Tag Archives: teaching

Speaking on Camera

I make a lot of videos these days. I appear on camera for people to hear what I say. My top video that I appear in screen has almost 800 views. That many people have watched me talk about fantasy novels I’m anticipating in 2017. 

But think about this. How would you feel if people you know are watching your videos? They could be friends, family, and even coworkers. A few years ago, I would have said there’s no way I could do that. But now? It’s not a big deal for me anymore. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I don’t think about it. Even though I’m thinking about it now, I’m so used to it that I really don’t care if people have a negative opinion. I do it for those who enjoy that type of video. 

I also do a lot of public speaking now. 15 years ago, I couldn’t do it. Then I became a team leader in a call centre. I spoke to groups of up to 50 briefing them on projects. Then I taught English for 11 years to groups of up to 8-10 people. Now I speak to groups of up to 40 several times a day at work. And I have no problems doing it. I would’ve had terrible stage fright several years ago. Now it’s not a big deal. 

How do you feel about speaking in front of groups?

I Keep Coming Back to Teaching

For eleven years, I was an English teacher in Japan. It still feels strange to say that I’m no longer teaching and no longer living in Japan. Part of me feels like I should still be there teaching. You know the feeling? You know things have changed, but part of you doesn’t want to accept it.

I missed the teaching. And then I started working at a science centre. Every day that I work, I’m teaching people (usually children) about the planets, physics, and occasionally bird feathers. I’m finding that I’m loving seeing kids enjoying learning about science. Science was my first love. Teaching English was an incredible experience, but now I’m helping to teach science to people, although not as a teacher. Today, I spent forty minutes talking to a woman (half in the planetarium, half in the gallery) about astronomy, science centres, and life experiences. It’s that kind of interaction I love. I enjoy talking to people about science and helping them learn something new.

That brings me to what I’m going to be doing very soon. And that is starting a science channel on YouTube. Science education and science literacy are very important to me. I want to help people understand that science can be interesting and fun. But I also want them to understand that without science literacy, society can’t advance. It’ll stagnate or even regress. I want to combat scientific illiteracy, pseudoscience, and misinformation. There’s too much of that going around these days.

I’m hoping that through the science channel, I’ll be able to help people learn science and enjoy it. While I’ll be doing the videos on my own, I’m hoping people will share the videos and help spread the word about my channel. I want to reach as wide an audience as possible. While I may be only one person, I hope I can change some minds about the importance of science.

I still have some work to do to prepare my new channel. I still need a name, and I’d like to work on a schedule for it. I plan on doing two videos a week. One talking about weekly science news stories, one doing specific topics to help educate people about science. I’ll focus mostly on astronomy, physics, biology, geology, and palaeontology.

So, who’s with me on this?

Authors Answer 100 – Taught By an Author

One hundred! This is the one hundredth Authors Answer. One hundred weeks of questions and answers! Some of us have been doing this for all one hundred weeks, and some of us are newer. But this is a big number to achieve. I had no idea it would go this long. So, for this week’s question, we thought about who can teach us to write better. Which author would we love to be our teacher?

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 100 – If you could take a writing class taught by any author, who would it be?

Cyrus Keith

Louis L’Amour. His descriptions were so brilliant, and he was so prolific a writer, if I could bottle just a little of what he had, I’d be better off.

C E Aylett

Probably Tracy Chevalier. Or Stephen Donaldson. But for vastly different techniques and styles. Mmm, if it came to a toss up..? Can we not have a made-up perfect mutant author instead? Pretty please?

Beth Aman

Can they be a dead author?  Then definitely C.S. Lewis.  I think he would be delightful and funny and down-to-earth.  I love the voice in his writing, so I’d love to get to meet him.  If it can’t be a dead author, then maybe Ally Carter, because I’ve met her and she’s wonderful.  Also she’s funny and writes hilarious but also amazing books.

Linda G. Hill

Stephen King!!! Without a doubt. He’s my sempai.

H. Anthe Davis

I would attend a class by Robin Hobb, just to learn more about how she makes normal day-to-day events in characters’ lives so engaging.  I know it’s not something everyone likes, but I always find myself fascinated by the simple details of characters’ work and personal interactions before the main story kicks in.  I’m very much an action-oriented writer, though I have done a bit of ‘rural downtime’, I suppose you could call it.  I just feel like I could do it better, and I think it would be valuable to learn from her.

Jean Davis

If George RR Martin had the time, which is a hilarious thought with all he has going on, I would love to hear what he has to say about writing fiction.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Honestly, I’m not quite sure how to answer this question because, even though there are authors I love and admire, they all also have quirks and traits that I wouldn’t want to learn. Do you know what I mean? For instance, I love George R.R. Martin, but his penchant for telling every moment of a character’s backstory only to kill them off…yeah, I don’t want any of that.

If I had to choose one, I suppose I’d probably choose Stephen King, simply because he comes up with some grotesque stories, and I love that kind of thing.

Gregory S. Close

Tad Williams.

Eric Wood

I would want to take one by Markus Zusak. I love his writing style. Also, Sheree Fitch has become one of my favorite children’s authors over the last year. If you haven’t read “Monkeys in My Kitchen” I highly recommend it!

Elizabeth Rhodes

I would love a writing class taught by Asimov. I’ve always been a fan of his style but don’t have the language to describe it properly. Bonus points if it includes a lesson on writing robots.

D. T. Nova

Cassandra Clare. Her writing includes excellent examples of many of the things that I most want to improve at, and she writes for roughly the same demographic I hope to reach.

Paul B. Spence

Kipling.

Jay Dee Archer

As someone who loves worldbuilding, I’d want an author who has done some amazing worldbuilding to teach me. I haven’t read Brandon Sanderson, so I can’t say him yet. However, I’d love to hear about how Steven Erikson co-created Malazan. With his detailed world, he also includes many different cultures and a long history. I’d enjoy learning how he created them.

How about you?

If you could choose any author to be your writing teacher, who would you choose? Let us know in the comments below.

Garbage and Goodbye

There are a couple of things in this video: garbage and goodbye. It’s actually from two days ago, but never got around to editing and uploading it. I just did so now. So, please watch!

As you can see, many days involve garbage bags. But Wednesday also involved saying goodbye to one of my schools’ students. That’ll continue this weekend, as well. The more difficult days will be Sunday and definitely Tuesday. Tuesday’s school I’ve been teaching at for five and a half years.

I still have a couple more videos to do. I’ll see if I can do them tonight. You’ll get to see more than just me talking for those ones, actually!

Comments and questions are very welcome!

Goodbyes – Round Two

Today was my last day at one of my schools. A lot of students said thank you, good luck, and some were quite surprised I was leaving. They all asked me why I was leaving.

But the most difficult ones to say goodbye to were the kids. I was surprised. They were actually disappointed I was leaving. One kid said he won’t get to play (non-morbid) hangman anymore. With kids, I always enjoyed seeing how their English skills advanced over the years. I only taught these kids for a year, but it wasn’t easy to say goodbye.

Well, three days of work left.

Common Mistakes I Hear While Teaching English

I’ve been teaching English in Japan for more than ten years now, and I constantly hear the same mistakes. There are certain words that are always misunderstood or misused. Some of them are so different than what they think it means, that what they say doesn’t make much sense. Let’s take a look at some.

Local

This is what I often hear: “Nagano is very local.”

This is what they mean: “Nagano is very rural.”

This is what an English speaker thinks they mean: “Nagano is near here.”

Their mistake is thinking that local means that any town or small city is easy to get around, so it’s local. However, local merely means that it is something that is near your current location. Nagano is not local. It’s a bit too far away to be local.

Skinhead

This is what I often hear: “Patrick Stewart is a skinhead.”

This is what they mean: “Patrick Stewart is bald.”

This is what an English speaker thinks they mean: “Patrick Stewart is a Neo-Nazi.”

They think that skinhead is a very innocent term meaning bald. Whenever I explain to them what skinhead really means, they’re quite shocked. I would hope they don’t go up to a white guy and tell him he’s a skinhead. Yikes.

One piece

This is what I often hear: “I wore a cute one piece on my date.”

This is what they mean: “I wore a cute dress on my date.”

This is what an English speaker thinks they mean: “I wore a cute swimsuit on my date.”

Normally, we don’t say “one piece” in English, unless we couple it with “swimsuit.”  So, we have a one piece swimsuit. Rarely do we think of a dress, though.

Drama

This is what I often hear: “I love the American drama Full House.”

This is what they mean: “I love the American TV show Full House.”

This is what an English speaker thinks they mean: “I love the very serious American drama Full House.”

In Japan, drama means any kind of TV show that is fictional and has actors. It doesn’t matter what genre it is, it’s still a drama. In English, a drama is serious. They often don’t realise that we never call a sitcom a drama.

The last two are actually used in the Japanese language as loan words. Local and skinhead are just a misunderstanding. Of course, people of pretty much every country gets terms wrong for other languages. One example is that in English, people often proudly call themselves “otaku” as a kind of badge of honour. They think it means they’re just a dedicated fan of something. However, in Japan, it’s a rather insulting thing. People think otaku are outcasts, strange, and unhealthily obsessive. They’re not just fans, they’re considered extremely weird. So, anime and manga fans, don’t come to Japan and proudly tell everyone you’re an otaku. They’ll think you’re very strange.

Do you know of any words that are misunderstood or used incorrectly from one language to another?

The Awkwardness of Speaking on Video

It’s strange. I can speak perfectly fine in conversation. I have no trouble speaking on the phone smoothly, having worked in a call centre. I don’t have any trouble speaking while teaching. But put a camera in front of me, and the words don’t come out very smoothly.

Why? Maybe I’m too self-conscious about how I look on camera. Maybe I feel strange about talking to an electronic device that won’t react to me. Whatever it is, I think I need to write scripts.

On the other hand, whenever I’ve gone back to Canada, people say I speak more slowly. Well, years of having to adjust my pace for my students has affected how I speak. It’s that way on camera, too.

How are you on camera? Are you reluctant? Or do you thrive?

The Value of a Teacher

In my opinion, teachers should be paid more. They work longer hours than most people. They’re responsible for the education of children who will grow up to contribute to society. They need to be prepared. Teachers aren’t appreciated enough. They used to be valued by everyone. Now, they’re underappreciated.

When my daughter goes to school, I will thank the teachers and give them respect. They deserve it.

All In A Dad's Work

Our school year has 10 extra day built into it to accommodate for snow days. Teachers are paid by salary so they make the same amount whether those snow days are used or not. As of this writing, we have used 8 of those 10 allotted days and school boards are scrambling trying to decide if those missed days need to be made up. If they decide yes, then they need to figure out how.

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My Job and Writing

I teach English in Japan.  I’ve been doing it for more than 9 years, and should be here another 2 years.  As a result, I’ve been forced to think about English grammar and vocabulary nearly every day for quite some time.  It probably helps me with my writing in some ways.

One aspect of my job is that I have to know the proper way to say something using grammar.  Now, this isn’t always required, since I’m teaching conversation, not writing.  I teach a lot about casual conversation, as well as formal and business English.  There are idioms, figures of speech, and many other aspects of language that are not very natural for Japanese people to use.  You see, they learn grammar in school, but not conversation.  They can read reasonably well, but when it comes to speaking, they often can’t do much.  Of course, I do teach advanced students, but they’ve been studying English for a long time or have had to use it in business or lived overseas.  I’m exposed to a large variety of students, so I have to use many different kinds of language.  As a result, dialogue may be one of my stronger suits in writing.

When I began teaching, I didn’t know everything.  In fact, I found it kind of difficult to explain different rules for grammar and the difference between similar words.  This has caused me to learn a lot about my own language.  I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to grammar these days.  I guess I’m a Grammar Nazi.  I’ve also always been good at spelling.  In grade 8 in junior high school, we were given a spelling test to determine what level of spelling we had.  I had a perfect score.  I was spelling at a university level while I was 13 years old.  So when I write a draft, my spelling and grammar tend to be very good.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s great to read.

An interesting thing I’ve found is that the Japanese language has loan words from English, but the meaning is different.  For example, Japanese naive means sensitive in English.  Also, there are many mistakes that Japanese people learning English make.  For example, the usage of particles (a, an, the), the usage of almost, and verb tense problems.  Sarcasm is also not commonly used in Japan, so it often goes over the head of many Japanese.

When I read, grammar or spelling errors pop out to me.  The rare mistake is fine. But if they’re happening on every page I read, I find it difficult to read and take the book seriously.  Problems with to and too, confusing your and you’re, and mistakes with their, there, and they’re irritate me.  I also easily spot problems with quotation marks and commas when using dialogue and dialogue tags.  And the incorrect use of apostrophes aggravates me.  Maybe I could be a proofreader.  Or maybe I should stick with writing and blogging.

Do you have any difficulties with grammar or spelling?  It’s embarrassing to say this, but I often forgot if it’s embarrassing or embarassing. I don’t have that problem now.