Sunday, September 30, 2012

Note for AR after yoga practice

After 20 min. short yoga practice on the heck-tick Monday morning, I started thinking about the recurrent question I have, "Can yoga practice make an effective task for English learning for kids?"

Since most of the obstacles for them in acquiring anything is all the destructions about them- games, cellphones, TV and all the digital equipments and etc. I often think, "If only less destructions around them, they might be able to focus more." This is one of the reasons that one of my friend, who is also teaching English for kids, took a Yoga teacher training course and became a certificated Yoga teacher.

A few years ago, I did yoga daily for 60 to 90 min and found it so effective on my physical and psychological health. I had a terrible migraine and a posture but as Yoga became daily practice, both of serious problems got better.

Lately, the terrible migraine came back and I realized how long I didn't practice Yoga. Sitting in front of Mac and rear numerous papers are bad enough for my health. My mood swing got terrible as well. I can hardly feel relaxed lately. Of course, it is something with some changes like new jobs and new living style but it was the same back then. I was all stressed and feel low all the time and Yoga was one of the solutions I tried. And only yoga seemed to work. I felt much calmer and better concentration with better results. I was an undergrad on corresponding course and needed substantial concentration and memory for my study. It took lots of will power to study something on my own with only books.  sometimes took classes during summer or spring break but most of the time, I had to motivate myself to do all the work I was supposed to do. Even super motivated student loses her motivation from time to time and Yoga and its philosophy behind helped me to get through.

Yesterday, I didn't do any work for I needed a day off and I wasn't so motivated. I felt sluggish, dull, exhausted and low this morning again. I wasn't sure the cause or causes but didn't like the feelings at all. Then, I went back to the basics, Yoga practice like I did a few years ago when I was in the miserable state of mind.

Good idea!  Here I am with full of inspiration and motivation for the possibility.

Yoga is a gigantic subject to tackle and I don't really know if it is even measurable for concentration or memory within a short time of period. But I am sure it is worth researching a little.

I will start asking some questions to my friend who is a yoga teacher.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Reflection of yesterday

Phew. Tough day with emotional roller-coaster. I had 4 classes but many kids didn't show up for it was the first day of 3 days holiday in Tokyo. Which got me the severe guilt-trip but I managed to do my best and discover some of treatable issues with one student.

She, Student Y, struggled so much to catch up other two students and I suggested that she should be in a lower level class. Yesterday was the first time she was in the lower class. Fortunately, other two students didn't come and I had a chance to explain to her why her class was changed. She looked happy and was motivated to do the best she could. She was quite engaged and worked really hard, much harder than before, to read one of the books of ORT stage 1 one word by one word. Obviously books in the previous higher leveled class was inappropriate level for her. She was slow but showed a promising enthusiasm to tackle the book I introduced.  I am so sure that she could be much better and fluent reader if she doesn't give up on herself. She needed more comprehensible input and output. Via some pre and post reading activities, I hope she will find the joy of reading not the sense of pressure to read.

As far as the children in the current English education in Japan are concerned, they need to acquire reading and writing skills in order to achieve reasonable grades if not the best. It is undeniable fact that they deal with lots of tests on the two skills mainly. There are some listening comprehension tests at schools yet they take only 5 to 10 % of the whole score. Tests are still made to measure student's reading and writing/ spelling skills.

I often think the joy or love of reading should be cultivated before they started to feel forced to read. Otherwise, such a pleasurable activity such as reading would be nothing but a mere requirement for school work. That would be a huge loss in a long run since reading can be a life-time companion to feed your soul.

It has been painful to witness some children who don't know the joy of reading. This is one of my mission as a TEYL and a mum. At the moment I hypothesize that  ER plus IR with pre and post activities might get children a fluent and possibly life-long reader.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Who am I?

Mum is my identity but being a teacher for young learners is also my identity which often clash with the other one. Identity clash or culture clash within a physical body. It has been quite brutal especially when your kid is in bed.

TEYL requires 100% attention and energy from me but when my heart is not there, I feel guilty. This guilt doubled when I imagine my own child feeling sick in bed. We are lucky to have my mum around.She is also there for us to rescue this huge dilemma I have to face. Yet having an excellent support can't deny the guilt I feel. I still ask myself, "What the hell are you doing?" as I work with other kids leaving my own in bed.

It can be a starting point of AR for it might a huge issue for every working mum and finding out how they deal with this guilt might be valuable for a mum like myself. Brown asserts that we should come up with more friendly schedule for your family. But as long as I am in this business, it would be tough to get a substitute teacher unless I am in a crisis. Or is it just one of those misconception of this job?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Note: ER and spelling?

After participating in the meeting at TKC, I can't get rid of the comment, repeating over and over in my head. "Japanese kids don't need to learn English in English. " According to the "experienced" senior teacher, Japanese children need to do grammar-translation because that's the skill they are expected to achieve at school and  their ultimate goal is to get better grades on tests.

Whether I agre with it or not, somewhat it is true. As far as most of, if not all, my students are concerned, they are going to stay and make living in Japan. And their interest is how to make better living in this country. Considering the goal most of the children have (or have trained to believe), further research on "effectiveness" of ER is needed.

Since Spelling is one of the main area for the grades at Japanese schools, investigating on the connection between reading and spelling might be useful. The positive feeling I have towards extensive reading as a way of substantial and comprehensible input inspires a hypothesis that ER can improve spelling.

Krashen and Day have already claimed that there is a "casual relationship" between ER and spelling.

I wonder if it can make an interesting Action Research.

Gotta read some more!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Auch indeed!

One of the participants of Aston and I are setting up a study group and would meet every other week on Skype from the beginning of October. At the moment, my feet won't touch the ground with excitements.

On the other hand, I had a meeting with my co-workers and the owner of TKC and was miserably told off. According to my "senior"(Does it mean ONLY older?)  teacher, my idea is too unconventuonal. What all the students need is grammar-translation for entrance exam for uni. I couldn't believe what I heard. It is a language school for children who are fortunate enough to go oversea every single vacation and stay there for a month if they want to. They are also in private university-affliated elementary schools and those universities are considered as prestigious ones like Keio, Waseda, Aoyama, Seishin and etc. Which means they don't need to take entrance exam. They need to work on their academic abilities but as long as they get average grades at school, they don't need to worry about the severe and ridiculous entrance exam. Instead, they can look for something meaningful and worth trying for their future. Well, it has been my interpretation and the reason I supported my own daughter to go through the crazy cramming phase when she took the entrance exam for the Jr. high. 

Did I argue with them in the meeting? No. I was too disappointed to say anything. Well, I will do what I believe to support my students. That's why I am on a Master's course. The fact is nobody really knows what is the best for each student but at least exclusive grammar-translation lessons sound deadly boring if not harmful. 

So, plan B. I am going to observe my daughter, Case M, and one of my students from my own school. A girl from Tuesday class will make a good case study since she doesn't like reading in English, either and she often struggles when she reads aloud. I will call her, Case R because of her name.

Case R is a sister of my ex-star student. The ex-star student was straight A plus student in all the area. She was one of the best at the local Jr. high and got a scholarship to go to Sr. high. Case R often says she is not good enough compared to her sister. However, I do think Case R got much more social skills. 
She is so amicable and adorable. In fact, her intelligence might work better when she got out of school. In the real world, she can charm people and she might make some great carrier because of her EQ. She is not incompetent at all but the problem is that her mum doesn't believe in her, either. I hope she would make progress in her English proficiency and gain confidence like I did at her age :-)

Case M and R both got deeply rooted negative complex towards their ability. Especially the former one is part of my fault since I am the mum. I hope I would identify some ways to have them find their own strength and infinite possibilities and capabilities. 

Instead of recording the whole interaction with them, I would give them interviews and questionnaires at the beginning, middle and after the project. The project picture book magic will begin!

Case R on Tuesdays. Case M on Thursdays.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Note: Reading Adventure Program/ Case study

While I was reading my module readings, I found about Clay M.M. and her program.

Since I've been wondering how effective Storytelling is for TEYL classes, using picture books for teens might be another idea to investigate. Besides, I am a huge fan of picture books and such classes will be so enjoyable for me. Choosing appropriate picture books might be a challenge but perhaps via introducing some of them I might be able to identify specific preference of my students. There is a girl who takes private lessons at TKC, my new work, might be the best person to start investigating with.
She is 10 years old yet started learning English when she was one and half. Her cousin is a returnee and  goes to an international school. She often see her cousin and read picture books with her.She has high level of reading fluency. But I would like to see what happens when she started reading intensively and extensively with picture books.

Another interesting case might be my daughter. 13 years old who is a bookworm yet become allergic to English ever since she started taking  school education. She read quite a lot of English picture books when she was younger. But as soon as she became 5th grader, she lost time for reading English books due to the entrance exam study. She continued reading in Japanese for pleasure but her reading fluency in L1 got much much higher than that of in L2. Then she gave up on reading in L2 due to the lack of time and perhaps enough motivation. I would like to find out if picture books magic can work on this serious case.

The first case, student A, comes to TKC on Tuesday (today). I have already introduced some of picture books with familiar stories such as Alice in Wonderland. She seemed to enjoy reading but I would introduce ORT for it is one of the most popular series among my students and would like to see what she feels.

For the case M, my daughter, both of us are free only on thursday night and that would be the time to introduce ORT again.

I would like to record all the interaction if it is ok.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Notes from AR presentation

Before I completely forget about little ideas of mine for AR project, which was emerged from the interaction with other participants at Yokohama JALT mini conference, I am jolting all down.

Got two ideas so far: Blog or Digital storytelling

Perhaps latter might be more interesting field to explore for my students, aged from 10 to 18. Younger ones I have should be excluded from this project. Obvious reason is their age. Paper version of storytelling or reading would be more appropriate.

I also would like to start adopting several ideas I got from the conference
- teaching and learning portfolio
- post-it notes in class
- making questionnaire
- Face Sheet for correcting data

Dr. Croker mentioned how to find topic/ focus on AR via making list of relevant categories such as bio data, tasks and etc. Perhaps mind-maping might also effective way to do so, however, finding  the focus for AR is not really a walk in the park.

I was wondering if digital storytelling makes a good task for young learners in and outside of the class. But I guess that is a question I can ask to them before I start the project.

It was a fantastic day with heaps of findings and things to try out with other participants and the presenter. Yo-JALT rocks!

Oh, another important note: November 2013, Yo-JALT AR poster session!

Hope I will be able to come up with "good" AR project and complete MET module by then.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Notes from readings: CLT, C-R and etc

CLT, Communicative Language Teaching. There are various approaches to consider but for my kids class, the combination of comprehensible input and output with some grammatical feature of the target language to raise Ss's consciousness is the first one to examine. I feel comfortable with the idea and would like to do AR on it. I haven't find any particular focus of the teaching using the approach yet but I will do so while I start applying the idea.

ER plus comprehension questions and discussion might be the plan. I need to consider alternatives but I think the plan sound doable immediately.

I've been finding a lot of new ideas and views. I am so thrilled and feel flow in reading at the moment.

Soon, skype discussion will start with other participants and our tutor. Oh, I can't wait!!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


"WTF! Oh, no!!!!"
My morning was started with my scream! My poor partner and daughter stayed as quiet as possible. They learn very fast how to deal with Mama in panic!

 A delay of a few weeks to start my new module. I should have checked. I could have asked someone. I would have finished reading by now.

Regret always comes too late... Never mind. Now I've got to be in the full speed to catch up what I have missed. Two weeks of reading time.

What happened was that I've turned in my portfolio for FND much earlier than the dead line and my tutor kindly and supportively accepted it and put me in the next module much earlier- the beginning of September. But just because the Uni. has changed their student information page called Black Board, I didn't get all the documents and reading list till today. What a silly person I am. This is when I think digital literacy should be promoted more at school!!!We need to learn how to access all the information we need!!! Well, I am supposed to learn how to do it on my own but with a little bit more support would be much easier and more pleasant.

Oh, well, enough whinging and gotta get back to work. Fortunately, I have just finished reading Flow book yesterday and found out that a little challenged goal is one of the key feature to have Flow experience.

Here I am on fire! Garuu....

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Power of Words: Emoto Peace Project.

I've been thinking why I do what I do lately. Sometimes, teaching English for young learners is meaningless if not harmful. I am aware of some pitfalls of Early Childhood Education and perhaps teaching English to children can be included. I'm on a Master's course for TESOL for young learners, spending great deal of time and energy on that but I started having doubts lately as I witnessed way too many unmotivated kids who were too busy to enjoy learning. I've found some acceptable excuses to keep on doing what I do but haven't found any solid answers to fully convince myself. However, finally, I might have found an answer for my question in this message from water. So, I am recording this crucial moment on my blog. Hopefully this entry will inspire me when I lose my motivation again in the future. 

Dr. Emoto found  some crucial message to human kind via studying water. His finding is that water makes astonishingly beautiful crystal when you feed it words like "Thank you." Dr. Emoto asserts that it happens because of the positive vibe from the words. On the other hand, if you feed it words like "Stupid", water won't make those beautiful creations. In other words, words can hurt yet can heal as well. 

I don't think we should use only sugary words which are not sincere. But it means we need to be aware of the power of words more and choose words wisely and appropriately. 

Having realized that, the work ahead of me on the Master's course retrieve its bright color again. Studying the depth of words makes sense to me now. I study so that I can use them wisely and appropriately. And perhaps I can share my finding with others. I sincerely hope the message from water   inspires awareness of the power of words and our children hear less harmful words. Because children who know no harmful words would be able to make beautiful creations like the water crystals. 

The world can't radically transform into a beautiful creation like the water crystal in a day but with the power of words, we might be able to make it better little by little. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Questions to ask.

I've started reading a bit of Action Research again for my next module, Methodology. The book I am reading is really good one for the introduction to AR. There is a section about how to find a starting point. One of the ways is to take notes in classes on any kinds of questions that occur to your mind. That is when I started questioning endlessly.

Why does my own daughter has no motivation to learn this super useful language?
What are really going on to her English classes?
How effective can test be for learners?
How demotivating can test be for learners like my daughter?
What can possibly motivate her to learn this language?
How important it is to acquire English for her future?
How essential it is to acquire English for children, for this nation, for the world?

Personally, I think sharing a language is one of essentials to interact with other beings. The more interactive we can be, the better understanding we get. Misunderstanding is also inevitable feature of human communication, however, language is one of the most useful gift that we have to understand each other more. We interact and learn about each other. I might not the only one wish truly the world peace and enjoyable future for children. I might not be the only believer that sharing a language might lead us to more peaceful world. It is sensible for me to share English as common language since the human history entitle the language as the most spoken one in the world. Whether we like it or not, it is the fact that English is the most spoken language and it evolves as the world does. Instead of creating another new language, why can't we take a part in the evolution. It can be much more simplified and modified to meet our needs. We might be able to have our own version like Australian, French, Italian, Indian, Malaysian, Balinese, Chinese, Phillipinos and other nations do.  We share the basics but some features can be developed depending on the first language. For instance, pronunciation and some colloquial expressions and idioms. Diversity and variety are cool features of a language.

Some says sharing language might lead us to have an identity issue - we might lose our own identity. In fact, having the 2nd language is having an additional resource. Being resourceful is another key to lead a peaceful world for I believe ignorance is basically the cause of most of conflicts.

Sharing a language is not about getting high scores in tests for English proficiency. It is not about getting into one of the best universities nor business institutions. It is about the future of us- what kind of world we would like to live in? With advanced technology, it is amazingly easy to unit now. It is our chance to talk about our mother earth, our home with hundreds of people all over the world. Some may argue that we can have interpreters and translators. Some may say PC or Mac can be our interpreter. But I think nothing or nobody can be a better presenter for my mind except myself. I would like to speak my own mind instead of depending on someone else's interpretation which can be slightly or even greatly different from what I originally mean. Based on the fact that interpretations and translations  
are, in most of cases, different ballgames. The discrepancy between what the original speaker mean and
the translations or interpretations is inevitable. It is also a wonderful feature of spoken and for certain degree, written language for everybody posses his/ her own definition of words they use. For instance, degree of "like" for me is different from that of yours. The meaning of "wonderful" is different from that of yours. Therefore, the best presenter of your mind is you. That is the reason I support language learning rather than interpretations and translations. On top of that, it is more liberating and more intimate if you can interact with others with your own words. The joy of interaction would be much much higher from my experience. I always feel more empowered to learn new expressions and new vocab. in English, my second language for they mean extra communication tools with others to me.
Picturing all the kids from all over the world from a little village in Nepal to Tokyo get to know each other as they share the language is one of my favorite pass time activities.

Questioning myself, "Why do you bother to teach children English?" is valuable for I can confirm the meaning and the thought behind my action.

Friday, September 14, 2012


My new work in Hiroo, the affluent society. Kids look and act differently from kids around here. many of them start learning English with native English speakers as early as 1 and half and keep on taking classes at the school till 15. Up to 3, they actually just play with teachers doing various activities such as crafts, drawings, playing games and singing songs. Only difference is the language. Only English is spoken in the classroom. Pedagogically speaking, it is emersion program and can be the most authentic way to learn a language, however, psychologically I am not sure how harmful to put the kids away from their moms for a few hours a day a week. If it is mummy and me classes, I think it is good in some ways:
Mums can build Mummy networks to get some information about child rearing.
Finding friends might decrease the stress from mums.
Mums and kids can share fun time.
Kids are happier when mums are happy.

Mummy and me classes are beneficial for new mums to outlet their stress. Mentally healthy mum can provide better nurturing so that it ultimately important for kids. I think those classes are not directly for kids to develop their social skills. They are for mums to stay healthy physically and psychologically.

But the question is if mums are really aware of the fact. Don't they think the classes are for solely kids?

I am a mum and I admit that scary tendency of a mummy's ego in myself. In fact, this morning I felt a big disappointment, rage, stress and other negative feelings crawled up on me as my teenage daughter shouted at me, "Where is my training-wear for PE class today?" It was right after I put them in the washing machine. It wasn't my fault. She should have informed me that she needed it. Whenever she put the attitude, I feel defeated and then rage and disappointment came after me. Then after that, a big fight usually follows. But this morning, I didn't let myself lose in the terrible routine. Thanks to the TKC. I've been thinking about motherhood and my ridiculous tendencies a lot. The best way to deal with the situation for me is to tell her how unfair her statement is and then leave her alone to think about her own behavior. I finally managed to do so without going hysterical. Oh, how I feel proud of myself.
At the same time, it is important for me to let go of my massive ego as a perfect mum as well. I am not perfect but trying the best I can. Therefore, I don't take any irrational criticize from anyone. However, in such a heartbreaking situations, more importantly, I need to know where the disappointment and the rage come from. It is not solely the reaction to my daughter's terrible attitude and awful comments. It certainly is my ego working as a mum. I am supposed to be a A plus mum, craving for praises and admirations. This expectation for myself got me feel terrible whenever my daughter gets the attitude. I can't humor the situation. I can't be objective and rational. Such a ridiculous accusation she gave me this morning can be laughed at and forgotten in a second. But why can't I? Because my pride as a mum is usually shattered by negative comments and that's what hurt me the most. When I can identify what  goes wrong and where the negative feelings come from, I can deal with it and put myself together.

I used to think motherhood is for kids like those mums at mummy and me. But now I truly believe motherhood is for myself to develop as more mature person. To know who I am and perhaps who I would like to be. Without the lessons I got from my daughter, I would have been less patient, considerate, brave, studious, humorous, skillful and calm. I am still very self-centered and egoistic being  but I was definitely worse. Motherhood got me through so many emotional roller-coasters as well as overjoys. I am afraid to tell you the truth that your kids are your worst and best mirror of yourself. You need to take a look at it really well and tell yourself what you see. Ouch! That's what I usually say. But that is when I get to know myself more and grow liking myself as well.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

M.A.Mama is back:-) Written in June

I am posting this for my own reference. This was written in June but for some reasons I didn't post it.
I am posting this to mark the restart of MA Mama!

It's been three months since I have OFFICIALLY started TEYL distant learning course at Aston uni.
I am currently taking Foundation Module which is like introduction module for the Master's course. We have 5 portfolio Tasks in which 2 of them are required and one is related to your core module and the other one is your choice. I have done SPER analysis, Action Research proposal, Spoken Interaction Analysis and Teaching Young Learners related task, Writing Pathway for the entire course and half way through the final evaluation. 

What I found in this basic module is that the regular Skype meetings and constant exchange with my tutor via e-mails are two key elements to keep my motivation. Becoming familiar with literature in the field that I feel interested and relevant to my research and finding a focus for my research that is related to my current work or objectives are challenging yet rewarding. Some days, I start reading a research paper from the morning one after another until my hungry daughter comes home.

I have become a novice teacher-researcher who just started investigating what is happening in class.
Hope I find something valuable.

What's next?

Phew. Confession. When I started noticing errors in my writing, I stopped this blog and took me for a while to be back on. I even deleted it. But this morning, as I chatted with my partner via facebook, I realized this blog can be a great way to record my path to MA mama.

I am going to record this in a free writing style. No revising. No proofreading. No corrections. I write as my thoughts come up. The purpose of this blog is to record my own path to my goal- getting MA degree in TEYL.

I have already finished Foundation Module which is introductory one to pursue the MA course. It took me about 6 months. During this module, I have made some wonderful study mates and I am going to set up a study group on line with him and other participants. I will start Methodology Module from Oct.
It will be more challenging than the foundation one but I look forward to it. I would love to get a grip on Action Research and find a starting point.

Luckily, on 23rd, Yokohama JALT will hold one day mini conference on AR! I will attend it and learn some more practical ideas and hopefully build more network for MA study.

I've learned a lot on FND module but the best of all is that the key to success in my goal is building a great network with other participants and other teacher/ researchers. I already have amazing support team- my partner and family. Having more network with others will be just swell!

Another project undergo is the project Momo, my daughter. I would like to find a path to find her flow in learning English again. How can I do that? It seems the toughest work I ever get. I've got some inspiring books to create flow in others. I would love to experiment the idea. It seems Momo is providing the best opportunity to find a way for she hates English at the moment.
She enjoys singing and dancing with jolly tunes with me as an infant and she still has the ear and her pronunciation is excellent as an non-native speaker. I am not quite sure how to reach the jolly memory of her but I won't give up. I will keep on searching and hopefully I can help her to find flow in herself.

Here we go. Hope this path to MA Mama will be exciting with lots of findings.