"Learning by Teaching" is now one year old

A year ago yesterday I opened this blog “Learning by Teaching”. It was funny or even weird that I felt as if I were writing blog pieces for a while since its very beginning. I had long been a reader of other people’s blogs and spent a significant amount of time reading, technically speaking “consuming”, what those talented bloggers had written for their own blogs. As I got to know various blogs and authors, I started wondering if I could start my own blog to generate something by myself. What was so interesting back then was that I even felt “guilty” that I just devoured the outcome that blog authors had devoted time, effort and creativity for. I was not at all conceited to assume that I could write such interesting and meaningful pieces that I loved reading, but I was constantly thinking that I should produce something myself.

Writing blog pieces quickly and completely enthused me. I kept looking for a good topic for a blog post without having hart time doing it and enjoyed putting my thoughts into writing for hours. I’ll never forget the moment when my first blog post “MA 修了がもたらすもの" appeared on the display. I got so thrilled that I read the post more than ten times, I remember. The very first comment that I got on my blog was about “Part 5 で意味処理スピードを上げる" from my then-Twitter-buddy-and-now-precious-English-learning friend. That was the next memorable moment since I started “Learning by Teaching”. He said in the comment that I sounded rather different than he thought I did on Twitter. Which made me realize, just as a baseless claim, that I was able to be more like “myself” on the blog.

Writing English pieces was within the scope of my motives for starting a blog. “Washback Effect” was the first piece that I wrote in English. For me it was pretty much a matter of course to write on Second Language Acquisition (SLA) themes because I’m studying the subject in an English medium school, so it was just a spin-off writing from my course assignments so to speak. That being said, writing in English and publishing it on my blog gave me huge excitement for sure. I posted a few SLA-related pieces reproduced from my comments posted on the discussion board of the SLA class I was then taking. What is honorable to me that one of those articles, "Relationship between Language Distance and TOEFL Score" is the most well-read blog posts. When Professor Hinata introduced the piece on Twitter, which was a very honorable thing that happened to me, there were more than 600 page views in just one day. I’m so sure that this record will almost never be broken.

Speaking of writing in English, a piece that soon came up to my mind is the one I wrote on the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, “Leave or Stay”. Back then, just like many others, I was devastated not physically but mentally. I safely came home from my work place on March 11th by three-hour taxi ride that cost me 15000 yen, and there was no serious damage to my house or family members fortunately. However, persisting aftershocks, inconsistently implemented scheduled power outage, and impending danger caused by the nuclear power plant in Fukushima wore me down day by day. Plus, I kept receiving emails suggesting that foreign students at graduate school evacuate (evacuate!) from Japan, which was sticky enough to generate my sense of angst deep down. Such strong inner prompt helped me write "Leave or Stay". I was so honored to know that my English learning friend introduced the piece on Twitter. I wasn’t writing for praises, but such recognition from the blog author I’d always like to emulate was just encouraging.

In June, a project launched – “Quick Write Forum”. I had always wanted to practice writing intensively, so Quick Write Forum was exactly what I needed. Once started, however, it gave me tons of issues to ponder on. To make a long story short, I’m quite happy about moderating Quick Write Forum and determined to keep posting English pieces on the forum until 1000 threads are posted. I repost the same piece here on my blog, so some of my blog readers wonder why I do so. One of the reasons that I can say is that I’d like to make my QW piece “my piece”. Do you know what I mean? The initial concept of Quick Write Forum was that whoever wants to practice writing casually writes English pieces, posts and shares his or her products. In other words, QW pieces I produce are always meant for sharing, but they’re my products nonetheless. Plus, if I don’t post my QW pieces, almost no blog post will be posted for days and weeks. On a positive note, I can revive the same piece with a picture as food-for-eye kind of amusement on my blog.

Recently I’ve reconsidered writing blog posts in Japanese and reinvented my view on that. I’ve constantly written in English on whatever interests me for my blog and Quick Write Forum. It occasionally can be a piece about English learning, or something a bit more organized than random thoughts. I realized that if those pieces are written in English, it’s very likely to go unread or ignored by Japanese learners of English. I’m not so arrogant to consider my blog posts as something worth eliciting the attention and interest of those people, but it’s not a very bad idea to render my thoughts on English learning in Japanese while raising the “likeliness" that such piece is perused as many people as possible. I’m not going to teach English or offer English lessons in Japanese here on "Learning by Teaching". I’ll render my thoughts on English learning in general in our shared first language, Japanese as a learner of English language instead.

It’s almost a surreal but wonderful thing to behold that there are people who regularly visit my blog and read my posts lacking an underlying theme or consistent arguments. To be honest, I keep writing blog posts for my own learning with a teeny-tiny hope that they could possibly be something meaningful for those who kindly and generously frequent “Learning by Teaching”. Otherwise I might as well keep a personal learning log or a private blog, which in fact has been an issue, almost a “paradox”, for me to consider. I’m not sure if I can explain it intelligibly, but I don’t really want to present myself only as "a teacher” on my blog. Rather I’d like to be one English learner who’s always struggling with her English learning. Probably I need the place where I can say whatever I want as a learner, not as a teacher whose responsibility is strictly to serve her students’ learning. If someone visits my blog hoping that he or she could read useful language tips, TOEIC test-taking strategies, or whatever you ever call English lessons, I’m very sorry to say that this is not what it is. All those things considered, I cannot be grateful enough for frequent visitors or regular readers who are willing to spend some of their precious time to read blog posts on arbitrarily selected topics. Thank you very much, my dear readers.

Michael Schenker is my all-time guitar hero and RATT is the very reason why I started learning English seriously.
[広告] VPS





Obliged to Embarrass Girls

One of my friends who I follow on Twitter recently tweeted about the latest blogo post of his favorite blog. I’ve known that he’s an avid reader of this collection of personal essays in which the author audaciously writes about what he fantasizes about girls and intercourse with them. That said, his writing style is so skillful and sophisticated with sort of literary value that most of the visitors, including female readers, can somehow enjoy those articles without being disgusted, or at least I was not at all offended or appalled at the guy’s fantasies described in a candid manner. (Or am I a rare species?)

Among his far-from-bashful remarks, the following citation grabbed my heart and led me to serious but amusing contemplation: All the guys are dying to see girls embarrassed. They are all obliged to embarrass girls. The focus of his blogo post has been on other topic that I’d decently refrain from mentioning here (check yourself, readers! → http://2949.seesaa.net/), but to me this remark is a shorthand for guys’ mentality of all ages.

I could never ever understand or sympathize with the male psychology or what they’re craving for at heart. Still this statement sounds relatable to me. From the very young age, boys love to kid girls around, and can be very harsh on the girls who they secretly like. Most of the visitors here have done or have been done so-called, “skirt-flicking-up play” in which boys get revved up by chasing girls and tucking up their skirts. Is this exactly the realized fantasy that men would conceive in their formative years?

In my classroom, I’ve found that male students are needy whereas female students are more self-sufficient. When I call for questions that students might have during my class, it’s, in most cases, the boy students who ask about something trivial (or “seem-to-be-unnecessary”), and end up consuming the precious class time. (Obviously teachers should be equipped with the skill to control the classroom climate with good time management.) It’s, in most cases, those boys who chat with me during break and try eliciting something reassuring from me, and end up depriving me of time for recess. (No doubt those small talks are educationally meaningful, though.) I know full well that they never intend to “embarrass” me, but I saw the same mentality as the one that the aforementioned statement implies. No offense, but I clearly see this kind of gender differences in classroom behaviors.

All that said, girls don’t necessarily hate to be embarrassed. I must confess to my dear readers that I secretly enjoyed being chased around by boys and having my skirt flicked up back then. Today, I pretty much enjoy answering time-consuming questions that no other students would ask, and attending those feeling-uneasy students sacrificing my break time. Oh, wait a minute. Is it a kind of maternal love that I’ve developed within myself as I’m aging? It’s very much likely. Yet I also think that my willingness to deal with those can-be-embarrassing situations comes from the attribute as being one of the females who’ve long been lived and tried getting along with their counterpart.

From the movie "The Seven Year Itch"




Chivalry or Sexism?

Ladies, how does it feel like if a male opens a door for you or lets you exit an elevator first? Gentlemen, what do you usually do when you’re with a woman carrying a heavy bag or you two are about to go through the door that looks heavy to open? I recently read a series of articles regarding “chivalry” not in the medieval times, but in the modern world. According to our dependable, financially generous, and “always-there-for-you” English language tutor Merriam-Webster Com., chivalry is defined as 1: mounted men at arms, 2a: martial valor, 2b: knightly skill, 3: gallant or distinguished gentlemen, 4: the system, spirit, or customs of medieval knighthood, 5: the qualities of the ideal knight. I might be talking about the one close to the definition 3, but to make things surer, why not refer to the other reliable pedant Oxford Dictionary of English? ODE defines "chivalry" as “the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, namely courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak”, or more specifically, “courteous behavior, especially that of a man towards women”.

The article titled “Chivalry is actually ‘benevolent sexism’, feminists concludes” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/relationships/8575363/Chivalry-is-actually-benevolent-sexism-feminists-conclude.html reports that the researchers said that there are many acts of unnoticed sexism taking place every day through acts or comments that suggested women cannot cope without men’s help. Well, that could be one way to view the situation, but it sounds a little extreme or overreacting to me. The researchers astutely didn’t fail to mention the counterpart. They mentioned that females are also to blame because they endorse sexist beliefs not attending to subtle, aggregate forms of sexism in their personal lives. Okay, is that so, but what the hell? To me it’s more like that even if women ever notice whatever can be labeled as sexism going on, it’ll be no problem unless any serious consequences or actual damage or disadvantages are caused, or as long as any tangible and intangible benefits are to be brought to women. Am I being a happy-go-lucky simpleton or lacking serious contemplation here? I’m so sure that a clan of feminists would say so.

These days I stay at a business hotel once a week to teach an early morning class the next day. Whenever I take the elevator, almost all the males, both young and old, let me go first, which brings me a happy surprise each time. Yes, it’s rather rare for a woman to stay by herself at a hotel purely for business use, and probably business”men” staying there may feel obliged to display the spirit of "chivalry" in the elevator. This small, but very courtly act is enough to make me fulfilled and grateful for being a woman, though. I’m not really sure if they do so because I’m a woman or they do so to both men and women, but nothing hurts if I think this way! That said, I know that things were totally different if I were taking an elevator at a station or more public space. Most of the males who are supposed to be exhausted from commuting long distance and working extended hours pay "zero" attention to women in the small transporter and are very much ready to get out as soon as the door opens! While lodging at a business hotel, however, hotel guests would feel more intimate towards each other, like a one-night family or relatives, and were willing to be nice to a person taking the elevator together. It also seems to be related to Uchi (inside) - Soto (outside) kind of mindset deeply rooted in Japanese people.

What's very strange and even inconsistent is that I really hate to be offered to pay less than males after dining together, and insist to pay the equal amount. (I know I’m not obedient here, but that’s the way I am!) Of course I won’t refuse to be treated by a male friend or colleague depending on occasions, but in such cases, I’ll try to repay them in other times. Probably I don’t like the idea that women are financially weaker and seen as someone that needs financial support. Take my vocational experience for another instance. I’m an English teacher who works as a freelancer. When a job is offered seemingly on an account of that I’m a female teacher, I cannot help having mixed feelings. My rational minds try to convince me that I just can celebrate the fact that I’m acknowledged enough to be offered such an honorable job, but my irrational emotions invite me to unnecessary reconsideration, which goes like “What if I were a male teacher?” Sounds corny or too naïve to you? I know it does to some. In short, I’m willing to accept me as a woman who has innate weakness, whether physical or mental, but pretty much hesitant to admit that I need any help, aid, or charity for what I could have acquired by my own effort, such as money, social status or professional skills .

No matter what acclaimed researchers or influential feminists say, I like being treated as a woman. I even expect males to treat me as a woman, for I do so for males vice versa. I’m full aware that there are limitless varieties and possibilities of interpretation as to the act of treating someone as a woman, but let me just say that I very much enjoy being one. To be very honest, I sometimes hate myself being too "woman”. I often imagine that things would be way much simpler and easier if I were not equipped with such femininity. To conclude this self-serving piece before my dear readers get bored or frustrated, my message should be summed up here: Carry my baggage if you’re willing to do so, and give me nice compliments on my appearance if I deserve, but please be sure to charge me the same amount as yours, and offer a job if I’m qualified.

"A knight ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To ryden out, he loved chivalryie,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisye.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
And therto hadde he ridden, no man ferre,
As wel in Christendom as hethenesse.
And ever honoured for his worthinesse."

-Chauser, Canterbury Tales





Cravings for Open Flame

The article What's behind America's love of barbecue? I encountered while surfing online magazine Websites this morning has kindled my drive for giving further thoughts to my first Quick Write product. Felisa Rogers, the author of the article talks about why American people love barbecue so much attributing their cravings for this outdoor dining event to several factors with historical, technological, and human perspectives. One of the rationales discussed in the article that attracts my interest is the remark by James Beard which goes, "Eating outdoors is one of life's finest pleasures. It is not just a trick of the imagination that makes food smell and taste better under blue skies or under the stars. The fire in your grill and the freshness of the air add savor to every dish, whether it is served in a patio, a back yard, a picnic grove or on a stretch of sand or grass on lake, stream or ocean." I can’t agree more with this argument, especially regarding the part that the fire in a grill adds savor. Please don’t get me wrong, my dear readers. I’m not a pyromania or anything! This will soon be a relatable notion of yours, I believe, only if you recall a campfire on one of those school trips. The flame burning under the black night sky made you calm, relaxed, yet vitalized, didn't it? I’m kind of intrigued by the allure of a burning flame and why it works that way. Reminder; I’m not a pyromania!

In Quick Write 1 "Korean Barbeque", I state that Korean barbeque is a very primitive style of dining in a sense that raw meat is to be grilled over fire, which brings back us to the times when humans used to hunt prey, cook it over fire, and devour the meat in a dark, narrow, yet cozy cave. I conceive that the dining style of Korean barbeque somehow evokes our instinct that has been long dormant and left unattended, but surely exists deep down. Grilling what we’re going to eat over a flame is a basic and primitive way to prepare food, and thus, could allow us to become basic and primitive as well. That’s why, I assume, there has been a cliché that men and women who dine at a Korean barbeque restaurant have already gone "physical", a synonym for being basic and primitive, at least in my own definition. Oh? You’ve never heard of this? Sad, it must be what you ever call a generation gap! I remember this fishy-slushy theory was prevalent during the Bubble-Era when people were maddeningly spending their money on food, clothing, and whatever was supposed to be "valuable". Anyway, it seems to me that an open flame does affect human mind and awaken our feral instinct that has been tamed in the course of civilization. Whether it’s outdoor American-style barbecue or indoor Korean-style barbeque, we’re definitely drawn to the open flame dining style which gives us a legitimate reason to be soothed and bewitched by its instinct-provoking allure.

Should've been a romantic tune like "Eternal Flame" by The Bangles? Well... it's more like me, and is still very romantic!
[広告] VPS




At the End of May

An old cliché goes “Time flies”, but it's not enough to describe May 2011 that I'm about to finish experiencing in a couple of hours. Literally, it “dashed away” right before my eyes, leaving so much to look back on. I admit that I haven’t found the best possible way to spend the month of May if it ever exists. It’s not that I hate the pleasant as well as eventful month, but rather I feel as if I were under unnecessary pressure to have a wonderful, enjoyable, exciting month which is to bring Golden Week and my birthday. Didn’t I tell you that I'm a hard-core homebody? If I have consecutive days off as in Golden Week, I’ll celebrate the fact that I can secure an abundance of time to spend at home. Since this blogging thing has come into my life, I always cherish those moments to come up with a topic, brainstorm ideas, write a piece, elaborate it, revise it, upload an appropriate picture or video, and read my fresh-from-the-press post over and over. Do I sound narcissistic? Well... maybe, yes, kind of. But a positive side effect about being "narcissistic" is that scrutinizing my piece on the display often leads me to find grammatical errors and typos which I would miss otherwise. It feels so good to do something productive, however small, trivial, or personal it may be, as writing a blog post for one's own good. To me, blogging has become something like writing commas, semicolons, colons, and periods on a chronicle entitled "My Life".

Right after having indulged in blogging, tweeting, and English language learning to my heart's content, I had to face the harsh reality. Something truly unexpected kept happening regarding the new classes that I was supposed to start teaching from this May. The sequence of accidents, however, unexpectedly released me from the pressure to adapt myself into a new work environment. And May 11th. I’ll never ever forget the day and wistful regrets that I had to bear. And my birthday. It passed as if it were just another Sunday, and since then, I’ve been immersed in the teach-prepare-teach-prepare-teach-prepare cycle with no sign of break. But it’s just so weird that I’m not exhausted or weary while cutting back my sleep. Well, well, you don't need to let me know that I’m aging and needing less sleep than before. I’m the one who is the most aware of this sad truth! A joke aside... It’s too early to make any judgment at this point, but I do have the feeling that I’ve started living my own life, not someone else’s. It may sound cheesy, corny, and slushy to some, but after all those years, the sense that I’m living my self-chosen life keeps coming to me. It may have something to do with blogging that invites me to delve into what's on my mind and voice what I've found there. Am I rebuilding or rediscovering my identity? If so, I'd be happy to embrace refurbished or retrieved "me".

About Taurus
The characteristics of Taurus are solidity, practicality, extreme determination and strength of will - no one will ever drive them, but they will willingly and loyally follow a leader they trust. They are stable, balanced, conservative, good, law-abiding citizens and lovers of peace, possessing all the best qualities of the bourgeoisie. As they have a sense of material values and physical possessions, respect for property and a horror of falling into debt, they will do everything in their power to maintain the security of the status quo and be somewhat hostile to change. Mentally, the characteristics of Taurus are keen-witted (sarcastic) and practical more often than intellectual, but apt to become fixed in their opinions through their preference for following accepted and reliable patterns of experience. Taurus character is generally dependable, steadfast, prudent, just, firm and unshaken in the face of difficulties. Their vices arise from their virtues, going to extremes on occasion, such as sometimes being too slavish to the conventions they admire.




English learner


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