My thoughts

Free Online English Lesson
March 26, 2008, 2:51 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

On Sunday, 3/30 at 10:00 am JST, I will be hosting a free online English lesson. We will be studying some videos of Cameron Diaz to learn some real-world English. If you like Cameron or want to practice your English, please join us.

I am an American woman, I live in Seattle, Washington, home of Starbucks, Ichiro, and Microsoft! I lived in Japan and taught English for three years. I am also the same age as Cameron Diaz, if only I looked like her!

You will need Skype, you can download it for free if you don’t have it. If you want to join in, please email me with your skype i.d. My email address is:

Here is the ad that Cameron Diaz recently appeared in, and the last two are ones that we will probably be studying in the class.

Why kids are fun to teach
March 22, 2008, 1:58 am
Filed under: Intermediate, Uncategorized

I used to work at a conversation school in Japan, which was my first experience teaching kids. We taught everyone–adults, kids, companies. The policy of the school was that every teacher had to teach in all areas. Some teachers complained, but I think it was a good policy. A typical day included some inhouse adult and kids classes in the daytime, and then going outside to a company or two in the evening. It made our work more interesting and gave us lots of different experiences, and it also meant that all the instructors were also flexible in the types of classes we could teach.

Two of my three years at this school, I was a head teacher, which means that I was a manager of the teachers. I got to hear all their complaints, and many of them complained about the kids classes, especially some of the male teachers. They found them difficult and uncomfortable to teach. They preferred the companies. For me, it was the opposite. I loved teaching the kids. In fact, I was the only teacher to ask for more kids classes, especially the very small kids. However the office staff gave me more companies and less kids, and the other teachers less companies and more kids.

I became sort of the “expert” of teaching kids at our school. The other teachers found teaching kids difficult, so I had regular training meetings with them about teaching kids. We shared ideas for games and activities. I also met with teachers to help them plan classes.

Here are some of my ideas about why kids are fun to teach:

1. Curiousity. Kids are curious about everything, and it is fun to see them excited and interested in language.

2. Humor. It is interesting to see what kids find funny. It could be a sound you make, and they find it fun to immitate it. I was teaching a class of American 1st graders (6 years old) here in Seattle. We were going over the weather, and I said “sunny.” And they got excited because one of them is named “Sonny.” I think humor is important, kids need to have fun when they are learning.

3. Eager to please. Most kids want to please their teacher, they try so hard. They get so excited when you give them positive attention.

4. Innocence. Kids are innocent, and it is nice to be around. Most of them are sweet and lovable. They have interesting ideas about the world,.

5. They give you presents!

6. You get to sing songs and play games with them.

7. They look up to you. Some are impressed with your skills. I remember when I was showing a kindergartner how to write a word, and she said “How come grownups are always so good at writing?!”

8. They draw you pictures, give you hugs, and get sad when you go away. It is nice to feel so important!

9. They make progress very fast, and it very rewarding to see. It is also neat to see how they develop. Some of the students that I taught in Japan were 6 years old when I started. They were studying the Sesame Street Picture Dictionary and sat on the floor. I graduated them to a table and a real textbook soon after that. When I left, they were 9 years old, amazing at English, and on the 3rd level of the textbook series. They could have good conversations and were really motivated about English.

10. Knowing that you made a difference in a child’s life. For me this was Kaede, who was 5 years old when I became her teacher. At the time, I taught her privately. She was very shy. She would speak with me in her class, and to her older sister. She rarely spoke to anyone else, even her parents. Her grandmother and mother came to me, and told me that they were very worried about Kaede. She had an interview for kindergarten and did not speak at all. Her mother felt guilty, perhaps it was her fault that Kaede was so shy–she had been stressed when she had been pregnant with her. I told them not to worry, but not to push her either. I said that Kaede might grow out of it. They felt better when I said that I had been very shy at that age too. And she did. I only had Kaede for a year, and then I had to switch with another teacher. When I left 2 years later, she was thriving. She had friends at school, talked more, and even talked a lot in her English class. At a school party, she played the piano in front of everyone. Her parents said I was her best teacher, that this is possible because of me. I disagree, she did it, but I like to think that I helped a little.

Winter Storms!
February 28, 2008, 3:47 am
Filed under: Intermediate, Uncategorized

We are almost coming out of winter, good thing too! This has been a hard winter for some, particularly those in the mountains.

My parents have a home in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Although their home is only about an hour away from Seattle, it is a different world. Where we get mainly only rain, they get lots of snow. This year, my parents left for the winter, and are living on the East Coast. They have a burgular alarm in their home, and gave my phone number to the alarm company.

A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from the alarm company at 10:30 at night. They said that the alarm for one of the windows was going off. The police had been dispatched, could I check on the house? I said that I couldn’t go there. While I was on the phone with them, my mother called them. So I hung up and went to bed.

The next evening, they called again to say that a motion detector had gone off. This means that something was moving around in the house, setting off the alarm. Did I want the police called? I thought this was odd, considering the alarm had just gone off the night before. I decided that they should not call the police.

Then my mother called and told me what had happened. On the first night, the police had tried to find their house. They mistakenly went to the neighbor’s house instead. Then they went to the neighbor’s garage, thinking it was the house. The could not find it. The next day, the neighbors went to the house and discovered that a part of the roof had broken off (due to the weight of the snow), and broke a window. This explained the first alarm. My parents hired someone to come and fix it, which explains the other alarm. Apparently, they could not even open the front door because of all the snow!

Here are some pictures the neighbors took of the snow. There are many houses with damage like this. The repairman has a fulltime job trying to fix everything.

Where is the house?

Roof Collapse

There it is!

After shoveling

What is Halloween?
October 29, 2007, 1:50 am
Filed under: Beginner, Uncategorized


Halloween is on October 31st every year and is a time for kids to dress up in costume, and to go “trick-or- treating.” In the evening on this day, you can see many children going around to homes in their neighborhood. They knock on the door, and say “trick or treat?” This means that you either give a treat (sweets) or they will pull a trick (do something mean). Sometimes the children say “trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.” You give them a treat so they do not do something bad.

When I was a child, trick-or-treating changed. In the 1980’s, there was a scare with the drug Tylenol. Someone put poison in the package, and it was sold. This is called the “Tylenol scare,” and it brought people’s attention to poisoning. Around this time, there was an increase in people poisoning sweets for Halloween, some even put razor bladed in them. So parents were very afraid for their children, and they started checking all the candy to make sure it looked safe. They would not allow their children to eat homemade sweets like popcorn balls and cookies.

Nowadays, many businesses, malls, and schools have trick-or-treating, so that the children have a safe place to go, and the parents do not have to worry about their safety or the sweets.

Adults also dress up for Halloween, and some go out the weekend before Halloween. Some bars and clubs have special events for Halloween. Instead of sweets, we get drinks (but we have to pay). If you go out at night, you can see many interesting costumes. This weekend I saw a shark with legs hanging out if its mouth, Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Dr. Seuss, a mascot from a restaurant in the ’80’s, animals, pirates, the Incredibles, Superman, a Christmas tree, Courtney Love (a guy dressed as her), men dressed as women, and people who looked like they had some accidents.

I dressed up as autumn, with leaves in my hair and wrapped all around me. This was taken by friend, who is a photographer.