Identity teaching map

I wanted to record the lessons I’ve done with the advanced English kids that caught their attention as well as was enjoyable (though often frustrating) to lead.

Body language and shaking hands.
Jokes and riddles
The Dangers of a Single Story TED Talk
Write about others assumptions about you and what assumptions you want to correct, or confirm.
What Americans think of Japan video
Listening practice with interviews from Ruth Ozeki and Malala.
Japanese and American game shows. I showed them Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. Maybe a bit outdated, but I feel it’s classic American.

From what it sounds like, the kids are really interested in how others see them, as well as those with identity conflicts. With that, I’m motivated to try to do a discussion on queer identity, so I drew out a roadmap to see how it could tie in with the rest of what I’ve been sharing.

People who are half – Would love to get the film Hafu and show that in class, but maybe just the trailer, and do a discussion.

Foreigners living in Japan, foreigners living elsewhere – There is a Youtube video made by a high school student who was born in Japan, but a child of white Canadian parents. It would be worth discussing Asian foreigners as first, as they are mostly invisible here, and then blow their minds with white foreigners who’ve been in Japan all their life.

A foreign concept: Adoption. I had read an article about people adopting Japanese kids, which can be a finicky subject, given their huge dependency on 戸籍, the National Family Registry to prove biological parentage, etc. Blood is everything in Japan, but there are numerous orphans, and probably couples who can’t have kids who can adopt. Anyway, something for the kids to think about.

And then from that, queer people. Now that there is same-sex marriage of people who are mature enough to commit and tie the knot and build a family, should they also be allowed to adopt?

It’s a long roadmap, as I aim to spend at least 2-3 lessons of English to discuss these topics. So we’ll see how far I can get…

O-Mo-Te-Na-Shi kid and Laughing kid

During English Cafe, I tend to hound the kids to come by and talk. I managed to bring two students over, and asked them what Je-Je-Je meant. They laughed, surprised that I heard about it, or perhaps the fact that I said it and it was already a funny catchphrase. Later, one of them said something that included “omotenashi,” and I asked her what it was. She said it’s the Japanese way and then proceeded to demonstrate this gesture, which starts at 8 seconds:

And that’s how I learned the catchphrase O-mo-te-na-shi, Japanese hospitality.

I honestly don’t remember how the conversation got to that, but since then, I was able to remember her name, which she gets really happy about, and take note of particular things people tell me about her, such as how her father used to be a professional soccer player, which is probably why she can be such a sore loser in her sports club! But she will always be Omotenashi kid.

Her friend, a tall girl with a smile always on her face that whenever I look at her photo in the school album, I think she’s scheming something, loves to talk, and she does so excitedly and enthusiastically. On several occasions, while sitting in the office, or walking the halls, I would hear a huge cackling laugh, and clapping to go with it, and it would always be her. It probably sounds out of place for Japanese ears because people are usually reserved about the volume of their voice, but it was so genuine and refreshing that I enjoyed it and truly wondered what she was laughing about because I wanted to let loose a good laugh as well.

Once, when we greeted each other, I saw her face was looking a bit green. When I asked “How are you?” she announced with a huff, “I’m so tired!” I switched to Japanese to ask if she was all right because she didn’t look too good, and she explained that she’s a bit anemic. And yet she manages to keep her positive energy.

Sigh! You work so hard, take it easy, kiddo!

What Americans Think of Japan Video lesson

I showed a video to a small class with international interest and another doubly-sized class with mixed international interest.

Before showing the video, I asked them the same questions about America and white people, and played the name game using English, French, and Spanish names.

I think the important part of this video is that it takes an objective sample of American youth whose answers reflect how much Japanese, or even Asian, exposure there is in America. After watching this video, the more international kids realized and were surprised that they knew more about America than the average American youth knew about Japan. I hope they go abroad with pride to not only have new experiences, good or bad, but also to learn more about themselves and dispel stereotypes.

But I also realize that equally important were the reactions from kids with mixed international interest. Their level of international knowledge is probably on par with the people in the video. Their reaction was more fair, and they were more inclined to correct the mistakes in response, and more understanding of the mistakes. Here are some things they wanted to let these subjects know after watching the video:

  • There are no samurai in Japan.
  • Ichiro Suzuki is Japanese.
  • Kim Jong Il is Korean.
  • Anime is also culture. (I later followed up with this student and she clarified that she meant in regards to an artistic medium. You’ve got CG, you’ve got stop animation, and you’ve got anime.)
  • Tokyo is the capital of Japan, not Bangkok.
  • Japanese people have round faces, too.
  • Japanese people’s eyebrows are not triangles.
  • Japanese people don’t wear kimono on a daily basis.

The question I asked in place of the atom bomb was who handed over Hong Kong to China. I think it would have been more fair to ask something more damning of Japan in regards to its imperialist history, but I’m not prepared for that.


Had a pretty successful class today. After showing them excerpts of C’s TED talk on The Dangers of the Single Story, I prompted the students to present their answers to the following questions:

  1. What assumptions do others have of you?
  2. Is that assumption true?
  3. Do you want to change or add something to that assumption?
  4. What truths do you want to show others about yourself?

Received a range of answers (all paraphrased)

  • People think I’m smart, but I’m not. I want to be smart, so I study every day.
  • People think I like sports because I’m in a sports club, but I’m terrible at ball sports.
  • People think I’m studious, but I’m actually very funny, too.
  • People don’t think I don’t like tricks and pranks, but I enjoy them.
  • People think that because I’m a big and tall guy that I would be good at sports, and that I should join a sports club, but I enjoy playing musical instruments
  • People think because I love Korean pop culture and that I look Korean that I should be Korean, but I’m Japanese.
  • People think because I am in track and field, I can do all T&F events, but I’m only good at running and hurdling. I can sprint like no other. (Okay, so I paraphrased that for impact)
  • People think I should be a voice actress, but I actually want to be an immigration officer.
  • People think I love animals, and they’re right! I even walk my rabbit around the garden on a leash!

ひも kid

This one tall girl is one of Beautiful kid’s friends. They both introduced themselves as first-years to me during lunchtime English Cafe. This girl was a bit of a ditz on my first impression. Her hair was long, combed, but not neat. Stray strands would float in front of her face, as she walked, often, like a zombie, in between classes. But she was like Dale to Beautiful kid’s Chip. They would often banter, not about boys, but about what they liked. When I asked them what they wanted to be when they grow up, Beautiful told her dreams, and that she didn’t want a family. She just wanted to live by herself. The tall girl didn’t know what she wanted to do. She decided that because she hates to work, she wouldn’t work! So her friends jokingly called her a ひも(himo)。A ひも is basically a mooch, someone who lives off their girlfriend or boyfriend like a parasite. I wanted to know how they defined it so I asked them. They told me, “No job!” And thus they named her “No-job kid.” No-job was just fine with that.

Once, Beautiful brought a riceball with tuna mayonnaise filling to school for lunch, and offered a bite to No-job. No-job tears off a bit, and ends up with most of the filling, leaving very little tuna mayonnaise left for Beautiful. Beautiful doesn’t see this because she’s trying to tell me that tuna mayonnaise is her favorite rice ball filling, until she finishes talking to me and goes back to eating the riceball. With a start, she is shocked that most of the filling is gone, and scolds No-job, as No-job explains that it was offered to her, and happily enjoys her gift.

I like to believe that No-job is smarter than she behaves. She often re-interprets what I say in English into non-sensical sounds that she hears. It’s not that she’s dumb, or making fun of me, she’s actively trying to learn. It actually helps me understand what the kids are hearing, and tells me where the listening problems are. I admire this girl because she communicates very well, is very genuine, and honest.

As she gets older though, she’s starting to be more proactive in being mature. Her hair is shorter and better kept, and she has better posture. She’s in the art club, and drew this piece with a fox that was clearly irrelevant to the scene. But it was cute, and you couldn’t help but laugh that it’s there, so I appreciated the humor!

The thing is she also holds back more these days. I’ve been told that she talks a lot, and not in a good way. I do hope she finds a place where she can thrive.



Sometimes I have to remind myself that I used to work in the video game industry as a producer. Some might correct me and say, “Associate,” but there were quite a few projects where I was given the autonomy to get the gears rolling. The only thing that set me apart from the producer was who called the shots. But even then, I was the one giving the options for shots.

I have to admit, though, that negotiating terms with clients was probably my weakest point. My style of communication has always been blunt and to the point, but it seems that only those who’ve risen to a certain level of power are able to be taken seriously with that sort of attitude.  Men, I guess. Even as a genderqueer woman, I could only be taken seriously as long as I had good people on my team, those who understood the value of people, regardless of gender, and didn’t feel the need to be loud and macho about their ambition. People who were modest, but confident, and strived to do a good job, and you can trust that in the end, they will always do a good job.

This was my Rock Band 3 DS team. We worked together almost independently from Rock Band 3 because it was another genre of game than the consoles and not entirely dependent on them. Of course, the development process was never without issues, as we worked on new tech to integrate a network co-op feature, and had to figure out how to crunch millions of polys onto a small screen without it looking like Starfox, and tweaking design until it was bug free, but in the end, we were on time and within budget. Heck, I had enough to get my team DS LL’s as team schwag. The whole experience was a lot of fun. My only regret is that I couldn’t get a Tegan and Sara song on the game’s soundtrack. I think it would have been my biggest credit to the queer community.

But in the project following that, I failed to pull my team through. We worked with a new client, who sent new producers to work with us on a sequel. We had a good start, discussing thoroughly the game design document during pre-production the features we could offer, the features they wanted. We negotiated openly and professionally, making direct calls whenever necessary for requested changes. But once production started, those calls kept coming.  Features started creeping in. Our amazing contract concept artist was constantly busy adding and deleting requests from the client, our awesome engineers, who were trying to adjust to a new engine, experimented to make proof-of-concepts to see if we could do what the client was feature creeping. I finally had a firm talk with the client, telling them that we need to settle on some final concepts because all these requests were burning into our production time. It was late one evening, and I remember it being a very emotional and angry conversation. The phone call ended with me feeling guilty about getting the last word, that I went to my designer and wanted to know if he thought I was a ranting banshee. I doubt he was really listening, as I didn’t get much feedback, but I could tell he could see my frustration.

The client took a step back, but would sometimes request for more. Before shutting them down, I would seriously think about what could be done and bargained for such a change. That’s how my conversations with them came to be. You want this, we’re cutting this. We finally got our tech up, and things were looking up, except I was so mentally exhausted, worrying about the schedule, worrying about what the next request would be, worrying that we wouldn’t be able to achieve it because there was still so much tech to build that I just couldn’t handle anymore setbacks. I asked for help, but I was at the lowest point that there was no return. I simply checked out, and I was guilty for it because my leads were also exhausted, and we weren’t even halfway through our goals, even though our schedule was already halfway over. When I told them I was planning on leaving, I felt even worse when I got their blessing. I swore I would help them however I could.

The day I put in my 2 weeks notice was my weekly meeting with my boss. He told me he considered my request to have an actual producer on the project with me working with him, since they weren’t ready to promote me. I had requested either a promotion to producer, or have an actual producer on the project because the client was steamrolling us, and I felt that the lack of a producer caused the lack of respect. I couldn’t talk with them on equal terms. Never did I think gender was a factor, but now, sometimes I wonder.

In any case, it was too late. I was leaving, and I wasn’t sure where I was going. I was asked to work at a nearby company, but I really wanted to work in Japan, though I didn’t know how to go about it. My significant other at the time recommended I should take the job I was invited to work at. We broke up a few months later, and I was able to keep the apartment for myself because of the significant increased pay.

I started my new job about a month after I left, and things were going really well. Every now and then I heard news from my team and the new producer, and how they were doing with the project. I know I tend to over-dramatize things, but sometimes I felt like I had abandoned the team and left them in the gas chamber. There is a scene from Dr. Zhivago that I remember seeing as a kid, when stripped Jews were hoarded in a gas chamber, and when the gas came on, people rushed to the doors, begging for their lives. The actual scene lasts for only a moment, but every now and then, a flash of it appears in my head.

Actually, I’ve never seen Dr. Zhivago in its entirety, so I guess I ought to rewatch it again.

The one piece of news that I was able to get pleasure from was hearing that the producers I had worked with got fired or demoted. I like to think that my exit was a catalyst to this and it won the team a new client producer to work with, and hopefully extra time and money. But that’s wishful thinking.

Whether I was good at game production probably depends on who you’re talking to. As someone who is gender neutral, I like to treat everyone with equal respect. If I’ve got someone with an ego, with or without substance, I’m going to treat them just like everyone else, but if I’ve got someone who’s working hard, and doesn’t care what anyone says, including me (but is also a team player and finishes their priority tasks…!), I’m going to treat them like a rockstar.

The motivation for this post came from an acquaintance who called out all the women he knew who were or are game developers to help him with a project he was working on. I was disappointed I wasn’t called on, especially since he probably wouldn’t have met these women had I not referred him to my company, but considered that all the women he called were typical, attractive women whom people don’t usually peg to be in the games industry. I noticed that he didn’t call out another friend of mine that he’d worked with, who is female, but tomboyish not your usual girl. I think this says much to me about his, and perhaps the general, perception of what is women in the industry. Just as I’m starting to feel visible, I am once again made invisible.

It is in these instances when I am left out that is frustrating, and reminds me to hold on to these experiences tighter so that I may share them to anyone who would like to listen.

Risk-taking games

I want students to take risks with English! So I found a game called Double or Quits in a grammar book, and use it for today’s class.

I had some pre-made sentences ready, and decided that I would make students also make sentences and try to correct each other. I had them make literal translations of their favorite proverb, and that took… about 15 minutes!

Anywho, first they get to decide whether the sentence is correct or incorrect. If they are successful, they get 2 coins for a correct sentence, and 5 coins if they get an incorrect sentence and fix it correctly. Then they get a chance to Double or Quit (though I kept saying “double or nothing…”). If they are successful on the second sentence, then they get the same number of coins for a correct and corrected sentence, but if they are unsuccessful, they lose the coins they previously won.

Oh man, the look on the some of the kids faces when I took away their coins after being unsuccessful at doubling… They totally held back on doubling on their next turn.

Overall, aside from the slow-pacedness of game, I think it was pretty successful. Even the kids who weren’t actively participating seemed to be paying attention. I put them all in big groups at first, but I think next time, I’ll have to split them into smaller groups, so more people will have a chance to participate.

I also had to get rid of some candy, so with 5 minutes left in the class, I switched up the prizes to all my leftover candy… And I still have some leftover!


Cheeky kid

It was around Valentine’s day. Before that, I had pestered students to write me a letter and put it in the mailbox on the English board. This time, a cocky first-year from baseball club told me to write him letter. I accepted his challenge, but I also made him promise to write me back.

In my letter, I commented that he seems like a nice boy and has many admirers. But instead of doing something in particular for someone, I challenged him to write a letter to his parents for Valentine’s Day and tell them how much he loves them.

I put the the letter in an envelope, and picked out a frog sticker to seal it with. When I gave it to him, he was with some of his teammates. They were very impressed that he got a letter from me.

Here was his reply to me a few days later.


He even reused my frog sticker. Little shit!