Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Day in the Life

5 a.m.- Wake up at  and access if I will be able to go jogging outdoors or not. With so much rain, every day is a gamble.  But, with outdoor jogging being my only source of  high intensity cardio vascular activity, I usually hope for a dry morning. I grab a small snack, drink a glass of water, and head out when it’s quiet and deserted on the streets. I alternate between jogging three miles around various sidewalks and going to the nearby park for short laps mixed with body weight exercises (push-ups, lunges, squats, etc.). I try to get vigorous exercise for 30-45 minutes 3-4 days per week. When returning, I towel off sweat and humidity and lay out on my yoga mat for some stretching and cooling down. 

6 a.m.- Start making a hot, beverage which alternates between matcha green tea and coffee, depending on my taste that day. I start getting items around for my sack lunch, possibly leftovers from the night before and a few random snacks. I can also choose to buy my lunch in the school cafeteria, from a nearby take out restaurant, or a convenience store. I can typically get a decent lunch for 500 yen (or $5.00).
At this time I usually turn a t.v. show on my computer. This carries over from my life in the U.S., when I enjoyed having some “company” as I got ready in the morning. Though it seems mindless, I enjoy having that stimulation to get my mind going in the morning. I begin making breakfast, which is usually oatmeal with nuts and  fruit. Or, if I am feeling lazy, I will pour a quick bowl of cereal. I have always liked having a good breakfast as a base, and here it is no different. I also like to use this morning time to do some personal reading, journaling, or studying Japanese. I have felt an increased sense of productivity here in the mornings.

7 a.m.- I am not a morning shower taker, so I only spend a few minutes at the mirror.  I brush my teeth, wash my face, put on some makeup, and get my hair to do something decent. I’ll put together an outfit in front of my closet. I haven’t brought many clothes to Japan, so this process is rather simple. Since dressing for work is between business casual and business formal I have certain parameters to stay within. Dresses are simple, and I have a few in basic colors that I enjoy rotating to make it stress-free. When there are so many other things for me to make sense of in a day, I like to keep my wardrobe easy. 

8 a.m.- Depart for work on foot or bike.
Arriving at the main entrance of school.
8:15 a.m.- Arrive at school I stop at my locker to change from my outdoor shoes to my indoor ones. In this school, as with many other similar establishments people do not wear their outdoor shoes inside. This means that every teacher and student must change their shoes when coming in. The students all wear the same athletic sandals and teachers keep whatever kind of shoes they like in their locker.
Can you find my locker?
I head up three flights of stairs to the teachers room, put down my things, go fill my water bottle and get to work. Depending on the day I may have a class first period and if I do, I hustle to my classroom by 8:20 when the first bell rings. Click here to listen to what our “bell” sounds like. 

Again, depending on the day I teach between two and four classes. In the periods that I do not have a class, I am working on grading. Most, if not all of my grading responsibilities, are reading students’ writing. Weekly or every other week I will read and correct writing by the approximately 300 students I come into contact with through teaching. I read a lot of short essays (50-100) words, correcting  spelling, grammar, and natural flow.

Is this hard? Yes. It is doable? Yes. Do I enjoy it? Yes, pretty much. Luckily, I love reading and writing, so this type of work is right in my wheelhouse. Though, I won’t pretend that it doesn’t get a little bit daunting and I can begin to zone out while correcting hundreds of writing samples by students who are writing in a foreign language. The 3rd year (seniors) students’ writing is typically quite good and I enjoy learning about them through it. The 1st year (sophomores) students’ writing usually has more red ink on it, but is still fun to read. 

12:15 p.m. It's time for lunch and I typically eat at my desk though I’ve try and challenge myself to go elsewhere just to get away. If the weather is nice and I have a free 5th period, I like to go out for a walk to get some midday exercise and fresh air. While teaching I am on my feet a lot, but during free periods I can be guilty of large amounts of sitting. 

Afternoon- More classes and grading.

3:50 p.m.- 7th period ends which is the last class of the day, though  I am still at my desk until 4:15. Technically, within the parameters of my contract, that is when my working hours end for the day. However, I am expected to play a role in the after school English speaking club which meets daily from 4:15 to sometimes as late as 6:00 p.m. I am not needed every day and out of respect for my time, I am not expected or asked to stay every day. I usually inquire about the club’s activity during the school day or immediately right after to see if I am needed. There are busier periods and slower periods with this club. Though the students always meet daily, they only need my help daily during periods leading up to speech competitions or drama performances. All in all, I typically will stay until about 5 or 5:30 if I stay at all. Making my work day 8-5, just like a typical American work day. Though my contract states I have a 35 hour work week, sometimes a 40 hour week is necessary. Since I am salaried, I don’t see any difference in pay, however my salary is quite generous. 

Somewhere between 4:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.- After work I can decide to go out on an adventure or head home. Adventures can include, exploring the public library, grocery shopping, going out for ice cream, shopping at the 100 yen store, or exploring some nearby landmark. These adventures are simple, but fun, and are eventful in another culture. If I am too tired or hungry (all too often) I just head home and begin making dinner and winding down for the day.

Checking out a nearby shrine.
6-9 p.m.-At this point daylight has faded along with the energy left in me. Since I wake up at 5 a.m. and I don’t get a midday rest, by 7-8 pm my eyelids are getting pretty heavy. In this time I like to spend time online, looking up things that interest me and getting lost in eclectic YouTube labyrinths. 

Between 9 and 10 p.m.- After a long day I find going to sleep quite easy and I’m excited to have a still and quiet place to rest, until the alarm rings again the next morning. 

Right now and hopefully for the next year this schedule will be a good balance of a comfortable routine spliced with adventures. I believe both are needed for this experience to be successful for me.