Saturday, 26 December 2015

2015 Highlights

What an exciting year it has been!Heaps of ups and some downs which made bright days brighter. 2015 was started with the amazing news "Master's degree in TEYL with distinction." in January. After focusing on my professional development for three years while getting used to my new career as an ALT, it was a great reward.

In Feb, I got a job offer at Toyo Gakuen University. It was an opportunity to open up to the whole new world: Teaching at universities. Although I've been teaching uni students at my own place, having more than 20 students in a classroom with diverse interest and levels was a whole new ballgame to enjoy. I was on top of the world with this another amazing news.

In the following month, my daughter, the little chubby face, got in high school. Oh, I shuddered and felt absolutely terrified to see the result of her entrance exam. I never had my heart beating so fast in my life when we went to see the result up on the massive white paper on the wall of the school gymnasium. Due to the stumbling legs and blur vision, I couldn't find her number thinking to myself, "Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no!!!!" until Momo said, "I got it, Mum." in the coolest voice I've ever heard. I screamed: Momo smirked.

In April, my busiest term in my life begun. 5 days a week, juggling three jobs including a completely new one with mum's duties. Plus, I was in the process of revising my first book chapter. I think I didn't breathe much and ran through this semester at top speed.

In May, to add the level of adrenaline, I decided to make a storytelling team with the lovely and amazing writer/ storyteller/ educator, Patricia Daly Oe ( This team, Storybubble, was one of my dreamy goals in post-MA. No matter how crazy my daily schedule was, I just could not let this go. So far, we did 4 amazing storytelling events with her and would like to continue at our own slow pace.

The first semester was filled with miraculously exciting events like my first open lecture to the public in Kunitachi city at a school about Diversity, the first Storybubble event, the approval of my first book chapter, high feedback score from students at the end of the semester and Momo's first secret crush.

Summer was supposed to be more relaxed than ever with only one-week intensive lessons at Sunny Field English (my own wonderland where young learners can explore the world in English.) But it turned out to be the beginning of  my first nerve-wracking experience: Hunting for part-time uni jobs. I sent many applications, waiting for the verdicts with anticipation of positive ones during the vacation.

As soon as the fall semester started, it became a despair. I heard "Without sufficient experience at uni and publications, it will be difficult to get a job. It is very competitive. " and read, "Thank you for your interests in our university. Unfortunately..." Since I've been extremely lucky in job hunting, I had to learn how to deal with rejections and get myself up to keep on trying. Through this experience, I realize that my luck comes from my family and friends who have faith in my potential. At the same time, another reality check incident occurred. My mum's rapid aging and memory loss. She started losing herself. I was forced to learn she was no longer the super woman who perfectly conduct the family business and affairs. It was time for me to grow up and face the reality. It was my turn to look after her. I have no idea how many times I had to slap myself, saying, "Grow up and be strong." I was pathetic at accepting the reality.

October could be the most miserable month of the year. It was so hard to get out of bed and live for the day. No matter what positive news came in, I fell into the emotional ditch where no lights came in. Although I didn't get any offers from any universities, I got a research grant and job offers as a presenter. I had enough reasons to be hopeful and thankful. Yet I was still in the process of getting used to this reverse role: Being a mum for my mum. It confused me and I couldn't be as kind and caring as I wanted to be for her. I kept on telling myself, "Come on! She is the one who has faith in you. No matter what, she supported you." The anger, stress and all the negative emotions occupied my heart. I became my worst enemy.

It was the BEST of JALT party, I got the break through moment from the extreme anger, frustrations and disappointments against myself. With the jolly girls, we started dancing around our bags on the floor with An Irish Song ( played by one of the most amazing musicians I know, Brian Cullen. I got my old self back as I danced and sang this song with the girls, thinking, "Life is good if I let it."

After this epic moment, exciting and positive news started to coming in the Christmas season. The positive vibes took in action with some presentation requests from regional JALT groups and followed by part-time job offers  at Toyo Gakuen University, Tokyo University of Technology and J.F. Oberlin University. The Board of Education I worked for in the last three years also offered an adviser for English classes in the following year. On top of that, another book chapter proposal was officially accepted. Above all, I managed to bring the members of my family to the humble yet homey Christmas party I organized. It was the first time in 5 or 6 years that all the members gathered to celebrate this season.

The universe always works to add a little more spice to my humble life. As a wish of the cheeky universe, I smashed my iPhone on the ground and squashed with the heavy metal wheels of the front gate of my parents' place, where I currently live, on the Christmas eve. The screen and all the functions of the newly bought iPhone were completely destroyed and forced me to get another one at the Apple-standardised fancy price (Without Apple care plus deal).

Ok, Universe! I admit that you told me to get the deal but I didn't listen to you.

But considering all the goodies I got, it was just a hiccup. I feel so thankful and excited that I might be able to share what I have with my family and more young learners and teens in 2016. Ending a year with anticipation of more enchanting moments and events is a real treat.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Days before Christmas

"Wouldn't that be wonderful if this cup was a magic cup providing cupcakes infinitely?" Momo nodded what I said while eating the cupcake I cooked for breakfast this morning.
Not a magic cup but a magic pot producing gold or valuables was a promise my grandma made with me when I was little. I remember the deep anxiety when I learned immortality of humans. So, I asked my grandma, "What happens when you are gone? Who is gonna be with me?" Just because my mum got seriously sick after she had my second brother, she went back to her parent's home and I was left with my grandparents. It was not much trouble to me because I was always with my grandma after my brothers were born anyway. She was the whole world to me thinking I would be like Oliver Twist or Anne Of Green Gables without her. This innocent question was answered,

"I promise I will make sure to send gold or valuables as much as you need from the heaven where every one of us has a magic pot. The magic pot will give you what you need."

I had no doubt about her promise since I was living in a world of stories that my mum read for us whenever she could. All those stories got the same ending, "And she lived happily ever after." This straightforward ethics that your life will be fulfilled as long as you are a good girl or a boy sounded so "right" to my simple and pure mind back then. 

After many years, I feel that there are many exceptions and various perceptions of "good" depending on the circumstance one lives in. In other words, there are so many incidents that make no sense to me because some "good" people end up in tragedy. But the alternatives sound hopeless and unbearable: "Bad wolf gets what he wants and lived happily ever after", "Anne was sent back to the orphanage because of her excessive imagination." or "Heidi could not see her grandpa again." What can this world be without hopes from picture books? As Norton says, children's literature "contains numerous moments of crisis, when characters make moral decisions and contemplate the reasons for their decisions," an important skill for children to see modeled (2010, p. 34). I'd rather tell stories to children where they can develop rather compassionate, empathetic and positive perceptions of the world we live in.

There are countless tragedies and terrible events we might go through in our lives. But equally, there are countless joys and heartful events we can experience in our lives. We can see more luck and happiness  when you can find the magic pot in the inside of your heart. 

Monday, 12 October 2015

What's next?

After being awarded the MA in TEYL this spring, my new path started: teaching English at tertiary level. I was lucky to be offered three months teaching experience at Toyo Gakuen University in Tokyo. It was a different ball game and valuable learning experience for me. Building rapport with the learners was something pleasurable for me no matter who they are. Yet facilitating a friendly and safe learning environment for the youth while providing motivation, engaging and relevant materials were challenging due to the larger gap between what the uni students want to do and can do in L2. For children, the gap between L1 proficiency and L2 one is smaller. So, kids tend to enjoy what they can do in L2 such as simple learning activities or projects. For uni students, it took more time to find cognitively challenging yet lexically simple tasks. Despite the challenges, I enjoyed the freedom and responsibilities I had in the uni classes I had and my new goal was emerged. Sharing my stories with language learners, whether they are young or not.

Diverse audience should require additional and different skills. My learning process might take more time than the others yet my will, determination and curiosity are strong enough to explore this new path.

Hope everything will work out and I'd get more stories to tell.