Author Archives: kimvannie876

About kimvannie876

Jamaican living in Japan.

Teaching in a Developing Country vs Teaching in a Developed Country

My experience is but a small blot about teaching in the two countries I speak about below. Don't take what I say to be universal truths.

I am from Jamaica and I taught in high school there for five years. I have now been teaching in Japan for 13 years. In Japan I have taught at the elementary, junior high and high school level.

In Jamaica I taught at two high schools in two cities. I have taught at 6 schools and 2 junior high schools in the Japanese country side (this was when I was on the JET Programme over a 5 year period). I have also taught at two high schools here in Japan. I am still teaching in a high school in a city here in Japan now.

Let me talk a bit about how teaching in Jamaica, a developing country lines up with teaching in Japan, a developed country.

In both countries I teach English Language and Literature principally to high schoolers. On the JET Programme I was teaching ESL.

Some Similarities I Find Teaching in Both Places

Teaching in both countries, like anywhere else in the world, requires passion and drive. This is essential to effectively deliver the contents of the curriculum and facilitate learning. I am preparing students to be lifelong learners, as well as, to do well in their final exams. This means balancing engaging content with relevant preparation and practice for different assessments. Consequently, like every responsible teacher, I do backward planning and craft lessons with the above in mind.

Students are students everywhere. There is the thinking that all Japanese students are docile and cooperative learners all the time. Many of my friends in Jamaica and other places think teaching in Japan is a magical land without any issues with students. At the very least, there is still the struggle of getting homework from all students on time without pithy excuses.

I also have the same level of satisfaction interacting with students. For the most part students are open and trusting and if you keep the standards you set for them, you will get on like a house on fire. Of course there are other components but that’s basically it.

Building relationships with colleagues work in much the same manner, even though in Japan, I work with people of various nationalities. We share a passion for our craft and like personalities gel and such. We work well professionally. There are of course some challenges because of viewing things through different cultural lens and being socialised differently. This is an advantage I find to help me mature more.

There are of course others but I will talk about those as time goes on.

What’s are the key differences I find teaching in Jamaica and Japan?

For me the most notable is the infrastructure. Interestingly, in some of the schools I have taught at in Japan ‘chalk and talk’ is still prevalent. Since, I have been teaching in the IBDP this isn’t the case. We have better access to technology – this doesn’t mean there isn’t more that’s needed – so that I can use this to further engage students. Students are also able to transfer skills they have learned to be more active contributors in classes. This also pushes me to learn more about what is out there that I can use in my classroom. I know more schools in Jamaica are on the same track compared to 13 years ago when I was teaching there.

The layout of the classroom and space, in the schools I have worked at in Japan, tends to be more suitable to getting around. There are on average about 30-35 kids in a classroom in Japan, while in Jamaica it can go up to 40 and above in a smaller space. This means it’s not so easy to move furniture and form groups as we do different activities. One thing that struck me, the first time I went into a Japanese classroom, was how much light came in through the big bay windows.

It’s a given that I earn more money here in Japan. In Jamaica, some of what I failed to get in money I got in time off, especially during the summer. Cumulatively, teachers get more time off and paid less months of the year in Jamaica. It is just multiplied by 12 (correct me if I am wrong). There are no built in holidays for only teachers in Japan; teachers have to use paid leave to take time off when students are off. This is with the exception of December 28th – January 3rd. Also, teachers work from 8:30 – 5:00 like other civil servants. In addition, there are a number of Saturdays that we go in for parents’ meetings or tests and other events.

Summing up my Thoughts

I am blessed to teach in both Jamaica and Japan. My time teaching in Jamaica has helped me to transition into effectively doing the same in Japan. I am honing my skills through practicing my craft in both places. Ultimately, I want to do a 180 and transfer some of what I am learning here in Japan to the classroom in Jamaica.

At the core, teaching English Language and Literature in both places is the same. If I am not passionate, focused and open-minded I can’t serve my students, whether in Jamaica or Japan. I am thankful for the opportunities I have had in both places, to push me to keep working hard to help my students. I don’t think one is better than the other though certain structures differ. It could be that I have just had the advantage of teaching in relatively high level schools in both places. There is some truth to this.

Some Perks of Teaching High Schoolers

I am a teacher of English Language and Literature at the high school level. I have been blessed to engaged in this act of service for 18 years so far. I really enjoy interacting with students in this age group and getting them ready for their next steps in life. Of course, it isn’t always sunshine and roses but overall it is a joyful experience spending my days with these young minds.

In Jamaica, high schoolers are anywhere from 11 – 19 years old (first form to grade 13 in the schools where I taught ). In Japan, they are 14 – 18 years old (grades 10 -12).

Here are some of the perks I enjoy while teaching high schoolers:

  • These students are on the cusp of adulthood. They have something of a variety of life experiences that they can reflect on to enrich discussions. This also means that they challenge you on different points as a teacher and help you to more effectively serve them.
  • Many of them are often more focused because they have dreams of going to college soon. At some point in high school these students share their plans and seek your input. In this way, you get a chance to share with them more and show more of yourself at that stage of your life. You are able to use some of what you learned then to help guide them.
  • I like that I can explore a variety of texts with them on present and past issues, as we study the English Language and Literature. Over time, they learn to relax and share their insights freely. It is always awe-inspiring how they can evaluate texts and share elements that I totally fail to see. I am reminded often that the teacher-student relationship is one where we both learn. It is a humbling experience.
  • As a high school teacher, I also get to help my students transition to college. I write quite a few recommendation letters and help with college applications, as well as, prepare them for exams of course. I try never to forget that I am influencing their futures and their dreams. With this in mind I make time to write these documents, revisit them a few times and revise them as necessary.
  • I also make opportunities to teach them how to budget and why it’s important. It’s not in the curriculum but it is an important life lesson. This means, I also point them to some videos on YouTube to expand their knowledge of this and make their way. Many of them go from getting an allowance from their parents to having to manage a good sum of money when they go away to university.
  • You have the opportunity to transition from being just their teacher to being a lifelong friend (hopefully). I have some graduates who have gone on to university. We often meet and keep in touch online. Now, I am more of a mentor, I think, who is seen as a source of advice on many aspects of their lives. It is also good to catch up over a meal from time to time.

I am blessed to go and do something I love and enjoy, even on the most trying days. I see myself as serving my students through what I help them to learn. I look forward to more years meeting others and pouring into them, as they help me to learn and grow as well. High school is where I called to be and I an thankful that I discovered this early in my career.

Keep Long Held Dreams Smouldering, Don’t Give up on Them

Do you have a dream that seems to become dormant as time passes?

Is there a dream you have that you are afraid of pursuing because it seems too big?

Has life just come and made you forget to dream or keep going after a dream you have had for a while?

Keep your dreams smouldering. You may have to expand the dream or tweak it in some way but look for ways to feed the fire for your dreams. A dream dies only when we lay it to rest.

Learn to unpack that seemingly impossible dream and look at it with new eyes. How can you shape it so that you can accomplish it step by step. Remember to look at how to build something you dream of and not only think of the final product. Dream, research and plan well to enjoy success. Remember to season your expectations with time – some things take time.

Do you want to go back to school, travel the world, start a business, live abroad or whatever other dreams you have? What’s holding you back from pursuing this dream and breathing life into it? Knowing this, is the first step to bringing a dream to life. Interestingly, many of us never take practical steps to birthing a dream before giving up on it or trying to do so.

There are some dreams though that take hold and won’t give up on us. We try to tamp down this dream and live around it but it is there smouldering. That one may be the very one to pursue. Don’t let fear hold you back or thoughts of what others will think. I know sometimes a lack of finances may be an hindrance. However, we should find ways to cut back and save up to pour into such a dream or find a side hustle to get funds to invest in it. Dare I even suggest borrowing a modest loan with a low interest rate to use for this purpose? Think about it.

Finally, never stop dreaming. It can be a simple thing such as wanting to be more active and outgoing. The dreams that I am talking about here aren’t fairytale things. I am talking about goals, short term and long term that add value to your life. Essentially, at every stage of life we ought to build on old dreams or generate new ones as we grow.

Go ahead, take the first step to bringing that smouldering dream to life. Do the research, set a timeline and map out different paths to bring it to fruition. We often think, “what if I fail, but what if you fly?’

Slow Growth is Growth, Go at your OWN Pace

We all have dreams and goals as well as aspirations. There is nothing wrong with having lofty ones as well as small safe ones. We also want to accomplish or fulfil these at specific points. Unfortunately, life often has different twists and turns that may mess with our timelines. This means that we may not be where we thought we would be and certain points. As a result, we may feel disappointed and even lose motivation sometimes. What do we learn at these times?

Even when we do not meet certain goals on our timeline we are growing. It may not be in the way we envision and we may not be ticking off the goals we want to, when we want to, but…

How about other positive things that are happening that are helping you to mature and be a better you?

What can we learn through reflection about things that do not happen on our timelines? Embracing this is a part of growing. Something as simple as being flexible and changing how you view that situation is beneficial.

Remember to go at your own pace and remind yourself of this, when you feel like you are not where you want to be. Each person has his or her own journey. It’s so easy to forget this from time to time amidst expectations set out by society, family friends and even yourself. Give yourself a break. Applying that mindset when needed is a a part of personal growth.

Be on guard about mapping your timeline based on what others are doing or have done at a certain time. They are not you. You are not them. There is much growth in moving forward amidst disappointments and the unexpected events that delay dreams and goals coming to fruition.

There are some things that you can accomplish by yourself just by being disciplined and working hard, yes. There are others though that you can’t control – even though some people tend to differ on this. I am talking specifically about finding a committed partner for marriage and the ability to have kids and do so at a particular time or at all. It’s best to be open-minded and live life fully. Unfortunately, many people allow these disappointments to take away from the beauty of their lives.

My growth and the pace at which I grow looks different from everyone else’s. That’s life. Focus on finding another way to accomplish a dream. Embrace singleness, being childless or adopt a child (I know this sounds simplistic but getting into this mindset brings so much peace).

If you get nothing else from my diatribe, remember slow growth is still growth. Keep going and learn to be content where you are as you plot about how to move forward. Go at your own pace. This is something I remind myself of often. We all do well to remember this.

How to Budget, Organise your Money and a live a Financially Healthy Life

Change how you view and spend money

If we earn more than we need for the necessities we should be saving consistently. This is sometimes a struggle for some people because of the relationship they have fostered with their money.

It’s not enough to pay all the bills then spend what is left. Organising what is left after the bills are paid is a apart of living a financially healthy life. This is why having a budget and following it is important.

We are never too young to start saving for retirement.

We are never too healthy to save for illnesses.

We are never too securely employed to plan for rainy days.

Catch my drift? It often takes a mind shift to start budgeting, sticking to it and putting away money for the future (near and far). The money we earn is not merely to pay our bills and feed our temporary wants.

See what you earn as a necessary ingredient to help you attain different goals – debt free.

Organise your Budget in a way that gives you Freedom

Find what works for you.

Having a lean budget where all wants are not catered to does not work for many of us. It isn’t realistic.

Adjust savings targets for different goals as time passes or just because you want to.

Budget in your treats, the things that help you to live and enjoy yourself. A budget is not something to cause stress. For example, I budget for recreation every month because that is important to me. This may look like going out to eat with friends, doing so alone, going to an event and things of that nature.

Also put away something in the miscellaneous category because stuff comes up.

Reconcile your Budget as you Spend

Keep track of payments, all of them. Everything from gum to rent/mortgage. Line up all the items and check that what you plan for is what you are spending. This becomes habitual with time. I like to do this after paying each bill. I also use cash for things like groceries, lunch and utilities. I keep them in their own envelopes and return whatever is left after each transaction.

Using cash for some purchases may help to keep you on track. Some people use credit cards to get points I know. The goal should be to use it within the confines of what is budgeted and pay the sum off each month.

Develop the Habit of Saving

You truly pay yourself from what you earn by putting aside some money into savings. Each amount you add to your savings, helps you to develop this healthy habit of saving. This habit contributes to a financially healthy life. As I said in the opening, if you earn more money than you need to cover the necessities, savings should be a priority. Budget for savings.

At first it might be frustrating and if you are a spender you may be tempted to just use it all. A good way to motivate yourself is to have a list of short term and long term goals. Write down a desired amount to save over a period of time. Make it something like a challenge for yourself. You can put this on a poster or app and have countdown each pay period. I believe that once you start meeting different gaols you will become addicted to this practice.

Budgeting is something to talk about with families, friends and others. Share the value of this habit and help others to live financially healthy lives.

Don’t Get Caught up in Social Media and Lose Yourself

How many times do you watch a Youtuber share an item and find yourself searching somewhere online for it? I have even gone into a store looking for said item.

I have gone down many a rabbit hole and wasted money because someone or a number of people spoke glowingly about a product. To be fair I have also had good recommendations.

They key is to know what is useful and to ignore the rest. This isn’t easy because many of us humans are visual people. Yep, this can affect us without us really even being aware of it.

I mean we may become uncomfortable with our bodies, our wardrobes, our jobs and so on and so forth. I think this is a major issue for young teens, who are trying to find their identity. It also affects us adults because we all want to present our best selves out in the world.

We must remember to guard ourselves and not lose who we are amidst the trends and influencers on the different social media platform. Unhappiness with who we are and what we look like among other things, can creep up on us and overwhelm us.

This is also true for those of us who create content through blogs, videos, photos etc. It is easy to get caught up in doing what other successful creators in our niche do, just to chase success. Remember why you started and keep reminding yourself.

Would I like to make money from blogging? Of course!

Is this the only reason I blog? Of course not!

Will I learn from others to showcase my pieces better? Probably

Success for me with this blog means posting regularly and editing posts. It’s true, that’s enough for now and probably for a very long time. This is freedom for me because I have a job that offers me a salary that covers my needs, wants and whims. Moreover, I love said job and serving my students.

When I look at my blog stats and see only a few people read my blog and fewer comment, I sometimes catch myself getting anxious for more. I then mentally smack myself into remembering my goal (see above).

Social media is great. The different platforms offer so much to both creators and viewers. I like that we have so much to choose from and that so much knowledge is being shared.

We would do well to remember to carefully monitor and manage what we take in and reflect on how it affects us negatively. It’s important not to lose ourselves through what we consume and over consume on social media platforms. Remember most people only show a perfect snapshot of themselves to craft that narrative for viewers. Proceed cautiously.

Meal Prepping Weekly as an act of Self-care

Who looks forward to coming home after a long day of work, to stand over pots cooking dinner? Certainly not me.

Since, I am all about spending responsibly and living debt free, I do not eat out on a whim most times. To take care of the basic need I have to full my belly after a long day of work, I meal prep. It is so satisfying coming home, knowing that there is a complete meal in the fridge. I actually, want to eat what is there 9 times out of 10 and don’t get tempted to buy something on the go. This is good for my savings and health in the long run.

Meal prepping is an act of self-care in my book. I can warm my meal quickly, eat and unwind for longer. I am able to eliminate cooking a meal after work which may be time consuming and just plain tiring. As a teacher, I am on my feet a lot, so I don’t want to be on my feet cooking dinner after work too.

Meal prepping takes some reflection though. I try to have two options and vary them from week to week, so I don’t get tired of eating the same thing. For example, this week I am having oxtail and vegetables as one option and lentil stew with quinoa as another option.

I do my prep on the weekend and portion out the servings in individual containers. I also give myself one evening to buy something on the go. There are many great options for meals here in Japan, around the train station where I live. I can get sushi, fish and rice, Chinese and a bunch of other options. I budget for this because I believe in having freedom in my budget.

As an act of self-care, I meal prep on the weekend when I am off from work. This is because I have more time to chop, marinate, steam, stew, boil and do whatever is required to make what I feel like having. A key step in this process is deciding what I will make and getting the necessary ingredients. I live alone so this isn’t very demanding. I dedicate 2-3 hours meal prepping so that I can have my evenings off.

I am able to sit and browse YouTube for longer, read a book, blog or do whatever else I want to do, that relaxes me. It’s now a apart of my routine, since I have been doing this for years. There is no going back for me. My evenings are far less rushed thanks to meal prepping on the weekend.