the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

the american example

i think the USA should realize everyone follows their lead

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Whose birthday is it today?

My school is proudly having their Christmas Pagent on the Emperor's
Birthday (which is a federal holiday in Japan). It's not like the
Emperor is a god anymore or anything. :)

Actually, I just noticed that today when I tried to go to the bank but
it was closed. Maybe it's just that no one looked at their calender
carefully when planning the pagenent.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

History of Christianity in Japan

I wish I had the time to tell you everything I've learned about church
history in Japan in the last two years, but here's a blog I ran across
today that seems to have me beat.

See what the world is like over here in Japan and how it got here. Give
it a look:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Schools Are Especially in Need of Grace

More than anywhere, Japanese schools and students are in need of God's

Today during my "bathroom patrol" to check for smokers, I found a girl
crying at the top of the stairwell because, "all of her friends hate
her." This was actually negated by the fact that she was with her friend
who was holding her and giving her tissues (both were technically
skipping class), but this logic didn't seem to appeal to her. This
student has had this problem for the last two years - some people call
it a mental disease.

I was having problems understanding sobbing teenage girl, so I went and
got a Japanese teacher. We went to the nurse's room - which is the
standard place to go for this sort of thing. We sent the friend back to
class. She sobbed all period, and refused to go to class or call her
mother to go home. I wish I could say this is an isolated event, or that
it's only her, but I know it's not. Out of our 600 students, I know six
who are currently dealing with this, and three who have had these
problems in the past but are now dealing with them better.

Add to that the smokers, shop-lifters, bullied students and students
from broken homes and it's a pretty sad bunch.

I sat there the rest of the period with her, the other teacher and the
nurse. As I was sitting there praying for her (because I couldn't do
anything else). I thought of all the tests we're busy with, how teachers
usually complain that nowadays we are only getting the "bad" and
"stupid" students. I thought we are really missing the point. The
students who are most in need of grace are coming to us!

We are living for more than tests, we're living for life. Which is
better, if we show a kid how to pass a test or if we show a kid how to
live well? We have the power to overcome these problems, it's in the
Bible. We talk about the Bible everyday in chapel, bit somehow that's
different. Here in Japan students and teachers practically live at
school. I feel like we miss so many chances - myself included.

Didn't Jesus say, "I came not to help the healthy but the sick"?
"Whoever welcomes one of the least of these welcomes Me"? We're not
really doing the Christian thing here, but then again hardly anyone on
staff is a Christian anyway. What will we do in about five years when
most of the Christian teachers retire?

Recently, I've been thinking I should start a student or teacher Bible
study (I should have done that a long time ago). But doing it by myself
I defiantly don't have the time or the energy. Recently I feel like I
defiantly have no power in myself.

But I'm leaving in a few months anyway, right? On a good day I tell
myself I'm going home to regroup, reload and come back. Am I crazy?

We'd really appreciate your prayers for our school and students.

Stay or Go Now?

De ja vue! I swear I had this problem last year. I really wanted to
leave, but everyone keeps asking me to stay.

What follows is an excerpt from an email exchange between my
(English-speaking) surrogate mother here in Aomori. I think it's the
most balanced argument I've heard yet.

"I've never actually seen you in action as a teacher and you don't
always exude confidence that I associate with good teaching. However,
you may actually be a very good teacher.
And when I see you with students outside of class I'm certain that
you're not a bad teacher!
The good reasons for staying.... there is a great deal to be said for
continuity in the job at Seiai. They need a few long term Christian
teachers who THINK like Christians and ACT like Christians - as well as
speaking like Christians. Obviously, your student thought you fit this
category when she chose to approach you about church. There are clues
that others think this way about you as well.
God has definitely gifted you with gifts of attitude - a balance between
not agreeing with everything/but not being arrogant and pushy about it -
that suit you for the job. And if God has given you teaching as either a
natural or spiritual gift you will improve in the job year by year and
that would make you an even better candidate for staying."

My favorite English junior high English teacher also asked me to stay
today. He said, I really think you're a good teacher and you have good
style. And that's not just "oseji" (a white lie / compliment).

I'm really glad to hear that from both sources, because I don't get much
feedback at all.

I have some fears about staying here: 1) I don't feel qualified, I want
to go back to school a little 2) recently I've been tired all the time;
I'm afraid of absolutely failing, falling on my face exhausted. 3) I'm
afraid I'm so busy teaching I can't do anything to foster the growth of
Christianity here (like start a real Bible study). But if I can't do it
now, how will the next newbie who comes here ever be able to do it?

This is on my mind a lot. Defiantly more later.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Year #3:Searching for Meaning

If there's been a theme to this year, it's been "searching for meaning"
- or maybe purpose. I don't think teaching English will really give
purpose to my life. On the other hand, church gives my life meaning (or
rather Christ gives my life purpose), and while I'd love to just do
church work, I'd also like to be practically useful as well.

That said, some missionaries work their whole career without seeing any
"results" themselves.

This week I've had a whole bunch of people (students, parents, teachers,
church members, etc) asking me too stay - but no one really giving me a
reason to stay. I've been asking God to show me a reason to stay, but I
haven't seen anything yet. One of my bosses in Tokyo said "If people
want you to stay it means your ministry is effective" when he visited
here recently. I don't know that I agree completely.

On the "career" side, I've gotten some advice about going to grad school
rather than just getting an ESL cert. Also, going back to the USA during
this recession means a pretty good chance at a substantial drop in
income. If I was only thinking of myself, the thing to do would be
change jobs here, stay in Japan, and get a Masters while working. But
like I said, I'm rather skeptical of career giving my life meaning (but
I do need some cash in flow too).

One thing I feel like I can't do is stay here at this job. The job keeps
me busy enough that I can't study Japanese or apply for higher edu
programs, or start an English club or Bible Study (in hindsight I should
have done the last two when I first arrived). Maybe this is my laziness,
but I don't think that's the whole problem.

Investing in people (and learning from them too) may be the only real
reason to be here. And while I haven't done the greatest job of that, it
hasn't been easy either. I kind of want to go back, regroup, and give it
another fresh start, but that's the easy way. The hard (and perhaps
mature) way would be to stay here and keep trying.

More thoughts later. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

It'd be a shame

Last night the school staff had a bowling tournament followed by an "End
of the Year" party. It's a little early but whatever. We bowled two
rounds. In the first round our team had one great frame where we all got
strikes. But more score that round hardly cleared 100. In the second
round I had one of the best games of my life, I scored 184. (Thanks for
teaching me how to bowl Mr. Webber)

In his speech at the begining of the year end party, the principal said,
"I think it's great that were all here together like a family. That was
a great high-score Nick had. I think it'd be a shame if he wasn't here
to play next year."

I've been looking for a reason to stay here next year, but somehow the
bowling tourney isn't at the top of my priority list.