today, I have received an official letter from Aston which notifies me that I have earned 80 credits. I got two months to write the last module assignment and the  dissertation awaits for me to nail down.
As I have said so many times, this is the biggest academic challenge for me to pursue. What I have learned so far and insights to worth sharing is that even a mediocre person like myself with no particular  talent might be able to achieve something unimaginable with determination and lots and lots of helping hands from brilliant minds. I haven't gotten the degree yet, but the journey so far has been full of unexpected discoveries. I got a feeling that I would find more of myself at the end of this journey regardless of the outcome. Of course, I would love to write the last chapter with successful ending, but I have no question that it will be a happy one.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Unexpected words

I am a quitter. I admit I get interested in so many things. But I never accomplished anything to be a pro-level. Then why haven't I quit learning English with the kids? This question is a recurrent one and pop up in my mind now and then.

Yesterday, I realized, "That's it! Because of this kind of moment!" This moment happened yesterday when I told kids that I might not be able to see them in the next academic year because I have no idea where I would work.  I expected total apathy from them because the class has been super noisy and some kids got an attitude of teens. Their faces often say, "Whatever.." to me. And also it was the open school day, but nobody even tried to participate in the lesson, showing no motivation nor interests at all. I thought it was a total failure and the middle finger in my face. So, I didn't expect any of surprised faces. In fact, I expected no emotions from kids. To my surprise, some kids went, "Oh, no!" And those who got the attitudes said, "Boo!I want you to be our English teacher!" While I was in shock to utter anything, one of the noisiest and most challenged kids said to me,

I prefer you to teach us English. I don't understand English much, but I like your classes. 

In my twisted grown-up mind started asking those questions: Was he joking? Is that sarcasm? He didn't mean it? Is that real? But then, I didn't care whether he meant it or not. That's what he said and it means a lot to me. I felt sad to know how my mind work nowadays for a second. Then, with all the mixed emotions came up from the heart and I was speechless for a while trying to hold the tears. "...... Wow, " I said and looked into his eyes. They were sincere without any hints of smart-ass-ness.

From his words,  I realized I might be able to conceal my feelings, but I judged them only through my narrow perspective. It was disgustingly arrogant of me to judge some of kids just because they do not act as I expected. I really disgust myself from time to time. I learned again from kids that I should never assume how they feel. Never!Never!

If I ever get a chance to learn English with him again, I will thank him and promise that I would do my best. I might also ask him to help me to make the class more pleasurable via listening to each other more.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Rain Won't

At the end of next month, I was asked to recite a poem, Ame ni mo makezu, written by one of the most well-known poets in Japan, Miyazawa Kenji at a morning assembly of an elementary school. This poem must have been translated into English by more than several writers but this latest version was published by a publisher in Kunitachi where I work. The head master found the newspaper article about this book of the poetry and ordered it to share with children. In the previous year, he asked all the students to recite the original poetry and most of students have learned by heart. When he got the book, he had an idea to exploit the beauty of humble Japanese spirit into the language learning via bilingual reciting sessions. I was impressed with his passion and agreed to help his project. So, from next week, I will introduce this poem to the 5th graders and have them recite some lines in order to have a collaborative reciting session at the end of Feb in their English class. In order to introduce it to children,  I started practicing,

Rain won't stop me.
Wind won't stop me.
Neither will driving snow.
Sweltering summer heat will only raise my determination.

This kind of Japanese spirit can be witnessed in some areas of the post-modern society but  it can be considered as out-dated and even too self-sacrificing. In fact, my spoilt mind, brought up in the post-modern era started to think, "Emm...this sounds amazing but I would like to stop when it rains so hard and the summer heat will definitely eliminate my determination..." But when I got to the following lines, I stopped reading and started thinking about a person I met at the first JALT conference back in 2011 that I participated as a volunteer.

With a body built for endurance,
a heart free of greed,
I'll never lose my temper,
trying always keep
a quiet smile on my face.

I didn't know who he was but a tall and big person with a warm and gentle smile on his face, came up to me after having the chaotic lunch curry task. The lunch duty was just like a nightmare with storm of complaints due to the errors we have made. We, the student volunteers, felt incompetent and completely down at that time. My stress level reached at the maximum and lost the excitements I felt in the morning because of the major mess we couldn't manage to handle well. Then, this person gave me a quiet smile and said in a quiet tone without any hints of sarcasm,

I was quite amused. I ordered seafood curry but I discovered it was chicken in my curry later. (chuckled pleasantly) Very mysterious and interesting lunch. Thank you.

That kind of humor in his words was exactly what I needed to hear then. Because of his words and presence, I managed to spend a superb time with other volunteers for the rest of the day. To my surprise, I found out that this person was the president of JALT much later. I didn't get a chance to thank him in person for his consideration and the quiet smile.

I will learn this poem by heart in memory of this gentle man with the quiet smile and a heart free of greed and anger, Mr. Cleary.

All this is my goal - the person
I wanted to become.

Monday, January 13, 2014

2014 New year's resolution

My uncle passed away a few days ago. I have no idea how he felt about his life. I don't know what his last word was. But I am quite sure that he lived his life in the way he believed. He was a hard worker, brought up two sons, loved his wife, cared his family and lived frugally. His favorite phrase was, "Luxury is the enemy". His little pleasure was drinking after work at a local bar with his wife. But after his wife died young, he even stopped going to a bar. He sat and had some sake at home alone most of the time. But I'd like to think that he felt content in his last moment because he loved his family including his grand children and was loved by them. I hope he reunites with his wife and rests in peace next to her.

Lately I really wished time would pass more rapidly with all the troubles I faced. Because I forgot life is really short and everything shall pass including sweet moments I cherish. Tonight I am in the living room, sitting on the sofa alone, thinking how fragile and brief yet so precious one's life is and asking myself how I would like to live.

The answer is quite simple: I would like to live mindfully. I would like to smile, breath and go slow as I deal things one at a time as if every moment is the last one. This will be my mantra this year: Smile, breath and go slow.