ben griffiths
an insight into the mind of a genius

Posts Tagged ‘first day’

The Big One….

Thursday, December 1st, 2005

Might as well make a start then :)
So where they hell were we, hmmm…. 13th of September - there’s a lot to go in… :) I’m going to have to skip over so much just to catch up, so i’ll just put in the important bits.

So my ear had popped and I could hear again, fantastic :) This was short lived though, as come Friday, the pain had returned so school was again a no-no. However by the end of the day it had subsided…..

Saturday 10th September
Ok, so Saturday night I went out with Chizue to see her friend play at a club in Yokohama - now Yokohama is the next main city down from Tokyo and is SOOOOO much better :) It’s right by the sea and you can walk along the front in the little park/promenade - plus it’s not full of foreigners…. wonderful place.

The club was a real underground afair, with me being the only gaijin there - i was in heaven.. finally ridding myself of the common foreigners haha - the other plus side was that every one came up to me to say hello - with even some buying me drinks! hurrah!

However I wasn’t able to fully enjoy myself as the ear was really playing up, so we left at about 3am or so to find something else to do. Not easy when you don’t have a clue what’s where - so we ended up in a Karaoke booth, which was both warm and comfortable, hurrah! Thinking about it actually, with a painful ear - karaoke would seem like a strange thing to do, but hey, there you go…. :p
Got home at some ungodly hour (might have been 8am - a time soon to become familiar to me) to sleep, however woke after only a few hours with massive ear pains, which only slightly went with pain killers and were unfortunate signs that something just wasn’t right.

Monday should have been school, however the pain was just too great, so it was back to the dox…

Well after the first doctor failed to cure me, it was to a second (seemingly better) one who diagnosed me with just a bad ear infection and gave me some more medicine (the same as before) which he claimed would clear it up in no time, but if not, come back after 4 days and he would administer a supository!?!? :eek:
After saying goodbye (and making a mental note to *never* go back there again :)) it was back off the to the pharmacy to pick up the drugs - again, things are different here, you don’t pay a fixed subscription amount, rather just the cost of the drugs (minus 70% - insurance) - these first one’s were cheap at £5 i think for two types, so beating the UK there :D
So Tuesday morning, i wake with a lot of pain and a slooshing sound in my ear - rather strange - so I get up to investigate by taking a trip to the bathroom. I don’t make it in the door before Seiko and Shiho appear to say good morning, but instead end up screaming!??!

A quick look in the mirror and it is obvious why, my face is covered in blood! :eek: Perhaps my ear isn’t getting better after all…….. we therefore decide that serious action must be taken (well actually, I am *told* serious action must be taken) so a specialist doctor is sought (I thought I had already seen them)….

The girls find a special ear hospital, so we book an appointment and set off after lunch. It takes about an hour and a half to get there (very busy streets) - but when we do, this place looks a lot better, a proper big hospital style looking place.

Another good thing about the hospital situation here, is they seem to be a lot less crowded :D and I am actually seen on time :eek: (shock horror!) by a very friendly doctor (I am unsure of his name, but for the rest of this blog he will be known as “the crazy doctor” for reasons you will soon discover). I go into his little office, along with the girls (to translate - and generally hold my hand :))…..

Let the crazyness begin …. it started out normal, he used a little swab thing to clear some of the blood, then got out an ear-looking-in thing (which i was pleased to see over the mirror technique of Dr F before…!) and proceeded to take a look inside my ear…. now, maybe he just didn’t realise, but he basically just shoved the microscope thing straight in my ear - no warning and no sense of softness.?!!? So now i was in massive pain - “Ahah! Very interesing…” he says, “a very bad ear infection” (well duh!) “we will have to take some swabs” - (fantastic, now I am happy as it seems he knows what he is talking about).

Obviously, this is hurting loads, so you would expect him to remove the microscope - NO! He now calls over Seiko - “Here, take a look!!” he calls cheerily… “OWW OWWW OWWW!” - next is Shiho’s turn (perhaps there is a circus or something in there… I dunno…) - before finally (yes, I kid you not) - a passing nurse gets to have a look…. Ok at the time it did really hurt, but I couldn’t help but see the funny side of it - a great story to tell :)
So swabs were taken and I got to sit back outside to wait for the results.

“They’re here!” (again in his cheery voice, which i quite like :))
“So what is it?” - we all ask
“Well, you seem to have caught E-Coli in your ear - very strange…. but also very dangerous, you are lucky, it was eating away at your blood vessels (hence the bleeding) and if it had got past your ear drum, you could have caught meningitus and died?!?!” (bear in mind this is all said in his happy voice :))

Right…. So remember this kids, if you go to another country and get ill, don’t take one doctors opinion, nor two (especially ones that want to stick tablets up your butt) - but go to a third, crazy acting one - HE you can trust :)
I was then prescribed some different medicines, a load of pain killers and was told I would need to come back to the hospital *everyday* for the next 2 weeks….. oh and I can’t drink for two weeks…


Yes, any alcohol could instantly reverse the healing process so i was *not* to have any…. dammit….

Queue 2 weeks of staying at home (I couldnt go school due to having to visit the doctors each day) before finally the two weeks was up.

To check I was ok, I had to have an ultrasonic ear test thing (I sit in a booth and press buttons when I hear sounds) - however on looking at the results, Crazy Doctor wasn’t so happy with them….. “no more alcohol for another two weeks!!!”

This was now really going to cause a problem as Etsuko would be here soon, and the time had been set aside for non stop partying…. which now looked very doubtful :( But as much as I wanted to break his rules, ultimately I knew it would be stupid and just cause more problems in the long run……

Etsuko Arrives:
I had been looking really forward to her coming, but now due to the fact I couldn’t drink - it wasn’t going to really be so good as I knew she would always want to go out, thus not really practical for me…. it was therefore quite sad for me, as I only was only able to see her once :( (though I guess once is better than no times…) We did go out on her first night for a meal at “Outback” which was really nice (even though she taunted me by drinking some really nice looking cocktails) - but unfortunately I had to go to the hospital early the next morning, so had to cut it quite short.

No comes the mass skipping part - the time between then and the 13th of October or so….

So come the 11th, I hadn’t achieved much and was now very low on money (I only had enough money to cover me until the end of October) - so a month late - it was job hunting time. I say hunting, but realisitically there was only one place I wanted to work at - Nova (….

Getting a Job at Nova

I knew about Nova and the jobs available thanks to George and the crew from the Gaijin house last year, they offered a 5pm-9pm shift, Monday to Friday (no weekends) which paid about £1000 a month, perfect for what I wanted - as it meant I could still go to school in the mornings. I also knew I didn’t want to fill in the online application as I hate waiting around for things, so dressed in my best suit (ok, my only suit) - I headed off to the Nova head office in Shinjuku.

Finding the place was actually a bit more tricky than I had expected and the place was almost shut by the time I got there, but eventually I made it in. Unfortunately I had neglected to have a drink of anything all day, so was seriously dehidrated when I walked into the office.

I’m not sure about you lot, but when I get very dehidrated, I get very dizzy and start to have speech problems (haha… honestly, it’s happened a few times) - which really isn’t the best way to feel when you are tying to persuade someone to give you a job……

So anyway, I walk into the reception where I am immiediately greeted and asked what I can be helped with - I just about manage to say I am here to ask about jobs and “no” I don’t have an appointment, but could i please get a glass of water … ;)
Except “no”, there is no water machine on this floor (26th) - they are down the bottom….! doh! But could I take a seat as someone will be along shortly (they had already called them, so I couldn’t now go back down…)

A few minutes later, a tall chap in walked in and introduced himself. He did of course give his name, but by this time I was having problems remembering my own, let a alone someone elses :D He then explained that this wasn’t usually how it was done (:D) but as I was here he could take all my details - which he did.

For people thinking of applying, this was the basic stuff like - your name, country of origin, qualifications and any experience (i *think* i was filling out a paper version of the webform, but I can’t be totally sure…) - he then said someone would call within a few days and let me know if they wanted me to come in for an interview.

A few days later and no call, I decided to let it get to Monday before I would have to contact them - however not quite being that patient I bashed off a mail on the Sunday night which read as follows:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I visited your offices last Tuesday to enquire about job vacancies, where I met with one of your colleagues who took my details, but informed me that due to the staff that deal with hiring not being available, I would be contacted via email by Friday. However I have not received anything from you.

I appreciate that you are very busy, however my current situation deems it necessary for me to find a job as soon as possible. After researching all the different schools (and obtaining a few personal recommendations), I have decided that Nova would be ideal for me, due to both your flexi-time schedule and also the ability to be able to teach for Nova Kids (something I would very much enjoy).

I would therefore rather hold off trying to find a job at another company if there is a possibility you have a vacancy with yourselves.

I believe I would make an excellent asset to your company as I have both classroom experience from a previous job and for the year previous to me coming to Japan, I taught English to Japanese students in London on a voluntary basis which I very much enjoyed. I therefore feel I have both the patience and initiative to make an excellent English teacher.

Attached is my most recent resume, which I hope will cover any other queries about my background you may have.

I would be most grateful for a fast reply, as if you cannot help me I do need to start looking elsewhere.

Kind regards,

Ben Griffiths

Come Monday afternoon and “ring ring!” a phone call :)They were very interested and could I come in the next day for an interview. Of course, no problem….. so the interview was set.

The Interview

Arriving litterally 2 minutes before I was due to be seen (and once again forgetting any water…) I was ushered into a training room to meet 3 other Nova hopefuls :) We then met some very nice Nova staff, before the session got underway. First was the written test, which consisted of a multiple choice test (what would you do in this situation), a grammer/accuracy test (circle the wrong part of the sentence) before going onto a (short) essay section (write about why you want to come to japan?? - I think more aimed to the applicants who are still in the other countries; and “what special qualities do you have”).

30 minutes later and that done, we then watched a short presentation on how Nova works, followed by a Q+A session (where we could ask our own questions….) before heading onto the main event (the one on one interview).

Now I know I’ve only had a few job interviews, but nothing has ever been as detailed as this. It must have lasted about 1 and a half hours in total!? First it was all nice and simple, asking various questions to me - before it started to turn more serious.

There was a quick fire round “I will ask a question, you have 3 seconds to give a 2 word answer”!!! I miss heard the instructions, so passed a few of them, ready to have a second shot. Except there wasn’t one… (she had said if you pass you CANT go back…) which kinda rattled me (stupid, stupid!). I guess you want some example questions, but I’m really sorry but at this present moment in time I can’t remember any!! Doh!

Next I was shown the Nova teaching book, told to pick a lesson (each lesson is numbered) then find the 3 hardest words on that page. No problem…. “Now imagine I am a low level Japanese person, explain them to me…” ;)
Finally, I had to give a sample lesson and answer any questions that were thrown at me (explain this, what does this do etc. etc…) before finally it was all over, and I was told I would have an answer by Friday.

Was it hard… possibly, though maybe that was just as I haven’t had much experience with interviews before / any others I have been 100% confident in myself. For new people thinking of applying, I honestly think you will have no trouble (you have to have a university degree to apply, so you should definately be capable of it!)

Friday came so I took the morning off school to wait for the answer :) “Ring Ring” - “Hello! This is X, I’m just ringing to say we were very impressed…. but….. your references haven’t replied yet….” - basically, they couldn’t offer the job until they had referrences!!! doh! I was asked if i could see if i could hurry them along, then call back next Tuesday for the answer…. grrrrr…..

Obviously everything went through ok (well I work there now ;)) - so next Tuesday I had officially been given the job, starting the next Monday!! (So from 0 to Job in about 2 weeks - cool!)

Monday 31st October
Wooo…. not an official work day (so we didn’t get paid) - but our Nova induction. Basically filling in all the paperwork and finding out about how everything works. The most important thing we would find out was which school we had been assigned to - pretty much pot luck - so a bit nerve wracking…

It seems my good luck had returned however, as I had been assigned to Shimokitazawa Kita. A small branch in quite possibly one of the best locations in Tokyo (as well as being only 20 minutes from my house! 3 minutes from school…) I think I mentioned Shimo before, but it’s basically the Camden of Tokyo. Loads of young people, bars, cafes and cool things to do :)
We then had a few “teambuilding” excercises which involved working in groups to solve problems before it was hometime.

And that my friends, was my last day of freedom ;)
Tuesday 1st November
Wow! Today I am being paid, so I can now officially call myself a Japanese-Business Man ;) Tuesday also signalled the start of my 3 day training, before starting for real on Friday :eek:
My training branch was in Jiguyaoka, a larger branch (well, it had 3 floors) in another really cool part of Tokyo. Training consisted of learning about the different parts of each lesson, watching some videos, then having some lesson practise in our group (there were 3 of us being trained). After lunch, we had to give half a lesson… :eek:
It wasn’t completely alone as we had an instructor in with us to help out if anything went wrong, I was really nervous, but it all seemed to go ok :) After this, we had a feedback session where we went over what we did right, wrong etc.. before a closing session and the day was over….

Wednesday 2nd November
Today consisted of more training and help getting us ready for our first major test - teaching a lesson (actually 2) on our own!! They claim in the orientation you don’t get thrown in at the deep end, though Im not so sure…. :eek:
Thursday 3rd November
Again more feedback and looking at more options, though this day was different in the fact we had 4 lessons to teach, both BACKTOBACK… :eek: Meaning there was no time to pussyfoot around, we had to make sure everything was planned well in advance. For this reason, I got in an hour or so early so I would have a chance to look at the schedule and sort everything out. Luckily, and maybe a confidence boost - most of these lessons went quite well (though one was absolutely dreadful…. but we dont talk about that) … before finally the day was over…. w00t!

My fellow trainees had Friday off, but for me it was to be my first proper day, yup, start training on Tuesday, teaching by Friday. In a way I suppose it was always going to be like that, just when you read it back, it seems kinda fast….

NOTE: As I am still one month behind, I’ll write about day one - then skip everything up until now…. otherwise I am never going to catch up with myself.



I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, so decided it would probably be best to go in quite early (maybe an hour or so) - all was going well, I got to Shibuya early and went for some lunch at the local curry place. Perhaps I ate too much, or maybe it wasn’t so good - but this turned out to be a very bad move on my part….. the train ride to Shimo wasn’t so bad, but getting off - something felt very wrong….

Not wanting my first impression at work to be me dashing in and running to the toilet, I set off to look around for a public alternative. 20 minutes later (4:30) and still nothing, it was time to bite the bullet and just go to work. Unfortunately, I had of course walked a lot further than I had originally intended so now had quite a walk ahead of me….

4:45 and I finally get back to Nova to be greeted by the Japanese manager - Usukei (Nova schools work in an odd way, there are the Japanese staff (sales team, reception etc) who have one manager - then the teachers who have a different one) and Haruna (one of the receptionists) then pointed in the direction of the staff room.

Now, I figured there would be someone to show me what to do , but nope, it was just an empty staff room (the teachers were obviously teaching) …. a little daunted, I looked up on the wall to find my schedule, luckily not so busy, just mainly 1 and 2 man classes, so just set to getting the files out.

At the start of each day, you look through the schedule for the day to ‘pull’ all the student files you will need. You then look to see which lessons each has done (each level is split into lessons) - match up ones which haven’t been done by the students (so if a group lesson, try and find a lesson that hasn’t been done by any of the group) and then finally choose the lesson and make a note in the folder so no one else will pick the same one. Once you get more experienced, I’ve been told you can just pick lessons on the fly (ie not come in so early), but I think I am a long way from that stage yet.

At the sound of the bell (between lessons a bell rings, then there is a 10 minute break used to mark previous lessons) the rest of the staff filed in. Again, it seems I have been very lucky as all the people here are fantastic - Mark (a 4 year veteran), Jimmy (a year and a bit), Yen (2 years, though she has since left) and Tony (the boss and a really helpful guy). Shimo is (was) currently understaffed, so we have a lot of ‘help’ teachers from other branches, however as of now, we have Kate and Vanessa who have joined our team (so I am no longer the newest…)

So, lesson one was planned and I was already to go (ok, it wasn’t quite that simple, but hey…) - the bell rings and I go out to the classroom…. except the student isn’t there, my first lesson is a “no show” (pretty self explanatory really :p) so I get the chance to go back and continue planning - nice start :D
I guess I should now explain how the lesson structure works. Each lesson is 40 minutes long, and is chosen from one of the level text books.

Each lesson has a number of aims (what the student should be able to do by the end of the lesson), this lesson is then split into a number of sections:

1) Assessment and Focus - the bit before the opening of the textbook, just to find out how much the student already knows about the subject you are going to teach
2) Language Input - Where the student learns all the language they will need to complete the application (pass the aims)
3) Tune In - Learn one or two phrases and how they will be said by a true native speaker (ie What Do You Think? -> Whadyathink)
4) Listening - A number of questions are set and then a passage, or conversation is read (at natural speed) - the students then have to answer the questions.
5) Activities - Some activities (maybe matching sentences, discussion topics) - basically things to practise the Language Input phrases / stage
6) Application - The most important stage, students have to close their books (so they can’t look the language up) and a task will be set that will check they can pass the aims (for example, if the lesson was about changing money, a roleplay at a money exchange could be undertaken)
7) Wrap Up - Just basically a brief overview of the lesson and any corrections from the Application.

So there you have it! I actually find the correcting of students the hardest. Because I have spent so much time around Japanese people (when in England) who had very low English levels, I have become immune to “bad english”. You know when you hear someone speaking English badly you can pick up on everything, it just sounds wrong - “i come england plane”, “i coke want” etc… well, I can no longer pick up on this very easily. Infact, I pride myself on my ability to dumb down my English… Except of course now this is causing a few problems, but I am trying my best :)
The final thing I should talk about is “Voice” lessons. Voice lessons are basically an “English Lounge”. In the fact, you just have a largish room with sofas and chairs and students just come in to talk English!! What is my role? Well basically to just make sure the conversation keeps flowing (there is no correction done here). I really like Voice as it’s a great chance to find out about Japan (most of the times I just ask about things I don’t understand… ;)) - we are lucky at Shimo as most of our voice students are high level (so we can have some pretty good discussions) - whereas a lot of schools have low level, making discussions a lot more tricky. I get Voice at least once a day, which I always look forward to - the highlight of the day :) Even better is double voice - woot!

One thing that does puzzle me though is why people would pay to come and (basically) talk with other Japanese people…. it just seems they could all swap numbers or something and then meet at a cafe for free!?!? If I didn’t work late shift all the time, I reckon I would rent a room over a bar or something and have an “English Speaking” meet up - at a considerably cheaper price than voice!! ;)
Ok, so that’s Nova out the way - what else… hmmm…

Well since I started work, all my days are now filled with either school and Nova, or sleeping and Nova - so weekday activities are pretty rare (so don’t expect any photos until the weekend) - however I have become pretty good friends with one of the Nova staff (Yumi - you can see her in the Shibuya photoset) who is helping me with my Japanese (or would do, but we keep drinking too much and forgetting about it) and has become good friends with Seiko and Shiho too. The last few nights she has been around for dinner (she can cook a wicked yakiudon!) - so hopefully my Japanese should now accelerate quite a bit.

The only problem is her weekends are Wednesday (yup, one day off a week) - so she can’t ever come out on Sat or Sun, but if she starts late the next day (1pm) then we can sorta do something the night before.

Any other news, ah yes! Dad you will be pleased about this - I can now go and DJ at a bar in Roppongi… woot… not sure when I will go yet, maybe next weekend - but that should be really exciting. The place is quite empty at the moment, so I won’t be overwhelmed by loads of people and it will be a great way to build up my confidence.

I’m also missing Gowry tonnes now, especially since I can only call her at the weekend due to the time differences - so I am looking forward to Jan very much. Erm, opened day one of my advent calendar (thanks mum + dad) - which despite me treading on it, hasn’t broken… hurrah…

Oh, and finally got my hair cut (though she didn’t cut off as much as I wanted) - which now requires wax to look right. The only problem with this is though the wind. Wax + Wind = Deadly combination. By the time I get to work, my hair has blown out into my “Wolverine” look, and then restuck again… lol… Next time, I will get a bit more off the top and sides, but now, I think it does look quite nice. (Except everyone reckons I look a lot younger now… doh!)

So there you go, yes I know loads has been left out - but better that than keep missing everything else, lets do a quick summary.

I ran out of money a month ago and been using my savings since :( (stupid ear)
Life had started to get quite depressing, but going to work has made me feel a lot better
My Japanese is very poor, I really need to find the time / study more
Every weekend I go to Roppongi despite hating the place (so the photo sets may start to get a bit repetitive)
I am extremely excited about January, can’t wait to get home (even if it is only for 2 weeks)
I miss Gowry tooooo much to bear sometimes
But apart from that, I am happy :)
Phew… I’ll now try to keep on top of everything by posting snippets every day (or few days) - but will always take the camera at the weekend, so at the very least you can *see* what I got up to…