RichardRichard's Weblog Diary!

Genki English has a mission to make effective education fun, everywhere in World- and this is how I do it!

Whilst not as exciting of the first few years travelling up and down the country in the back of a van, I still get to now fly around a lot of places and meet a lot of interesting people. So if you want to find out what's it's like behind the scenes or how & why I do what I do or even if you're just nosey or a bit bored, have a read!

This is a bit of an experiment so please get in touch let me know what you think!

I'll update the diary as often as I can, so keep coming back!

April 26th 2005 - Buongiorno from Italy!

These last few weeks have been hectic to say the least! I've just spent the last few days in Ehime getting everything ready for the CD5 launch. The new worksheets look really good, we've just changed printers and they've done a cool job. And over the weekend it was packing up all the CD5 orders. It is actually quite exciting seeing all that activity going on, and they have a great system which they won't let me go anywhere near in case I mess something up!!

It was good being back in Ehime, I miss my old JET job! But it is certainly different from Fukuoka, and in the space of two days a I got all the cliche comments, kids running past shouting "gaijin da", the women in the post office asking me where in America I wanted to send money to and being offered a spoon instead of chopsticks in the Okonomiyaki shop! I'm glad this wasn't the part of town I used to teach in!

I also had to renew my drivers license, which was an ordeal in itself. They have to be renewed every three years, and as this was the first time to renew mine I had to talk a half day lecture course! That was the most boring thing ever.... I tell it's not just English education that needs updating! But it was cool to re-learn all the things not to do in a lesson!

Now that CD5 is done and out of the way, it was time to plan out the rest of the year. To be honest I have spent far too much time on CD5, to the neglect of the other activities! But a few phonecalls to let people know I'll be ready to do stuff from June and things are filling up nicely. And hopefully I should be able to keep a nice balance between promotional tours for the CDs and volunteer work in schools.

We've also extended the free post and packing offer on the CDs, basically because we had to do for the internal orders so it was easier to keep it on for the Japan orders as well! So the new finish date is May 6th.

Otherwise it was good to see Prime Minister Koizumi apologise in Jakarta, hopefully that should go some way to ease the tensions with China. But this sort of thing really makes your work more important, if the kids are actively chatting with kids in other countries then it doesn't matter what's in their textbooks as they can ask for themselves! So let's get them good enough to be able to do that!

And it was crazy to hear about the rail crash in Kobe the other day, just a day after I passed through there myself. But I'd still trust the Japanese trains more than any others in the World.

So now I'm in Milan for a couple of weeks. I'm going to take this week to have a look around and see what other projects need putting in place, and what else needs working on the site. And hopefully over golden week I'll be able to take a few days off - yeah!

It is nice being here, it just feels like Europe! I just wished we could keep in cleaner, there's so much good stuff here but it's all full of graffiti! But Milan is cool, I had a walk around yesterday and the Duomo and everything is great. So after putting some new games up on the site I'm off out for the my lunch now, to find some nice pasta and coffee and a couple of hours learning Italian - I wish I had done more before I came! Still it's nice to be here, and it's a lot cheaper than living in Japan!


April 15th 2005 - CD5 is ready to go!!

It's taken a lot of work but CD5 is finally up on the site! Yeah! Today I uploaded the new lesson plans, picture cards ( all 100 of them!) and got the site all ready to take pre-orders. Going through and changing every mention of the "4CD Set" to be "5 CD Set" was quite a task! And I think people will be quite happy with the new pricing. It's a big relief that it's finally out there and people can finally get their hands on the pictures and songs! It's the first big CD release in two years, and it really adds a lot to the site.

So now all I have to do is to get all the other materials up including the worksheets, minicards and sentence cards, plus photos of the songs and get the Japanese translations proof read!

I also had another look at bringing the forum back tonight, as quite a few people have written in. But there doesn't seem to be an easy way of doing it securely. I'll have another look later on, but for now I want to get all the new CD5 back up materials on the site.

Anyway, enjoy the new CD!

April 8th 2005 - Lots of things to do!

This week has been quite good really, it's nice and warm and on Monday I woke up and for the first time didn't have to think about the new CD!! Wow! Plus Monday afternoon was my holiday!

Then it was back to work getting all the other stuff ready. The picture cards, worksheets and a huge new update to the website ( some of which I've implemented already) all to be done. The forum I've had a look at but whichever way I look at it, with all the problems and time it takes up I think it would be better to replace the public forum with pages where people can submit material to the main site. To be honest it has been great this week not having to worry about some weirdo putting something strange up there!

New Japanese privacy laws came into effect this week. That's another reason not to have an open forum. Luckily the rest of the site is all in compliance, but there's a lot of Japanese documentation to do!

And I also started going to the gym again. I think I should re-name Genki English as "Genki Diet" as teaching the songs is such a great way to keep in shape!! Unfortunately 3 months sat behind a computer isn't, so I need to get fit again!

Right, back to work we go!

April 3rd 2005 - Forum hacked!

The discussion board has been taking up a lot of time recently, and I woke up today to find it had been hacked! I can't believe how some people just get their kicks out of taking down a site's forum, especially something like the Genki English one. It looks like a common attack and there isn't a solution available yet, so the board will be down for the time being. But you can still share your games and ideas on the Readers Games page, and of course you can still email me anytime - I still respond to them all!

April 2nd 2005 - It's full!

Dave Stewart once said "You never finish an album, there just comes a point where you have to let go". Over the past few weeks I've been putting more and more in to CD5, and I've now come up against another barrier - a CD can't hold any more! So that's it, it's finished! Last week was spent doing the final checks, and everything came out OK. It sometimes runs a little slow on old Pentium 3 or Mac OS9 machines, but it still works OK and on newer machines it is fantastic!! One of the things I do to double check the software on as many machines as possible is to pop along to the local computer store and check it on their machines ( they're cool as I buy so much stuff there!). On the new big screen monitors it just looks fantastic!!! Doing the graphics in flash makes them look so good when blown up, so I'm very happy!

So tomorrow I'll get the final checks of the inlays back and then it's time to send everything off for mastering, and if everything goes well it should be ready for the beginning of May. Hopefully we'll have a special "pre-order" offer on the site in the next couple of weeks!!

Wow, I can't believe it's finished! Getting the CD done is all I've thought about for 3 months, it'll be strange to get back to normal, but then again I have to get all the new lesson plans and picture cards on the site!

March 20th - Earthquake!!

Ooo! Big Earthquake! I've been spending half the year, or sometimes more, in Japan for about 7 years now and in that time I've had quite a few earthquakes. To be honest most of them are like "oo, an earthquake" and it's all quite exciting and passes after a bit. But today's started out like that and quickly moved into things flying across the room! Which needless to say put it in another category and out of the "wow, isn't this interesting!" mode.

Things were OK though. Everything was thrown around like something from Arthur C Clarke's "World of Strange Powers", I bet that's where all these poltergeist stories come from, it's people who've been in Earthquakes! And you could see how much the building moved ( I was on the 8th floor), as my desk, which is on wheels, ended up a metre of so from where it should be. So one rule is not to pack things high up, especially putting music gear on top of speakers!

But it's amazing how Fukuoka has stood up to the shake, although a few roads are cracked and some people were injured, it's surprising that the city seems to be pretty much unaffected.

March 14th - 20th - Trying to get the CD finished...

I was definitely right to get away from Japan to work on the CD! This week I've spent nearly all day on the phone, doing emails or generally sorting out business type stuff, without getting anything done on the CDs!! Argh!!

There have also been a few problems on the forum, some people just don't seem to understand that free speech doesn't mean they can say anything they like anywhere the like, the board is there for people to help each other out, so from now on we'll be a lot stricter in keeping it under control to hopefully cut down on the amount of time it takes to run and to keep it a useful resource of help and advice.

Right, got to get back to work, at least the jet lag has been helping, I've been waking up at 5 and working through till midnight most days!!

March 13th 2005 - CD5 in Fukuoka!

I always look forward to Fukuoka events as the teachers here are probably the most genki and inventive in the country! Mind you today was in a building way out of the usual places so it was a different crowd in. It was also snowing outside! Anyway I started off with Good Morning and Easter, like yesterday, and after "This year, Next year" I decided to do a couple of different songs from CD5 just to see how they go. I tried "What do you think?" and the food song.

And it was a good job I did!! Because when I write these songs I always write them with the kids in mind, and test the ideas and timing etc. with the kids. But I hadn't tested any of these songs on Japanese adults! And that old problem of the teachers taking 10 times longer to get an idea than the kids, raised its head and things didn't go too well!! Now I know why yesterday went so smoothly, it was because there was a bunch of kids at the front who got everything straight away so the teachers were just copying the kids!! Today there were hardly any kids so the teachers had to think about it on their own and got a bit lost! Which is just as well, as now I know I have to slow things down a lot when explaining to the teachers, and it will also help when I come to make the teaching guides. I think one of the things is maybe music as well. It seems that Japanese adults don't have super amounts of musical sense, and seemingly natural phrasing and melody just throws them. Japanese kids have no problem, I guess it must be all the elevator music around that does it!

On the other hand there were a few tricks I used in a couple of tracks that I wasn't sure how people would react, but they sailed through those effortlessly!

So it wasn't the best presentation ever, but everyone tried, and a few people did get really into it so that was cool. Over the last few months I've been very much in a "cyber genki English" mode, mainly talking to people who use GE via the net, but have never attended a workshop. Then today there were a lot of people who came up to me saying how they use the Superpack all the time, but had never visited the website. Which is very interesting and it would be great to be able to bring these groups together more.

Then afterwards I had a chat with a couple of very genki teachers, about lots of stuff, which was great. That's another thing about doing Genki English back in real life, everyone is really friendly, and it's great to just be able to chat about stuff!!

Cool. It's great to hear how so many people get so much out of Genki English, it certainly makes all the hard work worthwhile, and I can't wait for the new songs to hit the classrooms!

March 12th 2005- CD5 in Kyoto

I got up early this morning and headed off to the Maruzen presentation. I got things set up and hung around to watch one of the other publisher's presentations.

Oh dear. This is the culture shock again, but the teachers just looked dead, there weren't half as many as expected, they weren't getting really simply things, the presenter was going on about how different Japanese people are to everyone else, and even the CDs they were selling had weird English, or at least it sounded weird to me after 3 months out of Japan, do we ever say "I'll have a bit of vegetables"??? So I couldn't stay in the room, this sort of stuff is just so far behind the rest of the World!

So I popped into Starbucks then another coffee shop to do some more work on CD5. It was actually really boring work, cutting up dozens of words for the software. And I was thinking, this is just daft, putting all this effort in for people who don't care. But a few people popped in for a chat, which was nice and around 2:30 I started rehearsing the new songs for today. And that did actually get me quite genki. The "I can do it?", food and "How do you say?" songs really do pick you up!

Then at 3:30 I was on, and I was totally in the attitude of "look, in Germany they read Shakespeare after studying English for 4 years, let's kick Japan into the 21st century!" and they went for it! I started off with "Good Morning" which worked very well. The best thing was that there was a bunch of kids down the front and they were mega genki and totally into the song, even though I'd never seen them before!! But after such a hectic start the adults were starting to look a little tired, so I dropped the pace with the Easter Song. The thing was that the adults started looking really happy about this, but the kids just looked bored and started asking for more genki stuff! So I duly obliged and did the "This week" song from CD5, and they loved it! This song is the "Left and Right" song of CD5! When I was testing this song I deliberately put in breaks to make sure all the kids could keep up, but today they just plowed through those and sung each line four times in the space it was supposed to take to do 2!!

Then a quick tour through the CD Owners Club, and everyone was especially impressed with the months cards, where I was explaining that Genki English isn't about making "good Japanese people", it's about making the kids into "good people" - full stop!

Then it was on to the food song, which worked great, except for the fact that they only realised it followed the alphabet later on, which got many smiles, albeit a little late!! Then I had a quick run through the phonics CD and I'd forgotten I hadn't done this CD in Kyoto before as they were lapping it up, especially the James Brown and Fatboy Slim style tracks!

So to finish off there was only one choice, as the whole theme of GE presentations is "dekiru, dekiru, dekiru" then the final song is the new "I can do it!" song, which worked really, really well, especially the actions and the "yeahs!". So that was cool and a great presentation. Most people already had the Superpack, but the phonics CD was new so we sold quite a few of those and afterwards everyone was asking when CD5 will be out ( hopefully around April 20th), so Maruzen should be happy with those sales.

Now it's time to get the Shinkansen down to Fukuoka for another presentation first thing tomorrow morning!

March 11th 2005 - Back to Japan

It was raining today. Plus jet lag ( I've never arrived back here in the morning, it's usually the evening). Plus guys at the station trying to talk to me in English, which I had no idea at all what they were saying and they refused to speak Japanese. Plus people barging by in the station nearly knocking you over without a word of "sorry". Plus the hotel wouldn't let me in to get a shower till 4 PM. Which all added up to not a very welcoming return to Japan.

So I went to bed.
I'll blame it on the tiredness and get back to being genki tomorrow!

March 10th 2005 - Last week in Europe

It was probably a bit optimistic hoping to get the new album done for this week! The actual mixes of the songs were done really quickly as most of the tracks hardly needed any changes from what I did in Spain, so the music is all fine. But there is so much new stuff in the software section of the CD that it isn't quite there yet! It's amazing when you look at what is involved, with hundreds and hundreds of audio and graphics files to be put together for the final product.

I'm now in Milan airport, heading off to Osaka and presentations in Kyoto tomorrow. As I don't have the finished CD then it will be a "sneak preview" of several of the songs, without the software. But I have printed out all the picture cards for many of the themes and they are looking well brilliant!! So hopefully just another week or so of hard work and everything will be ready to go!

So I just have to wait to see what culture shock I have going back to Japan. Mind you over here I've just been trying to order some stuff in Italian, but a mouthful of Spanish came out. Looks like I'll have to work more at that as well before I head back to Italy at the end of April!

March 2005 - Mixing in the UK

Spain was good, but it was way colder than expected!! The plan was to sit out on the balcony drinking Sangria whilst doing the new album. In the end it was the coldest winter they've had in years with even snow falling!! So that means I am a little behind schedule!

This week I'm back in the UK mixing the final tracks before they get sent off for mastering and I'm also finishing off the "Be Genki" software for CD5. That is coming along well, the food and months graphics look really good and people are going to be very happy when they appear on the site! I've got to get that finished quickly though as I have to get all the software proof read ( a very painstaking job) before I head back to Japan next week.

In other news I've finally managed to get a decent credit card system in place for Heather Tanaka's Big Blue Book, so that is now available on the site. I went through it again at the weekend, it is huge and a great buy for $15, so let's see how that goes. If the whole ebook idea catches on then a Junior High School ebook could be a great idea for the future.

Over on the discussion board, a "Life in Japan" forum has also been set up. Out of the 4,000 people who visit the site everyday only a small percentage are interested in the discussion board, but the spam, trolls and technical problems take up a large percentage of my time, and at many times it would have been far easier to close it down. Luckily two of the members have agreed to help moderate for spam, so hopefully that should keep things going.

Right, back to work!

Feb 2005 - In Spain!

I always figured that to write genki music you have to be in a sunny place! CD4 was written on a beach in Thailand, and people always ask "Where would you like to live?" and I say "Tahiti or the Caribbean!". It sounds like an expensive dream, but the thing is that when you live in Japan ( or two months of the year in the UK) then living absolutely anywhere else on the planet is bound to work out cheaper!! So it's madness not to head off somewhere sunny really. For the moment it's not quite as exotic as the Bahamas or the Pacific, but I've headed off to Spain for three weeks to record the new CD.

The only slight problem is that although it is indeed Sunny, it's also flipping freezing!!! The first day was just like being in Japan! But luckily things have now warmed up.

And being here is great for work, whereas until now I've been struggling to make any of the backings of the songs sound decent, I've just sat down every morning this week, played things straight into the computer and they sound great first time! Cool. Just being able to take a glance up from the screen and look out onto the sea makes all the difference. The graphics and software are also coming along well. On Wednesday, after a request on the Forum, I was thinking about an Easter song, wrote it in the car on the way back, then sat down, recorded it and designed the graphics and webpage all on Thursday morning! Now if only all the other songs would happen that quick! ( One theme usually takes over a week to do)

My Spanish is also coming along really well and I just can't recommend the Pimsleur series enough. I put the CDs on my iPod and do two half hour lessons a day. And it really works well, with a brilliant approach. If any of you teach in a foreign country then I would definitely recommend their courses. It's expensive but with an hour a day, a few weeks is all you need to get really quite good, and many of the languages have advanced courses to take you even further. Now if they only had one for Japanese people to learn English then we could all retire!

I've also put up a new RSS feed on the website, which is a really great way of seeing what's new on the site without having to visit the page all the time!

Now let's try and finish this CD before I leave so I can maybe have a day or so holiday!!

Feb 5th 2005 - nice music

Spent most of this week getting ready for Spain and making sure that all the stuff that I have to do here is done. I also finally managed to get some amazing sounding soft synths. It's been tricky finding anything that sounds as good as my hardware synths, but doesn't sound over techno and I think I've found it: Plugsound! Not exactly a cool name, but I played the free demo I got from a magazine and wow, they sound great and more importantly I just play around on the keyboards and new tunes just magically appear! Great!

New updates to the website include flashcards of all the words used in the songs and some cool new stickers!

January 28th 2005 - A bit more smoothly

Things have been going quite well over the last week or so. I've uploaded lots of new stuff on the site, including the January newsletter, some great readers games and an animation for the Card Game to make it easier to understand. The packs have been really popular at workshops where I've shown people how to play them, but on the site it's pretty much 50/50 split between people who know the game and those who haven't a clue how to play it. It is such a fantastic game that I really want everyone to try it out, even if it looked a bit scary before!

And for a change the CD5 songs are coming on really nicely! The ones I'm particularly happy with are "Creepy Crawlies", "Where is Mr Monkey?", "Can you...?" and "What's your favourite?". The site has been really useful in solving disputes over which terms to use in the songs, e.g. "Creepy Crawly" vs. "Creepy Crawler" or "Can you play the guitar?" vs. "Can you play guitar?"!

I'm also working on a new project, to have a downloadable ebook available on the site! A really cool ALT in Hokkaido has written a fantastic "Big Blue Book" of ideas and games for elementary school. It looks so good in pdf form and contains a ton of stuff. So as soon as I can sort out the technical side for credit card payments this could be something really exciting!

Otherwise it's been cool hanging out in the UK. The local comedy club is really great! It really made me miss doing all the JET workshops. Some of the comedians here are pretty bad ( most are cool though), but I look over the JET workshop videos and people are just killing themselves with laughing!

I'm really getting into the Pimsleur Spanish course. Their method is brilliant, it's a bit like my idea of having "lego block" bits of language that you can re-build and reconstruct to form new stuff, but their method does it on acid! I'm only on lesson 8 but there's a whole load of stuff I can say. I also noticed there's a new advanced Michel Thomas course out, which should be worth looking at!

And I've also bought myself a really cool pair of headphones as an early birthday present to myself, the groovy Shure E2!

January 18th 2005 - A pig to orchestrate

I know I said I wouldn't be updating the blog, but eventhough I haven't been travelling anywhere I have been up to loads of stuff so figured I'd let you know what's going on!

The main thing I'm still working on is the CD5 orchestrations, which is taking quite a bit of time. But it is also throwing up a load of really good songs that are no good for CD5 ( too many syllables) but will be great for the next phonics CD! In fact I've got half of it done, which is better than expected. I still haven't figured out what to do about the vowel problem ( i.e. which accent to use), so this CD will be the consonants from p to z. It is sounding nice. One interesting email I got the other day though was saying that I should re-record the phonics page of the website with "real native English speakers" - which I thought was quite funny!

I've also been writing articles, answering lots of emails and working on some new ideas for the website. One cool idea was to have a version of the Genki English Card Game for countries, but choosing which of the over 200 countries to include was causing problems so I've put it on hold for now. The card game is really popular in the UK now, and I played some of the versions over here and to be honest some of them aren't even as good as the GE animals one. I'm going to have to get more teachers to try it, as it really is addictive!

I think I've made a bit of a mistake with the CD5 songs though. Usually I write the songs in the studio, playing the music at the same time, so the production and song fit together perfectly. This time I've written all the songs in my head first, but actually getting that into the computer is taking ages and I keep going off on tangents. So one other benefit is that I've also got lots more songs ready for the adults CD.

But the other day I figured out what the problem is, I can't write sunny, happy, genki music if it's bad weather outside! So I've decided to move to Spain next month and do the the recordings there. The advantages of being homeless! Unfortunately I don't speak Spanish, so I've got to learn. The ipod is great for that, and I've got together a great series of courses to listen to. Stuff like Pimsleur and Michel Thomas are great, but a lot of it is really boring! I wish there was a Genki English course for Spanish..... Which got me thinking and I put up a song for learning Japanese numbers on the site. I tried it out over the weekend and it really does work, a few times through and everyone here had the numbers stuck in their heads! So that's pretty cool and has made me even more determined to get CD 5 done!!

January 1st 2005 - Goodbye to 2004 and welcome to 2005!

I'm writing this on New Years Day, so "Happy New Year"! Now it's time to look back on 2004 and see what's in store for 2005...

Well the big plan for 2004 was to launch DVDs of all the Genki English themes. But what a flop! I figured a "virtual" version of my lessons would be great for the many Japanese teachers who just need a bit of a confidence boost, they simply pop on the DVD and everything is cool. Unfortunately what I didn't figure on was that the teachers who aren't confident about English also have a strong aversion to technology and the idea of of a DVD seemed to terrify just about everybody! So that was a total and utter miss! It looks like I need to keep the technology simple, which also rules out song downloads for the moment. : (

But at about the same time the "How are you?" song was picked up by Fuji Television for their new TV series. And that was a very big show that was a big surprise, and having the songs used by Koyuki was the icing on the cake. That brought a whole load of success and fame to the site, which luckily allowed me to spend less time on the road and to spend the first 5 months of the year perfecting the Phonics CD. That is something I'd had the idea for ages, but actually getting it done was a big task! U2 take a few years to make a new album, but for this CD I had to not only write and record the 10 songs, but I had to develop the whole format of "Genki Phonics". But once that was released in June it was a huge success. Especially Japanese parents really, really took it to heart and were overjoyed with it, which was nice.

The success of that allowed me to spend nearly the whole Summer doing volunteer workshops for hundreds and hundreds of teachers at dozens of schools. During the Summer Vacation I was doing 6 hours of workshops everyday. And that was probably the most rewarding part of the year as I got to sit down with the teachers and actually listen to what problems they need help with. Most of the time it was just a case of pointing them to the right pages on the site, or the software on the CDs ( almost guaranteed to make a group of Japanese teachers smile), and it also led me into looking at new features for the site, and the new Classroom English CD.

Then in the Autumn time I spent a lot of time preparing new materials, and also doing more volunteer work, in October and November I did volunteer English lessons to over 3,000 kids!!

So overall a pretty good year. The bad point? Well the single biggest threat of the year has been SPAM!! This went from a mild annoyance last year to a stupidly huge problem this year. Not only having my personal email system overloaded ( at one point I had over 6,000 a day ), which cost money for extra bandwidth and knocked at least an hour from my work day every day, but also the Owners Club, Discussion Board and Order Systems were also regularly hit. If it wasn't for spam you would have loads of extra songs, downloads and games on the site! But I guess we have to take the rough with the smooth. Since I started Genki English in 1999, all the work I've done on the site has been to bring you new features or make things easier to use. For most of this year that effort was spent plugging security holes!

But 2005 looks very promising. For starters there is the new Classroom English CD which will be out in a couple of weeks. The biggest problem that people had when I first started the site was a lack of game ideas, then it was the lack of a curriculum, now the biggest problem I hear about is the communication gap between non-Japanese and non-English speaking teachers. And hopefully this new CD will bridge this gap. It's a 5 minute a day crash course in the English teachers will have to use in class and lesson planning. It's been very heavily requested by teachers, so hopefully this will help as much as the rest of the materials on the site.

CD 5 ( and even CD 6!) are also well on the way, well at least they are all written in my head! The places where I've tested them this year have given me some great feedback, so all I have to do now is arrange and record them. That's not quite as easy as it sounds, but now I have a great new music system on my laptop it certainly looks doable! Plus there is the next Phonics CD and also a CD for adults to learn English. And maybe those songs will spill over to the site, where I've been toying with the idea of making songs for learners of Japanese.

So that's what I'll be working on in Europe over the next couple of months. And as I won't be travelling around and will basically have a pretty boring life I won't be updating the diary, but it will be back from March!

And once all the CDs are done I can start looking again at the big picture. Because after all the reason I do this is to help make all subjects all over the world fun for all kids to learn. The GenkiMaths site this year has worked out great, with some fantastic teachers from all over the World, but the best comments are from teachers in developing countries who say how their students have started paying attention in class because they used these ideas. Now that's cool, and that's what it's all about. With all your support and by using the power of the internet, we are all making a huge difference for hundreds of thousands of kids.

In the UK at the moment there is a huge feeling that something special could happen in 2005. With the reaction people have been giving to the Asian Tsunami, and the UK being the president of the EU and G8, there is a real feeling here that the idea of eliminating poverty and promoting development around the world is a real possibility. And education is a huge part of that. The ideas you've been piloting in Japan and elsewhere for teaching English can easily be applied to any other subjects, and most teaching situations. And as they are simply ideas of games and songs, not actual things, they can easily be spread to any teachers in any country.

So 2005 could be exciting indeed, and I wish you all the best for the coming year!

Be genki,


December 13th 2004 - On TV again

I head off to Europe tomorrow, so today was the usual mad running around and getting ready. I also got the final master CD from the factory to check, it sounds really, really good. The last minute changes, plus the mastering they have done really makes it sound great, this is going to be exciting!

And on one of today's orders for the Phonics CD one of the customers wrote that she ordered it because Mayuko Takata had recommended it on her "Just" TV show! Wow, that's great!! The Phonics CD has proved to be a big success this year, especially with Japanese parents. So the year ends as it begins with another nice piece on TV.

December 10th -12th 2004 - Backing Up and Getting ready

Spent most of this time backing up all my data, there is so much of it! But the good thing is that whilst the computers are busy doing that I can't be doing any work, so could take things a little easy. Which meant I got time to hit the music stores, check out some new sets of samples and find time to play around on the studio gear, cool!

December 6th - -9th 2004 - Stress free!!!

This is such a great feeling, no workshops, no shows, no travelling and no deadlines!!!! Yeah!!!! It's great, I'm free to do whatever I want!! And the strange thing is that I ended up doing more work in three days then I've done in ages, which is cool! And now that I have a really fantastic music system set up songwriting is back being fun again!

December 5th 2004 - Big stress day!

Today is the big stress day again when I send a master CD off to the factory. Everything has to be checked, and checked, and checked, and checked again and is the most stressful part of this whole job!! Unlike the website where things can be changed later, here one mistake is very costly!! But I think it's finally done!! And after getting what I hope is a great edit, plus the little musical review tracks it's just what I wanted to make, and it should hopefully make a lot of teachers lives just a little bit easier.

November 28th - December 4th - Full time on the Classroom English CDs

You'd think it would be quite simple, just recording the words of the Classroom English page so that Japanese teachers can listen in their cars and get a little stress relief and confidence from being able to speak a little more English. But of course this is a Genki English CD so it has to be genki. But it also has to be understandable enough so that the teachers don't lose heart and give up. This is quite a difficult tightrope to walk on and involved lots and lots of different edits. In the end I decided on slow, but genki readings of the words, with quite a small gap in between to keep things moving and let the teachers feel they'd had a gentle, but still worthwhile, work out. There are also some great technical things that I've been wanting to include which should make this CD very special indeed!

November 27th 2004 - Saturday - Show & Workshop in Osaka

I'm back in Osaka again for the 3rd time in 3 weeks! Today was a private show and workshop organised by a teacher who came to see one of the shows in June and wanted to organise one in her town. Just like the show in June, she also asked for a "Mini Genki" show for even smaller kids. I don't really like doing shows for smaller kids, but the one last time worked OK so as long as everything was fully supervised then I agreed. And actually it worked great! The usual problem with small kids is that they lose concentration after 10 minutes and just go mad, but these were the best behaved 5 and 6 year olds I've ever met! We went through one of the Kids English songs, then Left & Right, some phonics songs and How are you? Even the parents really got into it. The show was planned for 30 minutes, but they were so good we went on for 45 which made the parents very happy! In fact these kids could have joined the elementary school kids for the next show.

So anyway, after a Q&A session with the parents, another popular request, it was the time of the Elementary School aged kids. And they were terrible!!! They were just sat there, dead!!! What a contrast! Even usually killer ideas like the Harry Potter game didn't work. And to be honest I was quite worried, I had to finish on some sort of a high note.... but with what??? I eventually tried the Where are you going? song and that finally did get them genki. Splitting them into teams and competing with each other really worked! Cool. But that was hard work!!

After lunch it was the teachers workshop, the most important part of the day. Today's teachers were mostly Japanese teachers from one of the big franchise chains and the kids were their students. And a lot of very interesting things came up. First off I asked about the kids and why they wouldn't speak in the beginning, for a Genki English Show that is very, very rare! The teachers were saying how that always happens, whenever there is a foreigner nearby the teachers were saying how they tell the children to go and speak to the foreigner, but the kids never want to..... well I'm not surprised!!!!!! The teachers had built up this big thing in the kids heads were English they spoke in class wasn't "real" English as they were all Japanese, but if they saw a "real" foreigner they had to speak to them, in English. The thing is that the teachers simply didn't realise how messed up that is! For starters whatever you tell a kid to do, they won't do it. And secondly they definitely shouldn't be building up this big distinction between speaking English in class and something else with "real foreigners"!! It doesn't matter who speaks which language.

I've seen this lots of times before, the other week in Nagoya one teacher came up to me with her daughter and said to her "Right, now go and speak with the foreigner" in a not too polite way, then when the kid started getting all shy the mother grabbed her arm, dragged her away and shouted "Now you will speak to that foreigner in English, or else!!!". I was like... eh???? What's going on here then!! In the end I did chat with the kid as I felt so sorry for her, but I also gave her Mother a right mouthful later!! The thing is that a lot of teachers don't seem to thing that there's anything wrong with this! So we had a big chat about that today and everyone was really cool about it.

Plus lots of other things came up, for example the teachers were saying that their kids won't speak because "they are Japanese and are therefore shy" ( as if shyness is purely a Japanese trait ) and hence they have no choice but to do grammar style work. The answer to that is to make getting rid of the shyness the number one priority when planning lessons, it's maybe the reason the kids don't speak, but it's not a valid excuse. The kids, and teachers, have to make sure that it's not used as an excuse. So that nicely led into games and activities to make the kids forget any shyfulness, which all the teachers promptly did..

Then at the end it was the war speech about how we're all really the same, and treating people differently because they have a different face isn't really on, and as usual that got the teachers thinking about why English is more than just words and phrases.

It was mainly just things they hadn't really thought about before, no malice or anything, just things they'd never thought about. So that was really good to help with. Afterwards there were lots more chats and I got invited back for another full day workshop next year, cool.

As today was a private show the kids and teachers paid to attend, and after doing over so much volunteer work this year it was also great to walk away with not only my travel expenses but a nice fee as well, now that's not something that happens too often!

November 22nd - 26th 2004 - Classroom English CD

JALT was great and I had lots and lots of teachers asking when the new CDs would be out, both phonics and the new CD 5. Unfortunately I wouldn't be able to get those finished by the time I head of for Europe. But a CD of the Classroom English / Classroom Japanese was also really requested by lots of elementary school teachers and I figured that I probably could get that done! So for these four days I was going over the plan to get the CD recorded and out there. But then of course it was time to start travelling again....

November 21st 2004 - Presentation at JALT and it's not 1997!

I bumped into Tom Merner a few weeks ago and he told me that he had decided to put my presentation on first thing on Sunday as I was the only person who could get everyone awake!! Which upon seeing a room full of partially hung over, and generally very tired looking faces seemed to be quite a challenge!!! I also did the presentation in English today, which sort of ruled out most of my jokes. But after a bit of warming up they got a bit into it and once I'd gone through the "What's your name?" song then everyone was smiling. It never ceases to amaze me the reaction that song gets from non-Japanese teachers! Whew, a nice sigh of relief and on with the gig. Today was a non-commercial workshop, so basically I just did stuff from the website. Mingle was good, and they loved the phonics games as homework. The funny thing with those games is that when I demo them you can't stop part way through, you just have to go through till you've completed the level! And a load of other games, tricks and motivation bits about what being genki is all about. And everyone was just so great, it was fantastic. ( You can check out the rest of what we did here). Everything went really well and we finished on a massive high note, and with the room so packed there were people out in the corridor trying to get in. And afterwards a load of people came up and asked questions and stuff, which is cool!!

Then a quick spot of lunch, a few more chats with a few more people and then off to see the main "Elementary School Round Table Discussion". Here 3 of the leading elementary school English teachers gave presentations. But it was 100% identical to the types of things we had as ALTs in 1997!!! All the great work that's going on on the ground just isn't getting up to the people higher up. One teacher, who actually is really passionate about Elem English, had the main thrust of her argument that it's so terrible that there are no teaching materials for teachers to buy and they have to spend all this time making it themselves because no-one has anything! Oh dear. Then another teacher talked about elem school and then how the kids then end up hating English in Junior High. Again something we knew in 1997!! Where's the new stuff? Where's the future vision? But luckily afterwards there was an open discussion. And that sort of went quite well, but we still have a lot of work to do to get the word out there. After 3 hours the general consensus was that good teachers have no real problem with English teaching, and the teachers who are bad at teaching English are generally the teachers who are bad at teaching everything! And the need to have more suitable materials for JHS. My idea of the people there coming up with JHS lesson plans and sharing them in an open source way didn't really get much support. But again the general consensus was that elem school stuff exists, but needs promoting more, and nobody has any idea what to do with JHS. And these were some of the most influential people in the field!

Then I had a meeting with David Paul. We've been trying to meet up all year, but have never found a good time. But today worked out and we had a great chat, about all sorts of stuff. That was cool, most of what we think is very similar and we had a great discussion about the use of writing. And also had some chats about some other stuff.

Then some more meetings and then I met up with an ALT at the pilot school in Mie. His teachers have some very strange ideas about English teaching, so he asked if he could ask me some questions and video the answers in Japanese. Of course that was no problem.

Then I headed off to the station and after running as fast as I can after a long day, I made the shinkansen with one minute to spare! A great day though and if you get the chance to visit JALT next year then I'd definitely recommend it!

November 20th 2004 - Off to JALT!

The national JALT conference is the biggest language teaching conference in Japan, and probably one of the biggest in the World. There are all the big names there and loads and loads of publishers and teachers. I also have a presentation tomorrow.

I had planned to get up early and spend most of the day there, but I was recording one of the songs till well into this morning so ended up sleeping in and getting there around 5. But basically as soon as I walked through the door I started bumping into people I knew - which is pretty cool!! It was great to have chats with so many teachers, all eager to have a chat, offer great comments about GE and hound me for release dates for the new CDs, and then there were also loads of publishers who I know, who either very kindly offered drinks or wanted to corner me for a chat. I also met up with the people who organise the Thai workshops and that was just great, they are the best bunch of people to have a beer with and relax!

November 18th - 19th - More Music Days

I got some really cool stuff done for the new adults CD. The cool thing is that I can just write the songs and get them recorded straight away, as I don't have to do all the testing and stuff that's needed for the GE CDs. A couple of the songs I needed to dictate, but didn't have any keyboards nearby so wrote them on a guitar and then recorded them on Cubase. How very lo-tech!

November 16th -17th - Music Days

Basically everything at the top of my "To Do" list is at the moment is music work! Which is quite nice. The great thing is that I can just play through whatever types of stuff I want and I can pretty much use anything. If it's happy and bright it'll go on the new phonics CD, if it's a bit more dark and moody it'll go on the adults CD. Great. Of course CD5 is the main one, but those songs have to be very specially done, which means I'll wait till I have a bit more time.

I also put the Christmas decorations on the site and put up four more of your games!

November 14th -15th - Day off

My girlfriend's birthday today, so we went away for a couple of days.

November 12-13th 2004 - Music Stuff

Had two days to work on the new music stuff I've got going!

November 11th 2004 - Thursday - 8 hours to Kyushu + OK!

I got picked up at 9 o'clock by one of the school's teachers to take me to train station. He was telling me how his daughter was going round the house this morning saying "Dekiru, Dekiru, Dekiru!". Nice.

So then the 8 hours back to Kyushu, which was actually not too bad. I hadn't been on email for 3 days ( no signal on my wireless system), so had a lot of emails to catch up on, and the odd idiot on the discussion board ( complaining that I was asking people what they'd like to see on the site!! ), but usually they were great!

I also did a fair bit of music work and I got an "OK" from the publisher of my new Adults CD!!! Yeah!!! So early next year there'll hopefully be a new book/CD with a load of funky Genki English songs for adult learners to use. Cool.

So after I eventually arrived I did a bit more music work and watched a bit of TV!

November 10th 2004 - First Grade & Great school in Ishikawa

This is my fourth time to Ishikawa ( the second this year) but my first to the Noto Peninsula, and it is nice to be back in the fresh air! I pretty much knew that today would go well as the teacher who had organised it was totally on the ball. Of course the real indicator is the Head Teacher's greeting and he was a cool, if very talkative, guy! For the first two lessons I was asked to help out the CIR with two ichinensei classes. So for a cool set of people like today, no problem. And actually the CIR could handle things really well. She'd planned a great lesson. Theme = animals. Put the kids in a circle, play the Ball and Music Game, the kid with the ball comes to front. The teacher shows the kids an animal. The other kids shout "1,2,3 Go!" and the kid mimes the animals2l. The kids then have to guess what it is, in Japanese! Then the teacher teaches the word in English. Great stuff, no pre-teaching and the kids loved it. Then you put the cards in the middle of the circle and then pass around a ball ( or in this case it was a stuffed gorilla!) and two fly squatters. Then when you stop the music, the kids with the gorilla shouts out a word and the fly squatter kids have to hit the right card. Cool. We had two classes of that and the kids were great. They even wanted to play in the break time, so the gorilla got called in to service for the Koala Game. The CIR was great at the job, and it was even more impressive that it was her first year. Afterwards the Japanese teacher commented that it was great for her to see how we team taught the lesson, apparently she got some great ideas from the lesson we just did.

Then lunch and the show. Last week was 1,000 kids, and today was only 300. But what they lacked in numbers they sure made up in enthusiasm! It really helped that all the teachers were into it and even the 6th graders were mega genki. When I told them they lost the games, they twigged on to the "Try again!" thing really quickly and instead of just saying it en masse, one of the 6th graders actually stood up and organised them into a co-ordinated "Try again!" chant! Wow, these kids are full of confidence.

Then it was the teachers seminar, again great. The teachers had actually asked to have it extended so they could ask more questions, and they really got into it. They were still at the beginning level, but I tired to put some activities in with the theory and they loved it. Great. It was also good today that the school paid my travel expenses ( I don't take a fee for visiting public schools, but these days have to ask for travel expenses), so unlike last week where the school suppliers paid the expenses, today I could just show the teachers how to use all the free stuff on the website.

So then another chat with the kouchou sensei, a trip to the onsen in my hotel and then out for dinner. Again that was great, with a cool sushi chef who had some great things to talk about. Eventhough I do school visits for free, it is nice to be paid in food!

Then at 9:30 we went off to the hotel bar and for some reason at 1:30 we were helping to tidy up and ended up doing the washing up!! But it was fun, and I've never been behind a bar before! So a great day's work and a really cool night! You know, it'd be great to be an ALT in a town like this.

November 9th 2004 - Tuesday - 8 Hours to Ishikawa

I think today's school has been the longest ever commute, timewise. I set off at 8 and arrived at the hotel ( very nice with a great view!) and 5. But I did managed to get some work done, including the new "Where is Mr Money" song which is sounding well cool. Tomorrow I have a show and seminar here, and this evening I was invited out to dinner by the teacher who organised the visit and the town's CIR. So that was very nice, and then we went along to do the town's Eikaiwa class. That was OK, but I really need to get my new book finished, because just about all the students need the "dekiru, dekiru, dekiru" attitude!

November 8th 2004 Monday - Back by the River in Kyushu

This morning I felt like I really needed a secretary as it took me an hour to book my rail ticket for tomorrow, and another hour to find a hotel for the JALT conference next week. Then an hour to go into town to buy some envelopes and ink cartridges. But then I popped down to my favourite place to work in all Japan, the Seattle's Best in Nakasu. It's so nice to work there overlooking the river with a nice cup of coffee ( and a computer power point!), and even doing completely boring work like tax receipts is quite enjoyable! And once that was all out of the way I could settle down to some songwriting. Cool.

November 7th 2004 Sunday - Video remaster

Today I had to re-master the Teaching Training video. The video is being re-duplicated again and this time I wanted to take advantage of having my new computer to digitally remix the master, this time it will be on DVD as opposed to Digital Video Tape. Actually I would love to make the whole Teacher Training video available on DVD, but hardly any teachers know how to use DVDs!! So it's still VHS for the moment. Once the master was done I had to watch it all the way through to make sure there were no mistakes. I hadn't seen the full video for a while, but it's great, there are just so many teaching hints and tips in there, I even re-learnt a few techniques myself!! Plus the animations and stuff for the kids comes up nice and crisp on the new master. I can see why it gets such good reviews!

November 6th 2004 - Kyushu - T-shirt Christmas

I tried to fly from Matsuyama to Fukuoka last night and it was fully booked! I never realised so many people wanted to fly between Shikoku and Kyushu. So I had to get up very early this morning to take the high speed boat across. That was alright and I got all my emails up to date on the 2 hour crossing. It's also nice that the boat docks in Mojikou, which is a really nice town right on the tip of Kyushu and is great for a day out. The funniest thing though was that all the Christmas decorations were out, but it was so hot that I was in a t-shirt. Somehow Christmas and T-shirts don't seem to go together!

November 5th 2004 - Friday - Ehime - 970 Kids & Paradigm Shift

Whilst yesterday's school had all the indications of greatness, I wasn't too sure about today. The teacher in charge was very much on the ball, but when asked for requests for the workshop the teachers came up with "What did you think of Japan before you came?". Hmmm. OK, so they don't really know what I do! Which is fair enough, as unlike schools of late this school does no English except for the ALT visits.
But the Head Teacher used to be the Head Teacher at a school I went to 3 years ago. So that helped a lot, and he was totally shocked at how big Genki English has got in the last couple of years!.

Plus at today's school I broke the record for the most numbers of kids at one show, with 970 of them!!!!! Adding in teachers and the various visitors there were nearly a thousand people today. Whichever way you look at it, the chance to motivate a thousand people is a very cool thing. Unfortunately the sound system wasn't quite up to it! But after a few goes of making the kids lose at stuff ( in order to get the "Try again!" response), they were all mega genki! Not quite as cool as yesterday, but very good and even the 6th graders were well into it!

Then the 90 minute teachers workshop. Here the teachers don't have to teach themselves, so in the beginning they were very much in the "look, we don't have to be here" mood. But after going through how easy it is to teach English and International Understanding, and more importantly why they have to teach it, they were all suddenly interested and the Head Teacher's comment was "From tomorrow, this school will have changed".

And I only just realised what that means. On the way back I was listening to a Stephen Covey audio book, and in it he talks about paradigm shifts; the way of getting some new information that completely and totally changes your point of view so much that you can't imagine what it was like before.

He uses the story of a man on a train. The man boards the train with his kids, a big bunch of unruly kids. They are loud and obnoxious and causing havoc on the train. Mr Covey leaned over to the man and said "Excuse me, I don't mean to intrude, but your children are causing a lot of distress here. Is there maybe something you could do?" To which the man replies "Well, I guess, sure. But the thing is we just came back from the hospital where their mother just died". And bang, in that instant the whole situation changes. You see the kids differently. Just that one piece of information makes all the difference.

And I realised that's what happens in these workshops. The teachers go in there seeing English as something to be feared, something they can never do, something they strongly dislike. But they walk out of there seeing how easy it can be, how they themselves can teach it well, and they see English not as an end in itself, but as a way to communicate with other people, to allow their students to see for themselves that different people from different places are still just the same people. A paradigm shift indeed. It's something that changes schools, and lives.

November 4th 2004 - Thursday - Matsuyama - The Perfect School

Some schools you can just tell. I don't know quite what it is but you can just tell when things are going to to well. Today's school started out great as the teacher in charge had emailed me a list of requests for the teaching workshop, and they asked all the right questions; what to do about pronunciation, how to teach without an ALT and what to do if you don't speak English yourself. All stuff I can really help with.

Then the Head Teacher's greeting was great, really genki and totally friendly! So after a chat it was off to the gym and for the first time in a long time they had everything set up perfectly! So no need to spend 30 mins re-wiring the sound system. So then as can be expected from such a cool head teacher and cool teachers, the kids were fantastic. Nearly all of the 600 kids had a sparkle in the their eyes and gave 100% to a fantastic performance. All the motivation stuff they took in their stride and to say that they haven't had any English lessons yet ( they start next year) they were up there with the best schools in the country. Great.

In the teachers workshop there were a few teachers who were either very much against, or totally terrified of, the Head Teachers decision to start formal lessons next year. But by the end of it they were nodding their heads and had the look of "Well, you know, I might just be able to pull this off". Cool.

So a great day's work and this will be a cool school to watch!

November 1st -3rd - Back to Ehime!

Wow, I actually get a whole week in Ehime! This is quite rare ( Ehime is where I officially live, even though I seem to be touring all the time). My adopted Japanese family had the grandkids at home so that meant any music making had to involve the sounds of 1 year olds jumping on the keyboards. But after all the family have done for me, it's good that I can give a little back, even if it's only playing with the kids in English.

I also popped in to see Will who's settling into his new job, but the town obviously don't realise just how qualified he is for the job!

I also managed to catch up on some sleep, get a lot of data backed up, uploaded all my sample libraries to my computer and got to play around with the music gear that I didn't sell in March! Plus of course I got to enjoy the Ehime weather and lovely pollution free air!

October 31st 2004 - Sunday - Halloween in Nagoya

Well, not really Hallowe'en, but it was the Nagoya leg of the Nellie's Bookstore tour. And that was really good. The room filled to capacity when my presentation started and everyone had a great time with the Phonics CD ( showing off all the styles seems to work well, especially the James Brown, Fatboy Slim and techno style tracks!!). Plus of course the card game went across really well. Sales of the Superpack weren't too hot, but that's to be expected as most of the teachers in Nagoya already have the CDs. One interesting thing was chatting to the people on other publishers stands, of course they have to talk about their materials, but as it turned out most of them use Genki English when they go to elementary schools! That was quite interesting.

During one of the presentations I fired up my laptop with Ableton live and started jamming a new song. When I looked around everyone was crowded around looking at what I was doing. "Wow, that only took 20 minutes" was the common response, yep, 20 minutes plus 20 years experience!! But it is really fun so I'm definitely going to buy Live.

I also played the Teaching Guide Video on the stand, and that was really popular. I haven't seen it myself for a while and it really does capture all the genkiness. This year was supposed to be the year of the Genki English DVD, but that failed miserably as most teachers are terrified of the technology! But I'm really thinking that it's maybe worthwhile doing the kids videos on VHS! That should prove popular, but producing video tapes is a considerable investment to make. Certainly something to think about though.

Then in the evening I got round to tidying up the site and taking down the Halloween decorations. And as soon as I dead that a load of CD orders came through. Over the last couple of weeks internet orders have been a bit down and I've only just realised why, it's because everyone was doing Hallowe'en lessons for the last month!! But things certainly look good for November as teachers start teaching other themes.

Then a bit more music work and finally to bed at 3 o'clock.

October 30th 2004 - Saturday - Plastic Food and Ableton

Plastic toy food is a common request for teachers of small groups, and I've managed to find some! So I put up an order form on the site today. I'm not sure how many of these I'll be able to provide, but if you're interested, click here for Plastic Food!!

I also did the November update of the Japanese pages with the mini cards and picture books. Last night I also found out that the "Submit your games" section of the site hasn't been working ( another victim of all the spam attacks). So I fixed that and 2 new games came through! They came through titleless, so I called them "I'm going to ..." and "Wow". They seem really good! And if you have sent in games recently and they haven't appeared on the site, please send them again and a million apologies!

Then I got on the Shinkansen for a 3 and a half hour ride to Nagoya. I was quite genki, but not up to doing office work, so I messed around with some song ideas. After I sold all my studio gear earlier in the year, I'm still trying to decide which new music package to go for, either Ableton Live ( pricey, professional, bit boring looking), Sony's Acid ( fantastically easy to use, inspirational, touch pricey), Magix's Music Maker ( dead cheap, really fun, but crashes and a bit of a toy) and Cubase ( major professional, boring, but I can upgrade my old version). It's all very tricky! But anyway on the train I was messing around with Ableton Live and it is fantastic!!! The best thing I found is that you can play MIDI straight from the computer keyboard. Recently I've been buying up loop libraries, as real time playing doesn't really work on a computer. But with Ableton it does! It's cool just to jam away on the keyboard, start up another track, and add in some new stuff! Plus the effects are great, unlike Cubase they are really easy to set up and have cool presets to get you going straightaway. So I had a great time jamming away on the train ( don't know what the people either side of me thought) and I wrote a really cool track, totally from scratch. That is good. I couldn't save it because I only have the demo version, but I might buy this package. The only problem is that if I do get it I can quite see myself doing remixes and dance tracks instead of Genki English tunes!!

Then got into Nagoya and Star Wars was on telly, but I think I'll wait till Christmas to watch it on DVD!

October 29th 2004 - Friday - Not exactly brilliant

Had a school show this morning, and it didn't quite go as well as it could. Well actually it was pretty bad to be honest. The thing is that it wasn't anything big that went wrong, just lots of little things that piled up. For starters I was actually surprised that this school invited me back. It was one of the schools in the summer where some of the teachers decided not to attend my teachers workshop as I wasn't Japanese! But the other teachers were very good, and so I figured they'd won the other teachers round. Then yesterday I got a call saying how the the 3rd and 4th graders are looking forward to the show. Now that doesn't work! For a lesson, 3rd and 4th graders are fine, but for a "Show" I really need the 1st and 2nd graders there to genkify the other kids. Then this morning they'd changed the time to be for 2 hours, instead of one! That doesn't work either as except for one very exceptional kindergarten in Saitama, no kids can stay that genki for over an hour. Then the sound system was in mono, but not real mono, just wired up wrong and it sounded really muffled, so I lost all the impact of the music. And I sat half an hour in the Head Teachers room waiting to be introduced, and he never even bothered to show his face!!

But anyway, they eventually got one 2nd grade class to attend, everyone piled into the gym and of course for the kids I gave it 100%.

And this is where the bad stuff started, because half the teachers just stood there looking foul faced. I asked them politely to help several times and they wouldn't!! Not even a smile!! Talk about ungrateful, even if you don't want to physically move, a smile is just common courtesy!! And you could just tell straight away with the kids. A few of the classes had kids where their eyes just sparkled, and were eager and excited and really got into things. These were the 2 or 3 classes with the genki teachers. The other kids just had nothing in their eyes, it was like all the lights were out as they took their lead from their teachers. Usually even the shy kids get all genki by the end of things, but these kids looked like they had been attacked by Dementors. So it was a bit fun, but it's not going to do much for Genki English 's reputation in the city! Usually in these situations I address the problems in the workshop, and in most cases it works if the teachers can see things from another point of view, but here they'd already had the workshop and the bad teachers had decided not to attend. Plus I always invite parents to shows, so that they can see the teachers in action, but of course today they decided not to invite them.

It's a big shame really as the genki teachers here are really great and really do want to try hard and asked me to help, I wish I could have done more. It must be murder for ALTs who only have these types of dead teacher, who really if they were in any other industry would be fired!

So I'll have to get another school to do a show in before the end of the year, just to show Genki English does work!! And work with the eager teachers in the school so hopefully the parents will start asking why there is such a difference in the kids.

Then I was home by 11!! So had a bit of lunch, felt good after doing an hour of exercise, watched a bit of TV and got on with some work.

October 28th 2004 - Computer things

Wow at last a full day to get some work done! And I had a lot to do. I got the English newsletter sent off, and the Japanese one ready for proof reading. Then I updated the Christmas Song page to have ( some very Christmassy ) photos of the actions. It's one of my favourite themes, so it needs to be done well!

I then had to spend a good couple of hours sorting out problems with spam and viruses on the website and order system. It is really annoying that I have to spend so much time doing stuff like that when all I really want to be doing is to be creating new stuff!!!

I also downloaded some new time management software. Now that I have a big screen to work with it's worthwhile having.

And finally I got around to doing some music work at 10PM!! So I only had a couple of hours. But this is supposed to be my production time to get the new CD done!!

October 27th - Teachers in Oita!

Got picked up at 1:30 and driven right to the other side of the island to a teachers meeting in Oita. Usually I do these things as a consultant hired by the school or board of education, but today the local school suppliers had brought me over and set everything up, so that meant I wasn't allowed in to see what the teachers were studying in the other sessions!! And then my workshop was afterwards, billed as a talk about the Genki English materials. This is quite strange as usually I have to go out of my way to not mention anything about the CDs, but purely be there to help the teachers. But I actually did a standard workshop, with questions and solutions, rather than a bookstore sales pitch. Which I think confused a few people. But the teachers were actually really great and it most of them will probably buy the superpacks, which will keep the schools suppliers happy that they paid my travel expenses!!

In these sorts of meetings the teachers are very happy that my job is to sort out their problems, rather than bombard them with another theory or set of rules to abide by, which is what many presenters do. So the reaction was really good, and although the time was short, hopefully it will open the doors to some bigger, education focussed workshops in the future!

October 25th - 26th - Sorting stuff out in Fukuoka

After a week of travels it took a couple of days just to get things sorted out and back on track

October 24th - Sunday - Nice day in the Tokushima country

I like Shikoku! It's a shame I don't get to see much of it recently! But today was a day off so after having a nice breakfast in the onsen it was a nice drive back to Ehime. On the way we stopped off at the Tokushima rope bridge. At first this seems quite like a normal Japanese tourist attraction, i.e. quite nice but rendered completely safe. This is reinforced by the steel cabling that has long since replaced the vine branches. But on getting on the bridge it's not quite that straight forward as the gaps between the slats are bigger than your feet! The trick with bridges going across high places is to not look down, but here you have to make sure your feet don't disappear down one of the holes!!!

Then I had a few hours in Ehime before catching a flight to Fukuoka, which takes an incredibly short 35 minutes!

October 23rd - Saturday - Distribution

Today was back to businessman mode as we had organised a distributors meeting to show school suppliers what and the superpacks are all about. It was supposed to just be for reps from Shikoku, but they came from as far away as Shimane and even Tokyo! Blimey! It seems that Genki English is pretty popular. Whenever I do teachers' workshops the key is always to find out what the teachers need, and satisfy them, hence the rounds of applause when I show off the materials and stuff. But here the materials were still for teachers, but the audience don't have the same needs! So it was tricky to get them genki, but even a room full of serious men in suits get genki with the songs!! So a nice lunch and more serious negotiations in the afternoon. So now if you are teaching in Shikoku, it's dead easy to order the Superpacks and Picture Cards through your schools regular supplier, i.e. the school will probably pay! Let me know if you need details!

Then as it is a day off tomorrow, and the Genki English staff had come up from Imabari for the meeting, we all went off to an Onsen resort. And that was really nice, it's just the right time of year to enjoy the fantastic Tokushima scenery!

October 22nd 2004 - Uni and stuff

Spent the morning doing web work, then in the afternoon it was off to the Teaching University here to have a chat with one of the teachers who's going to be in charge of a new Elementary School English Teacher Training Programme. That went quite well ( I even got offered a job, which of course I haven't got time for, wish I had, it could be fun!), and hopefully I'll be able to help him out next year.

Then a few more things to do and then back to the hotel at 6. And it appears that the Owners Club was hit by another massive virus attack today, which somehow had set up a loop on the net that would have generating an infinite amount of email, had I not stopped it. But it was going to take the computer a good few hours to process all the backlog and sort things out. And as I also have no clothes left I went out to find the local coin laundry.

And that was a bit weird. Although I was listening to Anthony Robbins on my iPod, being in this most run down of run down coin laundries just felt like I was back where I was four years ago. And I had a long walk back to the hotel, where I had time to think about a lot of things. For many reasons which I haven't written up here, this week has been very, very tiring, and tonight was another one of those times where I look around and just think "Flippin' 'eck, I'm in Japan. This is just crazy"

October 21st 2004 - Thursday - Halloween in Tokushima

Today was a great school. And it started off with a great set of teachers. The gig today was a show in the afternoon and then a teaching workshop afterwards. However the teacher who I'd been in touch with also asked me to do a demo lesson for just her class in the fourth period. Fair enough, for such a genki teacher I has happy to oblige! She asked if I had anything on Halloween, and as it happens I have the perfect lesson....

So we started off going through the halloween song words. It's been a while since I've done this theme and it was my first time for this particular set of fifth graders, so I kept it a bit slow at first. But they were well into things ( of course after doing a bit of a warm up). So next I asked them to pick of gestures for each of the words ( always best to ask the kids!), and they got into that. So a couple of times through the song. They were a little quiet at first, so, of course, I told them that the school last week was so much better, and bang... they suddenly became so much louder and genkier the second time through!

Then it was time for the game, which I decided ( again ) to use the Harry Potter Game - basically because it is so good! It started off small with the Voldemorts just saying "Bat", "Vampire" or whatever, and the Harrys using the word to get free. Then the next round the Harrys had to say "I'm a bat" to get free, then the next round was the Voldemorts saying "You're a ..." and of course the Harrys crying out "help!". So by the end of it it was total chaos with kids running everywhere, and more importantly speaking a whole load of English.


Then the show in the afternoon, which ran a little out of time as I had to spend 20 minutes re-wiring the sound system along with one of the university lecturers who came to watch. And after the last couple of weeks, I really cut back on the content, only doing Rock, Paper, Scissors, Left & Right, and What's your name?, which gave plenty of time for all the motivation stuff and left the kids on a very genki high at the end of things.

Then a quick dash to set up the teachers workshop, first of all assuring them that what I'd just done in the show isn't what they're expected to do everyday! And then a standard 1 hour beginners workshop which they really got into, and gave some great feedback to later. Excellent. Then afterwards a really long chat with everyone who came to watch including a very nice lady from the Board of Education who wants to invite me back to do a workshop for the whole city next year. Great. It was another one of those days where I feel it'd be great to be an ALT again!

So I came back to the hotel, shattered, and finished off reading "Rainbow Six" on my phone, a great book, but a silly ending.

October 20th 2004 - Wednesday - Typhoon ( again!)

Wow, this year is crazy, another typhoon and this one was another biggy! But one lucky thing was that I didn't have to get up early as the school I was supposed to visit was cancelled. So managed to catch up on computer work. Then in the evening I went out for dinner and the whole town was closed! The railways, roads (!), department stores, coffee shops, restaurants, everything was all boarded up! The only place to eat around here was the hotel restaurant. So I no choice but to eat there, but it was all you can eat posh food for 15 quid, so not bad really!

I also updated the Picture Books page with some great new ones, including the ever popular ( although I don't know why!) "Gigantic Turnip"!!

October 19th 2004 - Tuesday - Mini Cards!

One of the most requested items I've had over the years has been Miniature Versions of the A4 picture cards. And today I finally got round to producing them!

I did a few this morning, and sent out a couple of emails to people and also on the discussion board. I was actually planning to release them on November 1st ( when the Halloween stuff comes down), but the ones this morning had a great response, and it's nice that people appreciate them so much, so I decided to get them all done today! It is a lot of work though, now with having 30 themes!

I really like working on the site, as it's so cool that I can be sat in a hotel lobby, produce them, upload them and instantly teachers are using them in classrooms!! Plus with the new CD Owners club I can do this without having to worry about paying the bills, as hopefully they'll encourage more people to buy the CDs whilst at the same time giving everyone who has bought them already something extra!

Right it's now 2:30 AM and tomorrow I'm supposed to have a school visit, but I have a feeling it may get cancelled because of yet another typhoon!

October 18th 2004 - Monday - Tokushima

It was an absolutely gorgeous day today, perfect weather. And as luck would have it I was heading off to Shikoku, great!

The bus ride was quite nice, I got a lot of work done, then to settle into the hotel that will be home for the next 5 days.

In the evening I had a meeting about the events I'll be doing this week and the state of affairs in Tokushima. Unlike other prefectures of late, apparently here they've had real problems getting my schedule sorted because none of the schools, nor people in charge, will officially admit they do any English education at all! The view was that none is done in the whole prefecture. But hang on, this isn't the Tokushima I know! The Tokushima I know has some of the best ALTs in the country who are doing lots of pretty cool things. This just looks like everywhere else was five years ago, where all the stuff the ALTs do is gone unnoticed. So let's see what we can do about that! But they did manage to sort me out one workshop which should be good ( it only takes one for the word to spread) and also a meeting with the teaching university here to have a chat about the stuff I do. So ALTs let's help put Tokushima on the map!

October 17th 2004 - Sunday - Nellie's, loads of card games

Today was another model presentation, brilliant. I did the same contents as last week in Tokyo ( What's your name?, then the Teaching Guide Video, then some Genki Phonics ( the CD quizzes proved popular!), mingle, the Genki card game and finished with the Halloween song) And they just loved it! In fact they loved it so much I nearly ran out of stock! Over a hundred teachers turned up and the phonics and picture cards went like hot cakes, which was pretty cool to say the least! So a great day!

October 16th 2004 - Saturday - New Tracks and Osaka

Had a deadline to send a couple of demos off to my publisher today. I already had one recorded and planned on doing another. But whilst playing around I came up with a really cool idea for another song, so just sat down and produced it! Yeah! So I sent all three off, let's see what the reaction is!

This took a little longer than I expected so took a later train to Osaka, but I'm really happy about this new project. Even if the publisher isn't too keen I'm going to put this CD out myself, it's great!

And it may also be a reflection of my mood, but people in Osaka seemed a whole lot more friendly today. My new computer doesn't have my groovy map software in it ( and the installation CDs are in Ehime!), so twice I was trying to figure out a paper map and people came up to help me . Thank you!

October 15th 2004 - Friday - Sample Libraries & Google Desktop

Took the morning off today ( as I won't get much holiday this week). Then in the afternoon went out to Yodobashi Camera, where they have a massive selection of sound libraries. Now that I have a decent computer I'm like a kid in a toy store with all these great sample banks I want!! If I was buying for myself I'd just spend all my money here ( which wouldn't admittedly take very long), but as these are a business expense, I just have to find the right ones I need for this new project. And there are some fantastic ones!

So another night laying down tracks. This new project I'm working is aimed at adults, and it's so freeing to be able to use any type of music!! It's great and so much fun!

I also downloaded the Google Desktop today, this is also really cool, it's like having google for all my own files. This is going to make admin and business stuff a whole lot easier!!

October 14th 2004 - Thursday - Acid!

I was in a good mood today and after playing around with the synths and stuff in 15 minutes 3 really cool songs just popped into my head - excellent! But ideas are no good in my head, I've got to get them recorded. I started off with Cubase, but it is just far too much hassle to even get a project started!! So then I figured I'd write the rhythm section on one of my old music computers. Great. But there's no way to record the vocals! So I opened up the demo copy of Acid that I downloaded yesterday, and wow, this thing is so fast! Set a tempo, enter the beat, record the line and then everything else is stretched to fit the beat. This is so cool, and so easy to use. Wow. Right I'm going to buy this software. Loads up the page and has a look, 400 dollars. Hmmm. It's good but.....hmmm..... well $400 is $400 isn't it!!

But I did a few more tracks and it is really easy to use, fantastic. I think I'm going to leave Cubase for now, this is so much easier to get stuff done! The only thing is that Acid sort of feels a bit like a "toy" and if I'm going to pay $400 I might as well get the more professional Ableton Live. That gets rave reviews. Well, let me check both out and see which one to get! But for the moment I'm well impressed with Acid and if I wasn't such a Yorkshireman I'd buy it right away!

October 13th 2004 - Wednesday - Nice computer

Things have been going a lot better today, it's nice to be able to breath. I also got all my music gear set up and it's fun being able to jam around and play all these funky new sounds - great!!! I also had a load of business stuff to do, and all the emails today all seemed to be nice comments! I planned next week's trip to Tokushima, which means I'll be in hotels for over a week again, but luckily there's a new Roland portable keyboard coming out which looks pretty cool!

So now it's 9:30PM, I'll do a bit more music work, then break off to watch "That 70's Show" at 10!!

October 12th 2004- Tuesday - You can tell it's Winter

You can tell it's getting cold now, because no sooner did I try to get to sleep last night than my asthma started. This always happens in the winter in Japan and it's not fun! : ( It didn't actually help that my girlfriend had decided to tidy everywhere up so there was dust flying around). So at 4 I got up, took my inhaler and decided I might as well do some work! It's amazing how genki you get after steroids!

And things actually went a lot better, and by noon my computer was up and running!! Yeah!!!!

So to sleep.

When I woke up I tried the new music software and wow, this is great!! It actually works as a writing studio. Fantastic.

I also tried editing some video, and again, wow this is so much faster than my old computer. I wish I'd have had it last year for the DVD!!! So I tried another video edit.... and it crashed. Oh well, some things never change.

October 11th 2004 - Monday - Serial Numbers

Got my new computer today - yeah!! The thing is that until I put all my stuff on it, it's not that much fun!! The first impression was "eh... it's huge and noisy!". It seems like computer technology has gone downhill over the last 2 years, with machines much bigger but only slightly faster than 2002!

Anyway, so to work transferring all my files. Email and normal files are quite easy ( they just take a bit of time as I have 30 gigs of work files), but installing the software takes forever. And they make it soooo difficult to do! Please enter the serial number,; oh this is an upgrade so please install the old version first, then the new one; that's not the serial number, please enter the authorisation codes; this software can only be installed from the original CD ( much faffing around trying to find out where there are!); please telephone to authorise this software. You pay your money for this software and they just make life hard for you! Meanwhile all the people who bought it off the back of a lorry are probably up and sailing by now. Hmmm. And the new mail security systems are stupid! With the default settings if the computer picks up a virus it just stops the mail transfer!! I get over 100 viruses a day, you can't just stop at them, why not make the default "delete and move on"!!! I've got a degree in physics and run an internet company and there are a ton of new things I haven't got a clue about, make no wonder your average person on the street is giving up on PCs left right and center. Anyway after hours of this I got bored and went to bed.

October 10th 2004 - Sunday - The New Maruzen

This new Maruzen store has to be one of the prime real estate locations in the entire World, it is literally right in front of the main entrance to Tokyo station! My presentation was at 11:20 and in the beginning there weren't that many people present, and I was a bit worried that the typhoon may have messed things up a little. But when the time came the room filled up to capacity ( and beyond) and I had a great time! It's actually my first time presenting in Tokyo this year, and it was so cool to do all new stuff. And the teachers were really into it, cool! I started off with What's your name?, then the Teaching Guide Video ( Tokyo Maruzen are actually doing a good deal on this CDROM at the moment!), then some Genki Phonics ( the CD quizzes proved popular!), mingle, the Genki card game and finished with the Halloween song! And they lapped it up, it was great and I really enjoyed it as well! Everything seemed to go like clockwork and they loved the Halloween song. Adding a kind of monster dance to the chorus ( just put your arms in front of you like Frankenstein) made a huge difference and it was just so great to see everyone doing it together. A definite recommendation for any Halloween parties!

October 9th 2004 - Saturday - Typhoon!

Today I met with yet another publisher! This one also happens to be a mate, so it was great to just chat for ages about all sorts of ideas. One really cool thing that came up was a Junior High School resources section of the site, which could be interesting. Plus a million and one other things!

And whilst we were talking the biggest typhoon in ages swept by! I didn't really notice it until I wanted to get a train back to my hotel and they were cancelled. Apparently the subways were flooded. Wow, that's not the sort of thing you expect to find in Tokyo!

October 8th 2004 - Friday - Tokyo - Bad Day, Good Night

Plan for today was writing. But it was just horrible weather outside so as usual, everything I wrote just sounded dull and depressing! So a pretty much totally wasted day!

But then in the evening I went out with the publishers of my Kids English series and that was, as usual, lots of fun! With some very nice Chinese food!

October 7th 2004 - Thursday - Publishing & Music Stores

Today my plan was to hit the big music stores in Shibuya to see what new keyboards and music making stuff they have. But the morning was spent pretty much on the phone and instant messaging with loads of different people. Then in the afternoon I was asked to visit a publisher about maybe making some new books. The deal I always tell people is that if it's something I can make myself then there's no real need for me to bring in another company as it just slows everything down. But if there is a project where people can help with the things I can't do, then I'm always willing to listen! And today was quite interesting...

Then in the evening I finally did manage to make it to Shibuya and wow those music shops are great! There were all these keyboards that I'd only ever read about in magazines! And with my new computer coming next week I can actually start using the computer as a synth and writing station, as opposed to just recording. This could be very excited! But there were just so many new toys to play with! ( And just as many people crowding the trains.)

October 6th 2004 Wednesday - In the press!

When I first started Genki English, getting in the press was the most important thing, the way to let everyone know about what I was doing and more importantly to show them the URL. Recently I haven't really done as much, but today Genki English was in 2 of the biggest newspapers in the prefecture, the Shizuoka Shinbun and Chunichi Shinbun ( The local papers are usually more popular than the national ones I found out a while back!). The photo wasn't too good (!), but the write up was OK, the only thing was that I didn't get a chance to speak to them directly so didn't get the URL mentioned. Oh, well.

Then off on the Shinkansen to Tokyo and then into "business man mode" for some meetings. It's weird that yesterday I was jumping up and down in front of 1,500 kids for a volunteer show and today I'm negotiated publishing deals and sorting out events in some of the biggest retail stores in the country. Quite a shift in thinking really!

October 5th 2004 - Hamamatsu - Teaching 1,500 kids!

This must be a record, teaching English to 1,500 kids in one day!!

First was a school with 600 kids. First impressions were good as the head teacher asked if he could speak a bit of English. However I then asked about what sort of lessons they do here and he said that they have 10 hours a year of "international understanding", in which the children learn about Japanese culture. Hmmm.

But anyway the show was cool, the kids were a little tired, but with 600 kids it's so easy to get a great atmosphere going and they got all the motivation stuff straight away, which is after all the most important.

Then off to the next school and that was brilliant. There were supposed to be 800 kids in this show, but they had decided to bring in all the kids from the neighbouring school to make it over 900 kids!! I was totally cool for that, if you're going to break a record, you might as well do it in style! The two head teachers greeted me and they were fantastic, like a manzai group! We had a great lunch and they were totally into the whole international understanding thing, talking about lots of stuff and they were so positive.

This school also has 2 school mascots, which are two kids dressed up in huge costumes, and as it happens one is called "Gen" and the other is called "Ki". They were so popular that they did a warm up routine before my show and the kids loved it!! I was also thinking of trying out the show with the video screens for the songs for the first time, but now with 900 kids and newspapers and a load of parents present then I figured it was probably best to play it safe and do the normal show. And things went really well. Just getting the kids genki is no problem when there are so many of them, even the 6th graders were going mad! The sound system was a little funny in that the speakers were only on the left hand side. The teachers who controlled the sound system were on the right hand side and as the kids were so loud they couldn't actually hear the music, so kept turning it up and up! That was just crazy, and for the first time ever I had to ask to turn it down as combined with all the kids and the rain the sound was just too big!! I also planned to just do the cut down version of the show, rather than the super-duper mega version that the best schools can do, but I slightly over estimated the kids as they were really shattered at the end! So message to me; keep it short for schools that haven't had many lessons before! But afterwards the kids came up and were totally tired, but mega excited, which was great.

So after all that it was the main even of the day with the teachers seminar. I only had an hour and a bit, but they had seen the show so knew the kids could do it. I started with my intro and warm up, then went into questions and answers. They asked pretty much the usual questions with just one new one "Why English and why not any other language first"? Good question! I also remembered my experience from the show and made everything as short and concise as possible. Anyone can do a 3 hour workshop, the trick is in knowing what to cut out to make it one hour long and today I think I pretty much got it right for the first time.

So after answering all their questions, and getting plenty of looks of relief and happiness for the solutions, I finished off with the war speech and some of them looked like they might cry. These schools had decided not to do full on English lessons, but it looks now like they might give it a try. One of the head teachers gave a great closing speech and everything was really cool. So eventhough I wasn't 100% happy with how I did the shows ( ever the self punishing perfectionist), the teaching seminar I felt went just as it should, the teachers loved it, and that is a nice feeling.

So very tired I went back to the hotel and noticed a Subway right outside. A well deserved treat after giving 1,500 kids a head start and hopefully their teachers the confidence to continue!

October 4th 2004 Monday - To Shizuoka

It's back on the road again! Everytime I do one of these tours I have more and more respect for the sheer stupidity I must have had for started Genki English with a 4 month tour in a camper van!

Tomorrow I have a set of schools in Hamamatsu, and this evening I had a meeting with the school supplies company here as they want to see what the Superpacks are all about. It was 4 o'clock when I got there and the guy said "So, is Sake alright?". At 4 o'clock?? Plus I have kids presentations tomorrow. But then again is it is only 4 o'clock I guess it's OK! So a nice free dinner!

October 3rd 2004 - Space World

Day off today and it was sunny! So we went out to the Space World theme park in Kokura. It's showing its age a bit, but it was a nice day out. Then a bit of shopping for some new shoes, Kokura is actually really cool for shopping with its new shopping center!

And thanks to Richard Branson it looks like my aim of getting into space will be even easier than I thought!

October 2nd - Saturday - CD 5 is taking shape!

After last night getting all the boring bits of work out of the way, today I woke up at 12:30 feeling really genki. So I got to work on what I've supposed to have been doing all week, recording the demo vocals of the CD5 songs so I can then start on the orchestrations. And for the first time in ages everything just went really smooth! I have 16 possible songs to include on the new CD5, which will be boiled down to 8 themes either by musical factors or when they get tested in classrooms. And I actually sang right through 8 themes there are then. So that looks like the initial song selection. And they sound great!

All the songs had been written in my head, and are now on my computer, what I have to do is to now find cool arrangements for them, either by using samples, computer orchestrations, real players or having to write and play the parts myself. It's a bit more tricky these days as the songs all have to sound different to the 30 previous ones, but when I'm on a roll like today it should be cool ( and fun). The first song I tried was the bugs song. I messed around with some reggae ideas ( I don't have a reggae sounding song yet), but quickly settled on a production I've been wanting to use for a long time ( can't say what it is otherwise it'll give the surprise away!), and it just fits perfectly. Excellent. The kids are going to love it!

So a great day and as I'd felt like I'd done a solid days work, in the evening went out to the Hard Rock Cafe. Cool.

October 1st 2004 - Friday - Funny Times

It's 3 AM now and I'm wide awake getting a load of work done. Which is really strange as I've spent all day being totally ungenki and not being able to get anything done!! It's true that it's easier to work at night! The only thing is that I've now finished all my emails, accounts, application forms, and all the silent stuff and what I really have to work on at the moment is recording CD5, which isn't something you can do in the middle of the night. But I can bet that during the day tomorrow I won't be able to make anything sound genki!

September 30th 2004 Thursday - iPod attacks my PC!

I bought an iPod last night! And it's great. I listen to a lot of music and recently I've really got into having mp3s on my phone. But with only half a gig of space and all the security stuff which makes it so slooooowww to transfer data across ( over an hour for 5 hours of music!!!), I finally decided to get an iPod! Yeah. ( I justified it as it saves up 40 gigs of portable hard drive space, which costs about the same!). And it's pretty good, it's sort of like having a computer mp3 player but one that does stuff when you press buttons, rather than waiting and making funny noises for 10 seconds first.

So that was cool, except.... when I went to make a cup of tea this morning, the iPod box had jumped off my desk and had attacked my poor laptop! Bits of plastic were all over the floor!!! Arghh! And without a computer I'm pretty stuck so I had to spend the rest of the day traipsing round the computer stores trying to find a new one! And getting info out sales people who have neither no idea of sales ( the idea is to find out what the customer needs and make them happy!!) or computers is no fun. However this all might have been fate as just today the new Autumn models were released! Thing is they aren't much different and some machines have actually gone down in spec, you'd never figure that in Japan would you? But there were a couple of good ones, including a Sharp Mebius with a 64 bit processor, very nice! But it's way too heavy and only has two hours of battery. Or a Panasonic which has 7 hours of battery (!), is very light but crashed when I tested it!! So the one I think I'll get is the new NEC. The thing is it's way bigger than my current laptop!!! But it does seem faster so I should get more work done ( good exercise I guess, carrying round a big machine). At the shop I had a look on the NEC website and they have the same model but a lot faster ( 2Ghz) for less money. So I think that's where I'll buy it. But as it'll take a few days to get here, I also bought some super glue to try and fix up my poor old machine.

And I also had to buy a remote control and case for the iPod, all crafty marketing not including them in the box!

September 29th 2004 Wednesday - Witch Newsletter

This morning was again very busy, going through and translating all the new pages and newsletter into Japanese - it takes a lot of time! I also had to redo the Witch clip art picture as the one I did yesterday wasn't good enough. At around 2 hours to just draw one picture, a whole new theme on the site is a lot of effort!

When I first started the site I really enjoyed changing the themes and everything for events like Halloween, decorating the site. But now it's a lot more pressure as even minute changes on the site cause a huge change in the number of visitors and CD orders, which is fine for me, but I have to be extra careful when those orders also provide other people's paychecks!

But I eventually got finished and sent the newsletters off. Yeah! Now it's the fun part of sitting back and seeing everyone's reaction!

At 3 I popped into town to have a chat with a mate ( who's also a teacher), and that was really good, I have to get my new motivation book finished! I felt really genki after that and I'm really excited about getting the CD5 songs done - they're going to be killer!

September 28th Tuesday 2004 - Massive Halloween Update

Wow, that was one long work day! But I got a ton of stuff done so I'm shattered, but very happy!

First of was a new updated version of the talking Japanese page. This page is really popular, coming up on the top 5 in google for "learning Japanese" so I figured I should get around to updating it with all the new ideas I have. So there are now the most important dozen or so Japanese phrases, and of course if you click them they talk!

Then it was onto the Hallowe'en update. I had been thinking about putting the Halloween Theme onto the new CD, but that would mean it would have to wait till next year. So what I figured was to put it in the members area of the site, that way people everybody wins!

Recording the vocals was OK ( the music I already had produced), mind you my voice wasn't quite as genki as it could be! But that's the great thing about the net, I can put the ideas up there and then get feedback ( most people have said it's great as it is!) and simply change it if there is anything that needs it. But with a CD once it's at the factory that's it, no going back! Which is really stressful!

Anyway, so the other main thing today was to get the clip art done for the halloween theme. Some of the words I already had, and some were new.I was really impressed with how the Vampire turned out, it looks great!

Then to write up the page, do all the links and menus, and the newsletter to send out tomorrow. And now I have to do it all again in Japanese.... I think some sleep is in order first!

September 27th Monday 2004 - Back to Japan

Today I was expecting a ton of emails and stuff to do, but there weren't many emails to answer, but there were tons of CD orders which was cool! Eventhough I was away the orders were still sent off last week so don't worry.

But even so there was still quite a lot to do with catching up on admin and stuff.

I also bought a new Sound Module today. I've been trying to use the computer soft synths, but they just don't have any "oomph", so in Hard Off they had a great Korg module at a bargain of only 8,000 yen! So I bought it and it sounds fantastic, and more important than that the sounds are so good new song ideas just flow out - just what I needed!

September 2004 - Hong Kong

People have been saying I should head over to Hong Kong for ages and this was my first proper time. ( The only other time I've been here was when the aeroplane I was on had an engine fire and we had to do and emergency landing!! But that's another story.).

I was expecting the English language scene to be great, maybe some Genki Maths could help, but they wouldn't need any Genki English, would they? Well, the average English level here seems to be as bad as Japan! I've been doing a bit of Mandarin lately, but I should have learnt some Cantonese as hardly anyone spoke English!! Although to everyone's credit they did try. For example where as in Japan people literally run away if they have to speak English, people here would go and ask someone how to say something and then come back and say it. So things could be interesting here after all....

September 20th 2004 - Monday - Day off, fig picking and Playstation

It was my day off today and it was sunny - yeah! So days off in September call for fruit picking. First off we went up to pick some grapes but apparently they'd all been blown away in the typhoon. So we went fig picking instead which was good, although the trees were very low and I had to crouch down to get under the walkways. But that was quite fun!

Yesterday for some reason my girlfriend bought a playstation. I really like games, but figured it's best not to buy one as I'd never get any work done! But as today was my holiday when we got back I had a go at Socom II. Now my Japanese is quite good, but I haven't a clue about any military terms. But one of the pieces of advice I give teenage or adult students is to play your favourite playstation game in English. And it really does work, things repeat so often, are an intrinsic part of the game and it's fun, so after a few goes things like "clear the area" or "activate main weapons" or "undercover agent" become second nature!!

So from tomorrow till Friday I'm in Hong Kong, so replies to emails will be a little late, but CD orders etc. will still be sent off as quickly as usual from Shikoku!

September 19th 2004 - Sunday - More stuff for the site

Today was clearing up all the loose ends before I head off to Hong Kong this week. First up was finishing off the game software for the MEXT pilot school, there are now quite a lot of pilot IT schools who use GE, I should maybe think about doing workshops for them! Then I did some updates on the site. After yesterday's presentation I decided to give all the more "experiential" lesson plans a bit of a boost and put them on the man curriculum page ( they're at the bottom) . I also had a look at a few sites that had realtime weather reports on them, and as I was in a writing mood I put up the Weather Predicting game on the site. Mind you 3 hours to write up one game is a lot!! But I used to use it in my lessons and it works great. I still have to get the Japanese version proof read before I put all the links up.

I also found out that they've put my workshop on first in the morning at the JALT conference in November, somebody's idea of how best to waken people up!! Just got to make sure I choose the right drinking buddies the night before!

Then it was catching up on all my emails which took the rest of the day!

September 18th 2004 - Saturday - Back to basics

Today I attended a presentation by Tom Merner, who has done a lot of work with elementary school English activities. Tom is really on the ball, is a great bloke, really knows his stuff and gave a great presentation.

He started off by going through the guidelines. And he was very much focussing on the "it's not teaching English", and he put the lessons into the broader context of the "Period of Integrated Study" i.e. it's not about teaching kids English, but using English activities to improve the kids' personal development. This is something I totally agree with. And as he says is something that many companies involved with schools simply ignore because they have never read what they are supposed to be teaching! In Tom's translation the aims are "developing better problem-solving qualities and skills by being able to identify issues, learn, think and making judgments by themselves" and "nurturing attitudes to actively and creatively involve themselves in problem-solving and investigative activities". Very nice.

It was really good to hear this again from an authoritative source as this is what it's all about. This is where most of the Genki English activities came about, i.e. doing things like cooking, or hallowe'en games and especially exchange projects. Unfortunately what has happened is that many places have taken this to just mean "have fun with English", do the simplest type of lesson possible and the students don't develop at all. Hence recently I've been pushing more for the, right here are ideas that work that will get the kids speaking and once we've done that let's start doing these types of international projects. But I think I will start putting more of the more experiential type activities back up, and hopefully the schools can make a judgement as to how to balance their curriculum! ( Optimism eh!)

Tom also showed us his new textbook, and wow that is fantastic!! It's written by Tom and Koizumi Sensei. Koizumi sensei is pretty famous because he's an amazing teacher, he's not one of these guru's who's never set foot in a classroom, he's just a 100% talented teacher. Now I've always found his ideas to be tricky to put into practise for the average teacher as the presentation of the things he does is key. But in this new textbook he's put his ideas down in the most easy to understand way. And rather than starting from the English, he's started from the topics the kids do in other subjects and introduced English to them. e.g. things like "How old is the Daibutsu in Nara?", "How do you get to Kyoto from your house?" or "How tall are you?". The books are very well presented and the teachers packs look pretty cool. I was well impressed.

So that was certainly a presentation that was worth attending. Tom's on a tour of the country, so if you get the chance then I'd recommend seeing him. It was also good to see a great textbook being produced. Most of the other stuff on the market I just cringe, errrgh. But finding something good is great as it means I can just recommend it rather than having to produce one myself!

So it gave me a lot of things to think about. There are many ways of doing this and it all depends on how you interpret the guidelines. Some people just take the guidelines on face value and simply play with the kids and basically make sure they don't hate English. I think this has it's merits, but as most of us have seen it is quite easy to do and not something that takes 6 years! The main reason for having this is to stop JHS teachers or more traditional teachers coming in with strict English lessons that turn the kids off. Hence at the other end are people who ignore everything and sit down with English methods from outside schools and do make the kids hate English. These people are just missing the boat because that's not what it's about. English is part of "International Understanding" so that's the stance I've been taking, it's about giving them confidence, basic English skills and the chance to use them to communicate with people in a totally fun way ( one of the teachers who attended today said one of her neighbours was in my demo class the other day and came home totally excited about it!). My method up to now has been to speak with the kids, find out what they want to say to English speakers and make fun lesson plans based around that English. Then once they have that English they can use it in real life exchanges and learn that foreigners are not all weird aliens! What Tom has done is to look one step up again as International Understanding is part of the "Integrated Studies".

So first of all I was really impressed with Tom's book, it is really good, but when I came to think about it more, I doesn't teach the kids to be able to speak any English. The teacher basically teachers a great lesson and drops in English phrases where possible, the kids will learn to understand and think about the target material, but there isn't the time taken to get the kids actually speaking. Nor are ALTs involved. Now this is what Tom wants, and it's done on purpose as the kids development is the main thing, not learning English. And this certainly has its merits. I personally would love schools to adopt it, as it is great for the kids. But pulling back to the big picture it doesn't solve Japan's English and lack of International Understanding problem!. So I think my way of looking at things is still maybe the way to go forward, but it will be very interesting to see how things turn out in the future. Certainly having a book as good as Tom's taking the "it isn't English teaching" approach will nicely balance the "English cram, cram, cram" people and hopefully keep the debate open as to how to proceed with making English a subject and we can hopefully work out a lot more methodologies and find out what really works for the kids!!

September 17th 2004 - Friday - Big website update

Got a lot of new stuff on the website today. Including the new "Classroom English / Classroom Japanese" page. I added in the Japanese and also put the Japanese in Roman letters which should hopefully help out new ALTs. I would have certainly loved something like this when I was a JET! I also put up a new FAQ section for Japanese teachers. Basically at every workshop I get asked the same half dozen questions ( which is usually a good thing!), all of which have pretty good solutions. I haven't done the English version yet, but if you know any Japanese teachers who are struggling with English lessons then be sure to tell them about the page. I also updated the Halloween pages on the site.

Elsewhere I also did the write up of my presentations in Osaka, Tokyo and Nagoya in October, and I also did some more work on a computer project I'm doing for one of the Ministry's Research schools. This time it's not an English research school, but an IT research school. They asked me to help with a big demonstration class they have in November ( with lots of big wigs apparently attending) so I'm happy to help out.

So a very productive day today!

September 16th 2004 - Thursday - You learn something new everyday

I learnt quite a lot today! Today's school was a bit special and quite secret ( you'll notice it's not on the schedule) because for the last 2 years they've had one of the other Elementary School experts helping their school out. I was quite surprised to find that the head of that particular publisher actually taught the lessons herself!! Unfortunately it seems the school weren't too keen on what they did as they didn't include the schools own teachers in the lessons and the kids apparently didn't enjoy the lessons very much. So one of the teachers, a really great guy, got permission to ask me to pop along for a seminar and also for a model class to show the teachers how they can teach on their own.

So I was well up for that. Individual lessons always help counter the "oh Genki English is just for big groups" type of criticism, plus they are always fun! The model class was a 4th grade class ( always the best) so I figured I'd do the warm up game ( the basics), a review of stuff they've done before using the "What's your name?" and "Rock, paper, scissors", then in the remaining time I'd do "What are you doing?" as the main lesson. If they've had English for two years this should be fine. I also planned to slow things right down, not speak English but instead use the computer for all the new words and rather than go off with all my usual tricks and genkiness I'd just pretend I was a normal non-English speaking non-experienced Japanese teacher and play things exactly by the book.

So the warm up went OK-ish. The kids responded well, but they were so quiet! They actually seemed scared to speak, not scared in the "shy" Japanese way, but scared I'd shout at them. So a bit of motivation talk sorted that out. Then "What's your name?" and they could do this quite well when practising with me. So I went straight into the song, but it seemed like they'd never done any pair work before. So I had to do it again and this time they were really quite good. The teachers also seemed very happy to see how well the songs work. Never be afraid to repeat the songs, each time challenging the kids to get louder each time. It works wonders!

However this had taken longer than I thought ( I had mistakenly figured that after 2 years with a famous teacher they could nail "What's your name?" and basic classroom English without much preparation!!), so I cut Rock, Paper, Scissors and went straight into "What are you doing?". They did really well on the basic introducing of the vocab. But simply repeating after the teacher isn't real learning so of course I used the "I like everything game" to give them some independent practice and for me to see how well they'd got the English. And they hadn't! They were cool with simply repeating stuff, but had no idea at all about asking questions to each other. Hmmm. Normally I would have built them up to doing this, but I again wrongly assumed that during 2 years they would have at least done some practise with each other instead of just with the teacher!! So I kept going a bit longer and we tried the game a few more times and although they were very quiet they did get a lot better! But then I realised I was really running out of time and was actually thinking that this might go very pear shaped! If this was a normal class I would leave the game till next time and just concentrate more on confidence and independence building, but as it was supposed to be a complete example lesson I really had to get it down to the end!

But the kids could only get half the answers on their own. So I figured, right let's bring the pace up and go straight into the song. And to be honest I should have done that right from the start. With two goes singing through the song they practically had it. It makes a huge difference. So my advice is to forget the "vocab" stage and just plough straight into the acapella and song, test with "I like everything", do the song again, test again and you should be OK! So with the song there was at least enough to work on for the Harry Potter game. The teachers gave me a bit of extra time and the kids even suggested one team as Voldemorts and one team as Dementors!! The kids were still really quiet, but when playing the game with them they all spoke with really clear pronunciation ( with maybe a touch too much of a Yorkshire accent!), which was good. It's always important to listen to the kids who don't learn English outside school as these are the ones that reflect your lesson.

So even though communicative type activities seamed quite alien to them at first ( how can you teach without them? ) and they didn't quite master the whole theme, they at least succeeded in my aim of getting them able to use the question and answers on their own to effectively communicate in the game. And more importantly the Japanese teachers could see how they could pull off a lesson on their own.

If I had to do this again as I model I would have just done a "from the beginning" lesson and just gone through the basic skills, probably just doing the warm up to get control and then "What's your name?" as the main theme. ( Or if I was doing it as me and not pretending to be a Japanese teacher, I would have blasted through with a load of songs, got them on a "rock & roll" high and then let them loose on the game! But that wasn't called for today. )

But the teachers did enjoy the lesson and did indeed have the confidence to try a lesson like that on their own. And of course it was completely different from the type of rote learning lessons they had seen in the past.

So then after a quick break it was the teachers seminar. That was a bit rough for the teachers as I only had an hour and rather than do an activity then explain it, they had already seen the activities and it was just questions and answers! Plus they needed all the background "English is easy", how to choose topics, what to do about pronunciation. And although it was really hot they were still into things, laughing at the jokes and asking all the right questions. So hopefully that's another school where even the "I hate English" teachers have a firm target to aim for and the inclination to try it for themselves!

So today really made me feel like wanting to be an ALT again!! It would be so great to just get a regular class and get them super good. But another model school that can't be duplicated isn't what's needed, what we need is a normal bread and butter school with normal teachers to prove how easy it is to get the kids good. And hopefully over the last few weeks there are a few more schools that can achieve this!

September 15th 2004 - Wednesday - Stormy & Classroom English

The weather is very strange recently, today was a full on electrical storm with lightning going everywhere! I also had a splitting headache so after my laptop's battery died I went for a lie down. I woke up in the afternoon and felt a lot more genki so got to work on the Classroom English / Classroom Japanese page.

September 14th 2004 - Tuesday - Show, workshop, Classroom English

As it's back to term time now teachers only have time for workshops after classes have finished. Which is good as that means I can do some stuff with the kids beforehand to show the teachers just how well the songs and ideas work in practice. I usually do this by getting all the kids in the gym and squashing down four hours worth of lessons into a one hour lesson, ( or "show" as I call it as it sounds better for the press!). Today's kids were great, and were probably the most well behaved kids I've ever seen, well motivated, noisy when I wanted them to be and quiet in the talky bits. The parents were also good. Great.

After lunch with the kids ( I really need to get the "What do you think of....?" theme up on the site!) I had a long meeting with the teachers in charge and was very impressed with their curriculum. Most schools have the most weird ideas of what to teach, but everything here was great. It wasn't till later I realised a lot of the material was GE based. They also had some cool ideas of their own, for example using a laundry theme for clothes. This school has just started English lessons this month so the seminar was very much a kickstarter, giving the teachers specific help on the topics they have to teach before Christmas. So I cut out most of the general type stuff, just did a bit of motivation talking and then activities. First request was "Doctor, Doctor" with the Doctor, Doctor game for the younger grades and a modified Harry Potter game for the older grades ( i.e. the Voldemorts say "You're .... hurts" and the kids have to act like their arm or whatever hurts. The free Harry Potters come along and say "Are you OK?" and the answer is "My ... hurts", then they are free. It worked great!). Then a quick look through the animals theme, they loved the fact that CD4 has not only the animal names but also the sounds the animals make. I agree that this isn't the most useful English in the universe, but the younger kids love it and it really gets them excited. Then a quick go through the colour song ( the kids point to the colour whilst singing), and a few extra bits like katakana etc. etc. I ran way over time, but they seemed very happy with the result!

Afterwards the teachers were also asking about Classroom English. This is something I've been looking at for a while now. They have lots of lists of words and phrases, but the other teachers just ignore them as they don't know how to pronounce them. So a CD would be really useful, they said! So figuring it would be a solid goal for me I said I'd make one for them! Hopefully if they like it I'll be able to make it into a proper CD for other teachers to use as well.

Then I came home a fell straight asleep!!

September 13th 2004 - Monday - A Sunny Holiday - Yeah!!

Wow. For the first time in ages it was actually sunny on my day off. Wonderful.

September 12th 2004 - Sunday - Bits and Bobs

Did quite a few bits and bobs today, playing around with some music ideas and stuff.

September 11th 2004 - Saturday - Samples, Samples, I robot

Couple of hours doing email catch up, then had a meeting with a mate about some business stuff.

Then I popped into the music store for a couple of hours to listen to a load of sample CDs. There is some fantastic stuff out there, and I ended up buying quite a few. This new Genki English CD is going to sound soooo good!

Then in the evening I went to see I, robot. Despite all the bad reviews I thought it was really good! Definitely worth seeing.

Scepter 10th 2004 - Friday - Yanagawa

I was first invited to today's school a long while ago by one of the parents. At the beginning it was quite tricky to get the school to agree to the visit, but once they find out what I do they've been well keen, even sending out teachers to my other workshops to get some ideas in advance! So a great kids show ( the first one in ages) and a great seminar for the teachers. The teachers in charge of International Understanding Education in the other schools in the city also attended. I recognised quite a few of their faces from the Maruzen bookstore tours and they seemed very surprised at how different my actual elementary school workshops are, where the emphasis is 100% on solving their problems!

And after some great Unagi to eat it was off on the quite long drive home!

September 9th 2004 - Thursday - Book and UK/England

I wasn't too motivated to do any music today, things just didn't seem to jive right ( maybe it's the clouds outside) . But I did get a massive chunk of my new book done. I also realised I didn't mention in the newsletter yesterday or in the diary about the UK/England explanation animation I put on the site last week!

Got an important school gig tomorrow, so got to prepare some stuff for that. I might even take my DVD player down there for the full on visual effects show....

September 8th 2004 - Wednesday - In town...

Went into town to run some errands, send some stuff off to my Mum and pay for my ticket to Hong Kong next week. I also popped into Best Denki and bought the Panasonic software that will let me copy my mp3s onto my phone digitally. Although the coding ( for the digital rights management!) takes a while, it's great to be able to see the artist name etc. on the phone's display! 9 hours of audio, plus the quality is great. Overall then well worthwhile and yet another reason to love my phone!

And at long last there is also a new laptop out that's better than mine. For the last two year the specs have just been going downhill and the machines have been getting bigger! Silly really. So the new Fujitsu is a similar size and spec as mine, but just a touch faster. So I'll at least have one option if mine decides to die!

I also had a look at maybe having the phonics songs as paid for downloadable MP3s from the site. That would be interesting if I could get it to work.

After shopping it was down by the river to do some music work. It's amazing what difference the weather makes, yesterday I couldn't write anything genki at all, today with the sun shining and fine weather it was all really easy. Cool.

September 7th 2004 - Tuesday - Big typhoon, Newsletters and stuff

Oooo, this is a big typhoon! Well not really, when I first came to Japan everyone started talking about typhoons and really I didn't think they are much bigger than the storms we have back home. But this morning I went out for a carton of milk and couldn't stand up on the way back! I was also due to do some music work today, but with the rain and clouds outside everything I sat down to produce sounded dark and sad. Great for a normal track, but not for a GE song!

So I wrote the English and Japanese newsletters. It's always a bit tricky to decide what to put in the newsletters as so many people want different things, so I figured I'd put in the "After Olympic games" ideas I put on the discussion board last week, plus of course news of all the updates to the site - I was busy last week!

September 6th 2004 - Monday - It's beyond a joke now....

So it's my weekly day off again, and what happens??? Yes, it's raining! This is beyond a joke now, basically everyday I've had off this Summer has rained! Today I had planned to go to the Space World Theme Park for a change, but it's not that much fun in the rain! So in the end we just drove around kitakyushu, and eventually popped into the new natural history museum they have, which is quite cool with loads of big huge dinosaurs! There were also a big bunch of elementary school kids there, who of course wanted to try their English. One kid came up and said "Is this your hat?", obviously not having a clue what it meant! Looks like someone needs to start using the Genki English curriculum.

Then in the evening we went to the cinema, my girlfriend wanted to watch "Deep Blue", which was quite good actually. Although the last line about anti-whaling seemed to go straight over the heads of the audience! So a few goes on some arcade games and the end of another rainy holiday!

September 5th 2004 - Sunday - backing up + ipod

I spent the entire day today backing up the GE data. It's crazy the amount of data I produce! Plus everything has to be securely backed up and accessible, which can take a long time. So overall today I had two computers moving a couple of hundred gigs around.

In the evening I went out to the electronics store because I was thinking about getting an ipod. Usually I use my phone, which can hold around 5 hours of music, but due to the very silly digital rights management, I can only transfer data across to it in real-time, which is a real pain. I also want to listen to more motivation CDs and language CDs ( important to always keep learning myself!), so figured I could just have an ipod with everything on it! But.... in the end I decided I wouldn't bother as a) ipods are really expensive! b) Once you have your data on an ipod you can't copy it back to your computer, i.e. you still have to keep the 40 gigs of data on your hard drive ( space which I don't have on my laptop) and c) It's an extra thing to carry around! So I'm going to stick with using my phone, I can still transfer data across from my computer every day, and it's so convenient to have everything ( ebooks, schedule, music, games, photos etc. etc. ) in one unit.

I also thought about getting the Edirol PCR-1 keyboard, which would be great for composing on the road, but once again I figured that travelling light is probably the best bet. The digital lifestyle ( i.e. having everything, books, magazines, TV, video, music, email etc ) on my computer is the least heavy to carry around the country.

September 4th 2004 - Saturday - Bits and Pieces

Today was finishing off the other parts of the website and uploading another couple of webpage narrations, this time for the GenkiJapan page and the parents page.

September 3rd 2004 - Friday - more webpage stuff

More updates to the website today, with more photos on the songs pages.

September 2nd 2004 - Thursday - Catch up

As I had spent the last few days doing creative stuff, of course today all my business work caught up with me with a lot of phonecalls and emails asking why I hadn't got back to people! Creating stuff's cool, but I also got to pay the bills! So first off today was to plough through my email, which took a good few hours, and also to do my August expenses ( not so much this month, which could be quite good!).

Then a few other bits of computer stuff ( and backing up ) and now I'm going to get through some more of the action pictures for the website.

September 1st 2004 - Wednesday - Photos on the website

I got a lot of work done today as well - cool! The main thing I managed to do was to put up photos showing the gestures and actions for a fair few of the songs, including Weather, Thank you, What are you doing?, Where are you going?, Good Morning, What sports do you play? and How did you get here? On their own they do look pretty sad to say the least and I just know people are going to rib me about them something rotten, but once they're on the site they fall into that category of "Why on Earth didn't I do this earlier?" as it makes teaching the songs so much easier to see by just scanning the page!

I also recorded another audio page, this time for the Japanese songs page. So a great day, I really enjoy working on the website!

August 31st 2004 - Tuesday - Loads of stuff

First day back at computer work and I got a ton of stuff done!! One thing I've been working on is having photos of the gestures to all the songs on the site. Each song has it's own online teaching video, but for people who come to the site for the first time I think actual photos would help them better understand how to do the songs. So I worked on that ( should be online later this week). And another thing I've been wanting to do is to have me speaking the articles on the site, especially the Japanese versions. That way instead of just skimming through the written article, you click on "play", sit back and relax as I read through the article, of course in an amusing way! So I managed to get those done for the games page, curriculum page and the "pronunciation guide" pages!

I also transferred the motivation CDs I bought in Singapore over to my phone, went to the hospital to get some new asthma medicine ( it's going to get colder now, so best to be prepared!), and even to the gym ( I'm going to be doing only computer work for most of this month, which isn't that healthy!).

August 30th 2004 - Monday - Big Typhoon

My scheduled day off and a big typhoon comes. I came seem to win with the weather this year! But I took the chance to do all the errand things like going to the bank and stuff.

August 29th - Sunday - Show in Ishikawa

After a very good night's sleep it was up for a very big breakfast. Then I popped into the onsen. Oh my goodness, it's massive! With great huge Greek statues of horses and gods, pouring water into the baths.

The owner caught up with me again and had a chat about how it would be great to make a Genki English programme for hotel staff, now there's an interesting idea. Then to set up the show. And again, crazy! It was a full on 3/4 size classical opera house complete with chandeliers, velvet wall upholstery and hand painted ceiling artwork. Not your usual gym then.

The show was also cool (with great acoustics) and the kids belted through "Rock, Paper, Scissors", "How are you?", "Rocket Launch", "Mingle", "What are you doing?", "Harry Potter", "What's your name?" and back for an encore of "Rock, Paper, Scissors". Now that's quite a lot!

Then a chat with the parents ( "What, you mean the kids should learn to speak before learning to write English? Hehhhhhhhh"), and a nice rest in the very posh ryokan before hopefully flying back to Kyushu ( if the typhoon doesn't hit!!)

August 28th - Saturday - Back to the life of luxury!

Today I was due to go up to Ishikawa for a private kids show and parents Q&A. But the way the finances worked out it would effectively mean I'd be doing it for free. This month I've already done a heck of a lot of volunteer work at schools in Fukuoka ( I've only been paid for one day's work in August!), so the thought of traveling up there so near a typhoon and again as a freebie made me think I was mad!

But as usually happens with these things, however much I think it would be easier just to stay in one place, these trips always turn out to be fantastic experiences. And today was just crazy! Tomorrow's show is in an onsen resort, but it's not just any old onsen it's a massive, massive complex with huge Roman columns, Greek statues and massive murals on the floors and ceilings, talk about luxurious! And as the girl who organised the show knows the owners I got put up not in a room, but in my own suite!

Plus then the poshest dinner I've ever had in Japan ( even beats the whole live octopus I had last year), it was a full on banquet with loads of sushi, sashimi, then a Western Course, then a steak and a rock to cook it on. At 10 the owner came down to chat with us, then after a while it was decided to do Karaoke, it must be cool to have your own hotel where you can just pop into your own Karaoke bar. And that was decorated in the most amazing Louis XIV style, like a French palace. All the staff knew I was with the owner so were treating me like a ambassador or something, unbelievable!

So quite an interesting day to say the least! I wonder what tomorrow will be like?

August 27th - Friday - Last of the summer wine

Today was the last of the Summer Workshops for this year. In previous years August has been the fund raising month doing private shows and bookstores to fund the free school visits, but this year was the real thing with hours and hours of elementary school workshops. And it is really great because in the Summer the teachers have the time to think things over and really are looking for help with their lessons.

Today's first school was great. As usual you can always tell how things will be by the head teacher's greeting, and the guy today greeted me with a massive thick folder of print outs from the website! He was totally into things, and hence the workshop was great. Actually yesterday I was given a DVD of one of the July workshops and man do I talk fast!!! I always talk as fast as I can until people start getting lost, then I slow down a touch and have found their level. But that means at some schools I'm fair belting along. So today I did things a bit slower and as we had 3 hours it was cool. Again lots of questions ( always the same ones but that's OK!) which every seemed very happy to learn the answers to!

Then in the afternoon it was in another city. This time the teachers had no idea who I was! I asked the teacher what she needed help with and she said she desperately needs to find some lessons plans, songs, games and pronunciation materials but can't find them anywhere. I love these types of school, where the teachers have absolutely no idea what I do, but in the workshop I give them all the tools they are looking for. Needless to say they were very surprised and very happy at the end of things. I also had a bit of time free before the end so did the "Birthday Song", and they just loved the funky intro!!!!

So I great end to a great Summer, but it's not really over as my schedule is getting full up right until I leave for Europe at the end of November!

August 26th - Thursday - Round full circle

I have a very strong affection for today's school as when I first took Genki English out of Ehime and was going round Fukuoka on a bicycle, in a typhoon, cold calling on schools asking to do shows and seminars today's school was the first school that put their trust in me and asked me to do a show for them!! That was in September 2000, so it was great to go back today and show them how big Genki English has become and how much I really appreciate the support they offered me in the beginning. The teachers were great and it was a cool workshop. Then afterwards the Head teacher asked if I could help out with some classes later on in the year. I don't usually do normal classes as the amount of requests would be crazy, but for this school no problem at all!

Then a quick lunch and off to today's other school in a different city! This school was also really good and the teacher in charge had actually taken the time to meet up at Starbucks for a chat a few weeks ago. She specifically asked for "What do you do?" ( I hadn't done that for a while and was pleasantly surprised at how much fun it is!) and topics for 6th graders. The other teachers also had lots of questions, so it was really good. After the lesson the teacher wanted some help with doing an email exchange programme with China. In the GE projects I always recommend, but today it only showed up 3 suitable schools in China! Hmm, that could cause a few problems!

So after 5.5 hours of workshops it was back home to get mail work done. But I was really, really happy to be able to go back to that first school today, it really did make me see how far Genki English has come, how far I have to go, and how much support people have given me all the way through, for which I'm very grateful.

August 25th - Wednesday - Dazaifu

Today's school was from lunchtime, and was again really good. There were 2 new ALTs who also attended today. They had just arrived in Japan and looked more than a little shell shocked by my presentation ( it was in Japanese as well!), but they got into things and hopefully picked up some hints and tips. It was also a great chance to go through with the teachers the how to teach with ALTs speech.

Then in the evening I was totally, totally shattered! I felt sooo tired. I guess doing workshops everyday, including weekends, without a break isn't too healthy!

August 24th - Tuesday - Back to Fukuoka

Had a good school today, with another 2.5 hour workshop. It's great getting into the rhythm of things as this week it's full on with school workshops!

August 23rd - Monday - Okayama

Back to Okayama again! Along with Fukuoka, Okayama has some of the best elementary school teachers in Japan. They are really genki and don't need too much motivation talking, they're already into it and are just wanting new ideas and techniques. Which was just as well today as there were so many teachers they split them into two groups. I took one group for an hour whilst another consultant took the other group, then switched round. They got through tons of stuff including a review of What's your name? from last year, Where are you going?, What are you doing? plus Harry Potter, then "What's your favourite colour?" ( they loved that ) , "I have a question" and then "I like pink fish" game to show them that any language, however complex, can be taught in a fun and genki way!

Then after being very kindly invited for dinner it was on the Shinkansen back to Kyushu.

August 22nd - Kids English at Maruzen

Yesterday it seemed that just about everyone was new to Genki English, whereas today it seemed like all the fans had turned out in force! Which was just as well as I was demoing the Kids English series. Kids English is aimed at kids to learn at home, and although today was a presentation for the parents about the program, they of course bring their kids along, which usually makes any attempt at explaining the product virtually impossible! But today as there were also lots of teachers it was easy to go through the song demos ( the "Can I play?" song went down a storm!), and then the kids were quiet enough so I could explain to the parents all the cool things in the program. As usual the picture books played along with the CDs are really impressive, the voices of the narrators we chose are just so beautiful, it sends a shiver down your spine and makes the whole experience feel like you're watching a movie!! It was also the most popular presentation at the Maruzen fair with around 50 people putting their names down to attend. Cool

August 21st - Saturday - Fukuoka Maruzen

Just about every teacher in Fukuoka has the Genki English Superpack and lots of the teachers very often turn out for GE workshops. So today I figured I'd do all new stuff, something of a bit higher level for people who've already seen everything else. But it turned out that there were also loads of people who had come along for the first time! So that was a bit tricky as I hadn't prepared to do any of the introductions or basics. But even so it was still the best presentation there that day! With good teachers attending, my workshops always seems like time is flying along, but I was watching some of the others and wow, do they drag on or what!! I always look at the audiences faces and as soon as they start to wonder or lose interest, it's "bang", change direction or do something new. But maybe it's better just to talk on even if nobody is listening..... nah, I don't think so!! I also did the card game today which worked out really well!

Then afterwards it was a planning meeting for tomorrows presentation, a dinner with the publishers and then up till 3 preparing the new visuals for tomorrow.

August 20th - Friday - Things come easy

What a complete contrast to the last two days! Today I was up early and very genki. I started some music work and whilst working on one song I managed to completely write a new one in 30 minutes! Cool!

Then down to Maruzen to check on things for tomorrow, and it looks like the Kids English presentation on Sunday will be the most popular with nearly 50 people. Then down to the coffee shop by river to do some more music work, it's not quite a Malaysian beach but when I'm on a roll it's great!

August 18th/19th - things come hard

Planned to spend two days doing production work for the new CDs, but Wednesday was spent doing business stuff and on Thursday I just couldn't get anything done however hard I tried! Having a splitting headache didn't help much either.

August 17th - Tuesday - two schools

Wow, it's really back into things today with two 2.5 hour long workshops in Fukuoka. And they were great. I usually get really cultured shocked coming back to Japan as the motivation level of the teachers here is always way below other countries. But today's schools were very much in the "have lessons already so need help" mold and were really into things. In fact at the second school I spent over an hour just chatting with the teachers about other projects after the workshop had finished. Great.

August 16th - Monday - Back to work

Only had 6,000 emails waiting for me when I got back. Luckily 5960 of them were only junk mails, so not that many to reply to, I guess everyone else must be on holiday! I also tried out a great idea I had for the Months of the Year theme, of having pictures of famous people for each month. But when I came to research it, it seems that nearly all famous people that Japanese kids know are all born in the same months!!

August 8th - 15th Holiday!! Yeah!

Fantastic, a whole week off in the sun!! It's so nice being away from air pollution, over head cables and mounds of concrete. Just sitting by the pool, plenty of vegetables to eat and loads of exercise from swimming in the sea. I should really spend more time here instead of Japan! That always sounds a "too expensive" thing to do, but it's miles cheaper living here!

August 7th 2004 - Saturday - SPA Magazine & all ready!

I saw the new SPA magazine in a convenience store today, and what happens to be shining out from page 41 - my picture! The article wasn't quite what I remember saying in the interview ( they never are) but it's a good mention of Genki English to a new genre of learner!

Otherwise I think I'm all ready for my holidays! Got my mail replies all up to date, finished all the music and website work I have to do for now and got everything backed up. This morning I also locked the discussion boards, to hopefully cut down on the trolls and spam while I'm away. Mind you some nutter this morning put up a message on the board slagging me off for taking a week's holiday!!! Some people have been in Japan a little too long!

So just got to wait for some Japanese proof reading this evening for a new advert, then I'll power down my computer and not touch it for a whole week!!

OK, enjoy your Summer!

August 6th 2004 - Friday - Getting ready for my hols!

I've got two days now to finish off any loose ends and get ready for a whole week off in the sun!!! Yeah! It will be my first whole week away from Genki English since I started it 5 years ago ( can't believe it's so long!) , and although I'll take my music computer ( for a bit of songwriting down by the beach) I'm not taking my laptop!! ( Partly on my girlfriend's orders!)

So no new projects to start, just finishing off things like last months accounts ( spent a touch too much there!), and a cool advert for a new Catalogue ( Spiderman influenced !), and just bits and bobs. But after yesterday not doing too much I was quite genki, which was very nice.

I also heard about a really great website called - it's great!

August 5th 2004 - Thursday - I'm shattered again + iTunes

After all the excitement of yesterday I was worn out today! Nevermind, it's my holidays next week!

One thing I did do today was to download the iTunes software, and it's great! Until now Windows media player etc. still tends to think in terms of individual CDs, but with iTunes it's dead easy to rearrange the songs according to artist or style or whatever, and it's so cool that I have apparently 4.7 days worth of music on my hard drives! Putting it on random mode really is a whole new way of listening to music, wow, it's like hearing a CD for the first time!

Now if only I could justify buying an ipod...

August 4th 2004 - Wednesday - Fantastic School and business people

This morning's school was great! Over the past couple of days I've been half thinking that I've maybe lost my touch with some of the teachers not being as genki as usual. But today there were no such worries at all and it was a fantastic workshop! It's probably because unlike the last couple of days, today's teachers actually have to teach English rather than just "think out teaching it", and they were asking all sorts of stuff and wanting to go through tons of stuff. There was no need for warming up as they were ready to go right from the start! That's what I like to see! I had a kids show at this school a couple of weeks ago and that really helped as the teachers already knew the activities work, they just wanted to learn how to do them themselves! So we got through loads more than any other school this summer, taking request left, right and center and they lapped it up. Excellent, I love teachers who are this enthusiastic. This school is going to be a pilot school from September, so it'll be great to see how they get on.

Then in the afternoon I had to give a business presentation! As much as I've worked over the last few years there are still quite a few schools that don't know about Genki English. Unfortunately I can't afford to employ people to go out to schools and spread the word, and advertising is really expensive, so today's meeting was a presentation to the school educational materials suppliers to all of Kyushu - including Okinawa! And they seemed really keen and totally up for introducing the materials to their schools. So if everything works out OK, I'll be happy that I'll get the word out to more teachers, kids will be happy that they get some genki lessons, the suppliers will be happy as they'll get a commission on sales, and ALTs should be happy as it means it will be dead easy to get your schools to buy the Superpack and Picture Card packs for you as it's all nice and official! ( Just think of all the laminating time you can save!)

But of course this being Japan ( well actually I think it's the same anywhere!) the real work isn't done during the day, it's done at the party in the evening! So after a nice stomach full of BBQd meat, it was doing the rounds with several bottles of beer, chatting to everyone, filling up their glasses and hopefully securing a few gigs in the process. As it was Kyushu they all seemed pretty impressed that I'd been to some of the smallest town's in their prefectures, except of course Okinawa where I've not been yet. But the Okinawa guy was just impressed full stop, maybe because he'd already sold two superpacks before he even knew what Genki English was!

So a really fun day!

August 3rd 2004 - Tuesday - The 3rd Rule of GenkiEnglish

Tried out one of my new synths this morning, oh very nice!! It sounds great, so I was in a really good mood for today's school. And the signs were good, with the kouchou sensei having a good chat about Japanese schools and the sister school they have in Korea.

The actual workshop was OK, but there were a couple of sour faced teachers who were really against anything to do with teaching English. Obviously they came round at the end with my final speech about why this is so important, but until then they didn't really join in. The CD player didn't work at first, so I also missed the chance to get them all smiling from the beginning - the songs are sooo necessary to get them relaxed and in the mood! I also had only 2 hours today so did things a bit faster than before. Which all together meant I tended to fall into the "chalk and talk" syndrome of not letting the teachers take the lead! I think I've had so much practise this Summer that things are a bit too smooth and flowing. So I need to change things! I think from now on instead of getting requests at the beginning and then doing a workshop to fit them, I'll take the requests one at a time, listen, then solve, get another request or problem and solve that. Hopefully that way the teachers will have more thinking time and it won't matter if the overall time is quite short. As with any presentation or lesson, it's not what I say ( or want to say ) that's important, it's what the teachers take away from it that counts!

Then I walked back from the school, it was quite a way but I had plenty of MP3s on my phone. And I got a lot of time to think. For a while now I've been trying to thing of an easy way to explain the international understanding meaning of these workshops, recently I've been using "Ware ware mo ningen" which works great ( it sort of means "we ( non-Japanese) too are people" but it uses "ware ware" which is usually used to accentuate the difference between Japanese and foreigners and hence the irony accentuates what I want to say). The problem is that it doesn't work if said from a Japanese person's point of view ( as "ware ware" means "we")!

In the workshops the thinking behind the actual Genki English teaching has now solidified into two rules "Dekiru, dekiru, dekiru to omoeba dekiru" ( think you can do it and you can!) and "Maketara, mou ikkai!" ( losing just means "try again") and I always felt there should be a third. And whilst I was walking along today, it clicked. The third rule is this International Understanding point and the line is: "Ningen ha ningen" ( people are people! but it doesn't sound like depeche mode in Japanese!). So let me try that out tomorrow!! These sound bites, plus knowing about the website are what people take away from my workshops, and now there is a full set.

1. Dekiru to omoeba dekiru
2. Maketara mou ikkai
3. Ningen ha ningen

Cool! And just as I figured that out the random songs on my phone changed from sad songs to genki ones! And from Neneh Cherry I got a great idea for a musical instruments theme! Excellent!

So now in Starbucks I'll get my mail and stuff sorted, then back to do some music work tonight! Great.

August 2nd 2004 - Monday - Cool School

Today's school was a little strange as they asked for a seminar "for very beginners" but they had actually been teaching English for three years!!! And actually even though it was an official compulsory workshop several teachers simply ran away when they heard it was being done by a non-Japanese. Hmmm, a lot to fix here! The thing is the teachers who were there were great, and it's really the other teachers that need to see my workshop!!

I also had a little less time than usual so trimmed a few things, but at the end I was asked questions about things I'd left out - it really does all need to be in there! But they were cool, did the activities, got the motivation stuff and after a while also picked up on why it is actually wrong to discriminate people by race!! So that was cool.

Then it was really, really rainy so I went back home and started on today's computer work.

August 1st 2004 - Sunday - Holiday Typhoon

Holiday today. So it rained. Deja vu.

July 31st 2004 - Saturday - Teacher Chats

Today I didn't have any workshops but had a meeting with a teacher from one of the schools I'm going to next month. So was really cool and just like yesterday it was great to sit down with an enthusiastic teacher, help them out and also learn some cool stuff myself! There are now a ton of new things I've been wanting to put on the site for ages that I really should put up ASAP!

Then another couple of hours checking out keyboards at the music store and the rest of the evening spent at Seattle's Best auditioning demo versions of some cool new music programmes!


July 30th 2004 - Friday - Okayama, great teacher

Today I was scheduled to have a workshop from 1 o'clock, but after chatting with the teacher last night we decided I'd go to the school and have a look at the stuff they were doing in the morning. The teacher there is really good and has some cool ideas and materials. They base their curriculum on NHK's Eigorian, which I haven't found to have such good results in the past as many teachers just use it for input but don't get the kids speaking. But here they use the video and the Eigorian website for one hour, then in the following lesson they do games and activities to actually use the English from the programme. This seemed to work quite well and I went through a few games with the teacher who seemed very happy!

Then in the afternoon it was the seminar. I thought that went well, there was this school plus the one next door, and they were asking quite a few questions, but there was certainly a difference in attitude between the two schools. Usually in these Summer workshops I've been doing a long warm up with How are you, my self intro, Q&A, the official guidelines, curriculum, lesson planning, how old are you?, mingle, Where are you going?, goal setting and the war speech. But they were quite good today so I also had time for the Harry Potter game - which they nailed! I thought it went great, but when I went back to the head teachers office the first thing he said was "Yes but of course we Japanese people are unable to learn English" - oh my goodness, had this guy not listened to anything that I had said over the last 3 hours??! Usually with this type of head teacher I know in advance from the initial chat we have and so can usually step things up in the seminar to counter it, but I hadn't met him before so didn't know he was one of these teachers! So he got a very quick response telling him he was completely wrong. When I came to look back at the workshop it was his teachers that were the ones who sat back doing nothing, and the ones from the other school that were really into things. As usual the rule applies, "good kouchou = good school" "bad kouchou=bad school"!!

But although the teachers who I chatted with today will have this to deal with they are really good and trying really hard so I think they'll do well.

Tonight it was the Okayama firework festival, which would have been good to check out, but I was hot and sweaty so took the early shinkansen back to Fukuoka.

July 29th 2004 - Thursday - Okayama

Off on the Shinkansen to Okayama this morning, and it was the nice Hikari with the posh seats and PC power supplies - excellent!

I got picked up at the station by two teachers from today's school and then out for lunch to a very posh Japanese restaurant with a ton of food. Then a three hour workshop. That was good and although the room was very hot ( the air con seemed to make no difference) the teachers were well into it. Then afterwards I had a chat with the teachers, they've put an application in to buy the Superpack but it won't get approved till next year! They were also impressed with the card game.

Then an hours sleep and out for dinner with some of the teachers from the Okayama English teachers group, a group of elementary school teachers who are well into doing English in their schools. After several weeks of "from the beginning" workshops it was good to chat about some more high level stuff. One of the teachers has a big Ministry demo lesson in November and plans to use GE which is cool! They also liked the card game and want more DVDs - interesting!

So a good day and a great night!

July 28th 2004 - Wednesday - Music ( good ) + Computers ( bad)

I'm quite excited about doing the new CD now! Getting my laptop set up to act as a synth and songwriting tool is fantastic, there are just so many great sounds to use! I normally use dedicated music computers, which are great, but recently I just seem to have used up all the decent sounds in there and nothing jumps out as being "wow". But with the computer I can just use my credit card and download a whole range of really just fantastic new sounds, just the thing to get the creative juices flowing. It's just great and I'm totally free as to what styles to do the new songs in - any requests?!!

So after a very happy morning doing music stuff I had a quick break, then went to check my mail and it crashed again! The spam mail I get is now so much the computer can't compress it enough to back up properly and deletes everything! Madness. But luckily I introduced a fourth back-up system ( this time online) and I got things back to normal. But it is a hassle if this becomes a regular occurrence.

July 27th 2004 - Tuesday - One indifferent, one great, & soft synths

Today's two gigs were in two different cities in Fukuoka prefecture, and for both of them it was my first time in the city. So of course for this morning's school they had no idea what I supposed to be doing, even though reps had been sent out to them and they had agreed to the terms of the visit! Apparently they were under the impression it was an English lesson, and hence half the staff had taken a holiday ( the average Japanese teacher's reaction to English or International Understanding Education) . Man, what do you have to do to make schools realise what my job is?!! But the teachers were really good and although they do no English at all ( except for one project in 4th grade) they were keen. It is a long time since I've seen a school that does nothing! But the teachers asked good questions, they didn't have the air of desperation ( and hence relief when I show the materials) that I find in Fukuoka, but were still quite cool.

Then this afternoon's school was completely different!! They are really into things and hence know all about Genki English! In fact the Head teacher seemed to know more about me that I do myself!!! They made a ton of requests for stuff to present which is great! There were 4 or 5 really keen teachers and really I could have done a really high level workshop, but there were also some not quite so confident teachers so I did the basic "from the beginning" gig and they lapped it up. Then afterwards I had a meeting with the teachers and went through a lot of suggestions for refining the good work they're already doing. Excellent. Certainly a school to watch.

Then back home for a shower, a bit of a rest ( watching Richard & Judy with Eddie Izzard as a guest) and then spent the evening playing around on some of the really fantastic soft synths that you can download legally from the net for free. Wow, these are cool, tons of classic sounds and all from my laptop. Excellent, now if only my fingers would stop playing techno music I could get some great work done!

July 26th 2004 - Monday - Back to appreciation, synths & lost mail

Only one school today, but after Saturday's affair it was great to be doing a real workshop to real elementary school teachers again! This time it was 3 hours for a school that will start teaching next April and are now working out lesson plans, curricula etc. and of course running into the same problems ( pronunciation, what to teach etc.) and so invited me to help out! One of the teachers attended my seminar in May, and one had been to a city workshop where they used my video for training and had become a fan!

And the presentation was great, they went from being terrified of having to teach to seeing how easy it can be, how much support there is, why it's so important they do this well and above all believing that they can indeed do it! So a lot of happy faces and a big round of applause at the end. Great. Thanks!

Then to Starbucks to catch up on my email, and then out to the music store to play around on the keyboards for couple of hours. I have to get some new stuff written, so why not do it in the music store where I can play loads of synths really loudly! The store are always cool as they know if I hit on something cool I'll buy that synth. But although there were some cool stuff, it's the Korg Triton that seems the best, but it's just too big! I reckon soft synths are the way to go.

Then to Seattle's Best for a another coffee and flippin eck my computer's hard disk decides it's going to play up and destroy my email inbox!!!! Argh. So I pulled up the back up and that was corrupted as well!! Argh!! So I had to come home and back up from DVD, which means 5 days emails are completely gone! I'm glad it's July where I don't get too much mail, but it's still pretty bad.

July 25th 2004 - Sunday - Keyboards and stuff

Today was planned as a day off, but after yesterday I realise I have to get a lot more work done. I guess I've become a bit complacent as during the summer I'm in places like Kyushu and Okayama where people know what I do and hence really appreciate the presentations and what I can do for them. But I have to work more on the prefectures where I've not presented recently. And that means more media exposure and more top selling products!! And what's the number one thing that everyone keeps asking for? CD vol. 5!

So I decided to redo my studio setup and get it all ready for some serious songwriting and production. I only brought a bit of gear with me to Fukuoka but it seems to be breeding as I've ended up with 4 keyboards, a mixer, guitar and 3 music computers!!! So I spent the day getting them all nicely sorted out into a comfortable set up for getting CD 5 done ASAP!

July 24th 2004 - Saturday - I'm Furious!

As you've probably seen I'm really, really busy this summer. And apart from the Maruzen gig on August 21st in Fukuoka I've had to cut all the usual commercial presentations in order to fit in all the free elementary school workshops. Most days are doubled booked and I don't really have time to move around too much. But this is cool as helping elementary schools is the main part of what I do.

So today's gig was presented to me as being set up by the setting Board of Education in Izumi ( Osaka) and was to be for all 300 teachers in the city. I'm in Fukuoka either side of this date, but as it's such a perfect Genki English workshop ( i.e. all the teachers at once so I only have to do one workshop and they'll all be cool) then of course I said yes.

Now I should have been suspicious when I got the emails this week saying that other publishers would also be presenting today. These other publishers have nothing to do with elementary schools, so why were they there??? But I rang up and checked and was indeed assured that there will be all 300 elementary school teachers there. So after 6 hours of workshops yesterday I set off on the 3 hour ride to Osaka.

And guess what happens this morning..... they suddenly decided that they had changed things and did the big workshop yesterday and today they basically wanted me to do a free English lesson ( despite the fact that all the forms say I only present in Japanese)!!!!! And there were 2, yes 2 elementary school teachers there!!!!!!!! YOU WHAT!!!! In the middle of everything else I came all the way for this??? Needless to say I was not happy..... Now there were also 30 private English teachers present, and with the staff there were around 40 people. But I had prepared an elementary school workshop, and these people were just not interested in slightest. Which is fair enough! If I'd have known it was only private teachers I wouldn't have come ( certainly not for free), but if I had agreed I would have prepared something that was suitable for them! So it was the worst presentation ever, because elem school and private teaching are so, so different they just weren't responding at all. Ridiculous. They had said that they couldn't pay travel expenses, but I agreed to come anyway as elementary school teachers always want to buy superpacks when they see my presentation ( as it just take away all their worries!) so figured that would more than cover the expenses. But of course there were no sales either.

I was not very happy at all. Basically they just used me. Now 2 years ago this used to happen all the time as nobody knew who I was or the work I do, but this time they knew, or rather were told, what I do and they just decided to ignore it!!!!! Man, I thought I'd got past this stage. But no, it's the same story whenever I get a first gig in a prefecture, until they've actually seen it they won't believe that someone like me can help them out!! As soon as I get that first gig, word gets round like wildfire and I'm called back for loads of stuff, but getting that first shot is so much hard work!

So I came back to Fukuoka absolutely shattered, skint and very annoyed, but determined to work even harder so the when the town finally gets round to inviting me they'll see what they missed, and next time they'll have to pay for it!

July 23rd 2004 - Friday - Pro Talento, Bugs & Osaka

Today's 2 Fukuoka schools were also cool, but in a different kind of way to yesterday. In the morning I had a 3 hour workshop and it was like yesterday morning, a great bunch of teachers who have to teach on their own without an ALT and wanted help. As they actually have to teach themselves they were really keen and really got into things. Great! They were actually so good I ran over time!

Then a very hurried lunch and off to this afternoon's school. This is actually a pilot school so it wasn't so much the curriculum or lesson plans they needed, but just the general advice and of course the war speech was especially requested. And oh my goodness!!!! The teachers were just fantastic! I have never seen a bunch of more genki teachers in my life!!! Usually I have to spend at least half an hour getting everyone genki, but there was no need here. 4 of the guys were like professional TV talento, they were just crazy! Seriously I wouldn't be surprised if they don't have their own TV show soon. And because of that everyone was totally into a "dekiru, dekiru, dekiru" mood. Great!

Afterwards I had a quick chat with the teacher about the curriculum and they have some great ideas, including a cool theme about bugs. This is one theme that Japanese kids ask for all the time, but I always found it tricky to get a balance between words people would know in English and what the kids actually want to say. Plus of course the fact that "insect" isn't a word you can use for all bugs, and the pronunciation of the word "bug" varies so much from country to country! The words they chose were butterfly, caterpillar, dragonfly, beetle, stag beetle, mantis, cicada, cricket and grasshopper. I think with a bit of trimming here and there this could be a great theme for CD 5 - the kids will go mad over it, especially the first graders!

Then a very quick shower and a three hour shinkansen to Osaka! I'm glad my Mum sent me some music magazines yesterday, because apart from doing the diary I'm far too tired to do any work! ( Except when I got to my hotel and I was IMing about an event in August - until 1 AM!)

July 22nd 2004 - Thursday - 2 Schools, Chalk & Cheese

Today's 2 schools couldn't have been more different. The 3 hours this morning was really great, the teachers were genki from the start and were really into wanting to learn about how to teach English. They had a great time, really got into the activities, asked loads of great questions and by the end of it they really did feel that they had enough confidence and resources to teach on their own! They especially liked the Teaching Guide Video CDROM - I'll have to include that in all the presentations from now on! You can always tell a good school by the Head teacher's first greeting, if s/he's genki then the teachers are. And today's guy could actually speak English! I've not seen that for a while! He was also really genki so the teachers were fantastic.

Today's workshops were also organised by the Education retailer in Fukuoka, the company that sells the schools their gear. So I not only got chauffeured around, I also got a free lunch!

Then off to this afternoon's school for another 3 hour workshop. First off the signs weren't good as the Head teacher greeted us by hurriedly putting out his cigarette - usually not a good sign! But he was actually a cool guy who said he was looking for a English system to use in the schools and anything I could do to help would be much appreciated. So off to the library ( the summer workshops are done in the school libraries as they have air conditioning!), and the teachers arrived and boy were they hard work!!! Half of them were just sat there with a "why do we have to listen to this" expression on their faces, something I've not seen in a while! By the time they got to the end and especially after the War speech they were totally on board, but it took a lot of tough work to get them there!

Then some nice unagi for dinner and back home, where I had an email from MEXT. The ALTs on the discussion board have been putting together on open letter to the Education Ministry about Elementary School English. I had sent it off to the ALT advisor there, and he got straight back to me saying there was a meeting of the central council next week and they were discussing opinions from outside sources. Great timing! So I sent a copy of the letter off to the guy in charge and I also had to arrange for a Japanese translation to be sent off tomorrow as I have 6 hours of workshops and won't be able to do it!

July 21st 2004 - Great presentation and G&Ts by the beach

"A task always expands to the time allotted to it" is certainly a true quote! Today was the first time I had a three hour presentation in an elementary school. Usually I only have a 90 minute slot, or if it's 3 hours it's usually at a Conference where the teachers have already gone through the official guidelines etc. So today I wasn't quite sure how much to do. I just started the normal 90 minute presentation and the teachers were laughing and joining in so much that it actually took 3 hours! But they were great. A few of them seemed totally exhausted ( a couple even fell asleep part way through!), but the rest were really great and even these tired teachers were giving it 100%! And I think they had a big shock as Summer Kenkyukai's are supposed to be really boring, but this was far from that! Another school genkified!.

Then at the end, being the Japanese custom, they made the guy who fell asleep give me a lift home! Poor guy, but hey, it was cool.

So then I had finished by 6 and was thinking what to do. I had been working till 1 this morning, and then again from 8:30AM so thought about getting some sleep. But it's Summer, and this school is so close to the beach, that well I just had to pop down here! So a great steak & chips along with a Gin & Tonic watching the sun coming down, all paid for by today's school! Thank you very much! And a guy just walked past me as I was writing this saying "great office", yep, it's the best you can get!

See you tomorrow.

July 20th 2004 Tuesday - End of the free DVDs

Today was finally the day when the free DVDs for elementary schools finished! It was a huge challenge to fund this project, and in the end it's sort of had mixed results. The idea initially was for teachers who were really, really nervous about teaching English could just use the DVD as a virtual ALT in the classroom, where I would teach everything and they just act out their parts. Dead easy, they just go with the flow. In this respect it worked great and the DVD format really makes jumping between the lessons and songs and games really easy. But what I didn't count on, and this is a pretty big mistake on my part, was that these teachers also tend to be totally terrified of technology!! In fact most teachers who I've met have no idea how to use DVDs or indeed what they are! So in this sense it was a bit of a failure as the teachers it was supposed to empower were afraid of the medium - and hence it took so long to move all the DVDs! But it did mean a lot more teachers got to know Genki English and also tried out the CDs ( a much safer technology in their eyes!) and hence did manage to introduce English to their classes! So that was cool, and although the free project has run its course, the DVDs will still be available to buy on the site.

Elsewhere today it was just business stuff, knocking up order forms for Osaka on the weekend, recoding the mail forms to stop viruses and getting round to lots of jobs I'd been putting off for ages. Not too fun, and really something I should pay someone else to do, but it's got to be done!

July 19th Monday 2004 - "Sea Day"

It's a public holiday today, when all the beaches open for the season. But as I took my day off on Saturday I couldn't really take any time off today. But it was OK as it wasn't actually that sunny.

What I had to do today was to start the planning stages of CD5. This basically involved pulling together all the English, music and software ideas into something resembling a plan of action for making the CD. As my schedule is so full over the Summer I don' think anything is going to happen too soon, but it's always useful to see where things stand. Basically the themes are all cool ( I actually have too many which is a good thing!) as is the target English. The music side isn't quite as well ahead as although I do have a few ideas, I used up a lot of the music styles I have on the Phonics CD. There was always the argument as to whether I should just put all my best stuff into the phonics CD, or keep some of it back for CD5. I decided to make the phonics CD the best I could, so it does make things a little more difficult now!!

The challenge is getting a whole set of new styles together that are musically distinct, fun and genki but that still compliment the target English. I really need to take a month or so just playing around on the keyboards to see what I can come up with, but I have a feeling that won't happen!!

Just looking at the plan though, there is a lot of work in one CD these days! With the music, target English, actions & gestures, worksheets, teaching guide videos, picture cards, pronunciation guides, mini lessons and animations all to do before it can be tested and released!

July 18th Sunday - Easy day, Card Game and Shrek 2

I was quite tired today so caught up with my emails and bits of bobs of admin. I also had a look at a new order form, as the Card Game packs aren't compatible with the current form! And speaking of which, along with a case of beer that I got sent as a "Summer Present!" ( thanks Altia Central !) I also got to see the first packs of the card game! They certainly score very high on the kawaii factor!!

And now I'm off out to see Shrek 2!

July17th Saturday - Fireworks!

It was my day off again today and I did plan to go surfing again ( got to make the most of the Summer whilst it's here!). But just got caught up doing stuff around town!

But in the evening I did manage to make it to the massive fireworks display in Fukuoka. Wow. Japanese fireworks are just fantastic and blow anything in the UK out of the water!

July 16th 2004 - Friday - Coffee Shops + Spotlight

It feels like a real luxury to be able to get on with my emails and things and not have to worry about catching a train or plane.

So spent most of the day going through the rest of this week's emails and hopefully I'm up to date. My new anti-spam stuff seems to be working fine and hopefully isn't catching too many false positives ( please email me again if you're written and I haven't replied soonish!)

I also found out about some groovy new products that could be good to feature on the site and I also checked out the Apple site with details of the new desktop search "Spotlight" wow - now when that comes out I think my new computer will be a Mac as it would save sooooo much of my time!

Then around nine-ish I went out for a beer with a mate and bumped into some JETs on the way back home. A nice way to end the day!

July 15th 2004 - Thursday - Another good school + SPA magazine

Today's school was also pretty cool. I have a three hour workshop with the teachers next month but today they asked for a show whilst the kids are still in term time. And the kids were great. A few knew "What's your name?" but even just having them get the motivation stuff from the beginning makes a huge difference! For all of you out there I'd really stress getting the kids confident and believing they can do it, it makes life so much easier!!!!

Actually I found out at the end that from this year the school will be the new pilot school for Fukuoka and they'll have 4 regular ALTs! Wow. Some schools have none, some have 4! But they are employed by an English School so the Japanese teachers still have to come up with the lesson plans etc. which is good because it means the teachers will be able to continue things once the ALT funding goes next year. They also have a really good teacher to look after the programme and as she seems so keen I'm sure the school will do very, very well!

Then in the evening I had an interview with SPA magazine. They said it was a magazine for guys, so yesterday I had to check that it wasn't a dodgy publication like so many of them seem to be in Japan!! But it is a normal magazine, and is apparently one of the most popular in the country!! Cool. And the theme was "What will everyone's English level be like in 10-15 years time?". And if you want to see my reply check out the magazine!

July 14th 2004 - Wednesday - Great school!

This morning I was planning on updating the website and sending off the newsletters, but I only got time to send off the English one.Then at lunchtime it was time to go out to today's school.

This is a school that only started English in April, but two of the teachers have attended Genki English workshops. I wasn't expecting too much but they were fantastic!!! The teachers had already done What's your name? and Left and Right so the kids nailed those, but it was their attitude that was so good!! They were already well into the "losing just means try again" thing and it made such a huge, huge difference! In fact I only had to imply they lost at something and they were on their feet clapping and shouting "try again!". Wow. I have taught at schools as good as this before, but they've all had great ALTs, this is the first time I've ever been to a school that's so good and it's all down the to Japanese teachers! So if ever proof was needed that Genki English works for your average teacher on the ground, then here it is!

Then afterwards it was a teaching seminar, which was good, eventhough my computer crashed! ( Microsoft had just issued a security patch this morning!). The teachers were well into it, and if they continue like this this could be a really good school to watch!

July 13th 2004 - Tuesday - Catch up

It was playing catch up today with my emails and updating the website before all the workshops start. I didn't get everything done though.

July 12th 2004 - Monday - Surfing

Monday's my day off so after a few emails and phone calls I went off surfing for the afternoon. It's nice living by the sea!

July 11th 2004 - Sunday - By the Seaside

I actually like Choushi, it feels, smells and looks like an old fashioned English Seaside Resort. This morning I was going to take the early train, but decided to hang around for a bit and walked down the long main street that leads to the sea. It was hot, but unlike most places in Japan, there was a really nice breeze which just felt so nice! So I hung around by the sea for a bit, then headed back to the oldy-worldy station and set off for Narita airport. Mind you Chiba seems to have the least frequent running train system in Japan! And if you ever have to fly to Chiba then I'd recommend Haneda as Narita is packed and if you have a non-Japanese looking face everyone tries to speak to you in the most unintelligible excuse for English you could imagine - and this is Japan's major international airport. Right, gotta work harder to get everyone speaking better!

But anyway it was a good trip and I'm looking forward to an evening off watching the new Harry Potter movie!

July 10th 2004 - Saturday - Kids Show in Choushi

Went down to breakfast this morning and there was an old guy, in a nice suite, on the next table who was pretty insistent that he was going to have a conversation with me. Which was OK, but he was sat at a table with three bottles of budweiser and was insisting that I have a beer with him - at 7 in the morning!! Needless to say I refused ( got a kids show today so no drink till afterwards) but he then went on to put his genkiness at the age of 80 down to drinking beer for breakfast every morning!

Anyway, then it was on to today's show. To be honest I can't quite remember how this came about as it wasn't a show & workshop at an elementary school ( the usual story of as it's the first time in the prefecture the schools wouldn't take the risk of being first!), but although it was just a show at a hall and kids could come if they wanted, it wasn't a paid private show. But it was sponsored by the city Board of Education so I think I justified doing it as a volunteer show that way. But in the end they actually paid me, which was cool and everyone seemed pretty impressed. So hopefully I'll be back for a teachers workshop soon!

The kids were all good but in the beginning the parents were just hopeless! I always ask the parents to join in, pointing out to them that if they don't try and just sit there then however hard I try their kid will never get good, ( the show's benefit is often more for the parents than the kids ) ! But even then far too many of them were just doing the "English is too difficult for me" thing and looking all gormless! Even the trick of "Right, the obaasans please sit down, everyone please else join in!" didn't work for everyone. So that called for drastic measures and a few rounds of mingle which included the parents. Then once they were settled in amongst the kids I just went on with the show and they had no choice but to join in!! Parents need to realise how big a part they have in their kids' success - they are the role model the kids will follow! And of course by the end of the show, they had lost their inhibitions and were singing and moving with the kids and getting totally into the "If you think you can do it, you can!" and "Losing just means try again!" attitude! Cool! The local TV station came along as well, which was really good considering there is an election tomorrow.

Then afterwards it was a nice coffee break down by the beach with some of the staff. That was really cool, and they are a very clever bunch of people, talking about not only politics and stuff but also lots about motivation materials. In fact one of them was thinking of buying the Japanese version of the Napoleon Hill programme and seemed well impressed that I had written the Kids English series with the same publisher!

The organisers of today's event area group called Be-Com ( for Be a Communicator) and they also do a great project with 6th Graders called "Hug Net" where they use Yahoo Messenger to do video exchanges with schools around the world. They stagger the time zones of the countries who participate so that the kids go all the way round the World - what a cool project.

Then a quick break and the evening banquet, which was really nice as well. Great!

July 9th 2004 - Friday - Off to Chiba

Up until two years ago it was a case of travelling around in the cheapest way possible, including overnight buses (not nice!), then when people started paying for me to fly around the country it was a total luxury!! But recently I haven't travelled too far and have been mainly using the Shinkansen, so today on the plane to Tokyo it actually felt really tiny! But then again I had booked a ticket on the Skymark budget airline and it was late as usual.

But I got into Tokyo and had a meeting with SSI about the upcoming Kids English events. This year they want to try some new things and as I really didn't have any ideas myself I figured it'd be better to chat in person rather than via email. Just looking at the material again after a while, it is really good, and I'm really looking forward to presenting it to more people!

Then it was on the bus to Chiba, and if you ever have to catch a bus from Tokyo station, make sure you have plenty of time as it's the most confusing bus system in the country!!

But I got to Choushi, met the organisers of tomorrow's event and had a very nice tea.

July 8th 2004 - Thursday - Weird excuses + stuff to do

People don't half come out with some strange excuses! Today I got an email from a teacher who was wanting me to do a workshop at her son's school. But the reply that came back was that because the school had signed an agreement with another publisher, the Ministry of Education were banning me from doing a workshop there!! Oh dear!! There is no such rule of course ( I've presented at loads of the pilot schools) and it's the head teacher who is making an excuse. The funny thing is that the teacher in charge at the school did attend one of my workshops and is now using the Superpack instead of the other company's stuff! Which is cool, but it also means they'll get the credit for the improvement in the kids! The other one was from a supervisor who was thinking of asking me to do a workshop in the prefecture but then said it was a no-go because I'm not on the Ministry's "list of approved professors". Again there is no such list, but it was quite ironic as I had previously done a presentation in the same prefecture that was actually sponsored by the Ministry!!! But that's how things work, just got to be patient until they have actually seen my presentations and then I end up coming back a million and one times ( just look at this months schedule!)

Anyway, today was the same as yesterday, I updated the Picture Books pages with most of the new picture books, booked my transport for the weekend, sorted out a load more workshops for the summer etc. etc. but I still have a load more to do!

July 7th 2004 - Wednesday - 2 hours for Spiderman

Right I have just two days with no presentations to catch up with all my business and admin work and update the website. I did the Spiderman game but I'd forgotten how long it takes to get a game ready for the GE website, what with preparing the graphics, writing and editing the copy and then preparing 3 versions, one English, one Japanese and one for the GenkiMaths site!

I did think I'd get a lot done today, but aside from popping into town to buy my girlfriend an anniversary present, by midnight I hadn't finished! But it was time to pack up work and head out to a nice restaurant for dinner!

July 6th 2004 - Tuesday - Nagasaki is still the best

During the kids' shows one of the tricks I use to get the kids more hyped up is to tell them that the schools I went to the week before were so much better. It gives them a huge boost and really puts into practise the "Losing just means Try Again!" rule, I just say "You lost" and they all shout back "Try again!!". Then of course people always ask me, "So which places in Japan are the best?". I've now been to so many schools that it is really easy to tell the good schools from the bad, and until now the best schools have been are two in Nagasaki and one in Niigata!

One of those really good schools had their teacher transferred to today's school so I got invited along. Actually it wasn't so much for the kids, but for the teachers. Today's school has the enviable situation of having 3 ALTs with each class having one lesson a week - cool! But... there seemed to be a big gap of expectations between the ALTs and the teachers, with the teachers being under the impression that ALTs are trained as professional elementary school teachers and hence not needing any help, and the ALTs who were desperate in need of some guidance! But after lots of chats the Japanese teachers did figure out the real situation with ALTs i.e. there is no training! And once they figured out that everyone was in the same boat they seemed really keen to get things into gear, set up a great curriculum and get the kids great at English. Cool! And the kids were already really good, so hopefully this year they should be fantastic! It was also cool to point out that if they give an ALT only 5th and 6th graders it isn't really that much fun! So they are now thinking of giving the ALT some lower grades as well - which should be cool.

I was also asked to do a demonstration class. I was supposed to give a "model" GE class but as it was 6th grade that wasn't really possible ( the chance of success with grades 1-5 is pretty much 100%, with 6th graders it's about 40%!). I did prepare a few things, ( like the lines quiz, Spiderman game etc.) but mainly just ended up talking to the kids.

One thing I did was to use the list on the discussion board of English words that the kids can understand. I first asked them "how many English words do you know?" ( in Japanese of course) and they all said "none" ( even though they have English every week!). But this is the type of thinking the Japanese teachers instill in them ( at least until they see a GE teachers presentation!). So me and the ALT just spoke a long, long list of words and the kids had to give the Japanese. So they seemed very impressed, and surprised, that they could understand so many words!

So that coupled with the two rules of Genki English ( "dekiru, dekiru, dekiru" and "losing just means try again") and they all had that look in their eye that said "hmmm, maybe I can do this!". Which I thought was quite cool!

Then to finish the lesson we did Mingle ( eventhough they were 6th graders they were warmed up and into it!), Lines Quiz ( where the ALT had the great idea of saying "What am I doing?" whilst miming and getting the kids to answer in the correct grammar form. They knew "eat" but of course got failed for that. So one kid came up with "I'm eating", then "You're eating" got marked correct and the other kids soon picked up on how to answer the question. A great way to teach grammar in a fun way!!)

So overall a great day and I'm sure this school will be one to watch with some very good ALTs and now a teachers room full of genki teachers!

July 5th 2004 - Monday - Off to Nagasaki

Monday's usually my day off but today we drove down to Nagasaki intending to do a bit of sightseeing, but we only just arrived in time to meet the teacher from tomorrow's school! Nevermind, it was a very pleasant evening.

July 4th 2004 - Sunday - Fukuoka Teachers

I was really looking forward to today, this group of private teachers in Fukuoka is one of the best in the country, they are really keen for new ideas, are totally genki and it's about the only place in the country I can do the workshop in English and everyone can keep up!! I've also done presentations here before a few times, including a full day games workshop last year, so today I figured I'd do all the latest games and phonics songs, just like a genki "top up"!

But I don't know if it was the weather ( it was really muggy because of the typhoon), the lack of a decent sound system ( we checked the system at the beginning, but it broke down on the first song!! Just imagine your favourite film without a soundtrack and that's what an English lesson without songs is!), or the fact that there were lots of new people who hadn't heard of Genki English before, but things just didn't seem to be as genki as usual!! They were good, but not totally hyper like normal. We did Harry Potter, some Phonics Songs, Cowboy, Soldiers and Ninjas, Where, where, where?, Doctor Doctor, Rock Paper Scissors, Thank you and I also planned on doing the new Spiderman game, but I didn't get round to it as the goal setting bit got a bit bogged down. I think here is really where the problem is; as I'd been here before, I assumed I wouldn't have to do any confidence speaking ( the main reason Genki English gets such good reviews is not the content, but the motivation talking) but I found that it is still really necessary for the new goal setting part of the workshop. The only problem is that I have to approach the problem from completely different angles for native speakers ( whose main problem is the parents who destroy any confidence the kids have) and Japanese teachers ( who very often underestimate what their kids can do). But that means I have to do the Japanese part in Japanese, and the English part in fast English just to get the jokes and stories in to get the point across, but today I was speaking in simplified English so I sort of fell between the two stools and it didn't really work! So I think I really have to get the Goal Setting topic on the website pretty soon, and also info to pass to parents so they help and not hinder their child's progress!

But overall the teachers were still great as usual, just not quite the easy ride I had hoped for! With so many teachers with so many different backgrounds, and compared with last week when I had 8.5 hours it was very difficult getting everyone on the same page, so I think I'm really going to have to look at a Genki English video course where teachers can actually study how to teach Genki English form the beginning in the structured, inclusive and gradually improving way I do on the week long workshops. I'm sure this would help a lot! But finding the time to produce this is maybe another issue altogether...

July 3rd 2004 - Saturday - Spiderman!

Hey! No production work! So my only job today was email and general business stuff, it felt like heaven with no pressure!

In the evening I went out to see Spiderman 2, which was well cool and really got me genki again. So instead of sleeping I had a ton of new ideas flood to me, including a new Spiderman game which I'm looking forward to having as the big finale tomorrow!

July 2nd - Friday - Day trip to Okayama

I think this must be the longest day trip I've ever done! But it was cool to have no heavy bags to carry around. The ALT in the town rang me a few weeks ago asking for a show and seminar. Of course I said, "cool" but it seemed like an awfully short time to get all the paperwork done and to get the Headteachers permission. But she did it!

So I set off at 7 AM and took the Shinkansen and several other trains up to the mountains of Okayama, and it was great to be in the fresh air and countryside. I also then realised how come the head teacher had put everything through so quickly, he used to teach in Okayama City so had heard about my workshops for the Board of Education there last year!

Anyway the kids' English and pronunciation was great, as would be expected from having a good ALT, but during the chats with the teachers beforehand they seemed very much in the "oh no, we can't do it, we have to leave it to the ALT!" and so the kids' confidence was nearly zero!! On the "Can you do it?" point for the first time in ages they all said "No!". Oh dear! But it wasn't a cheeky, "No, and we're too cool for this", it was a "No, we can't do that, but I wish we could!". So a lot of the show was taken over with getting the kids confident in the two rules of Genki English "Think you can do it and you can!" and "Losing just means try again!". It was a very stark contrast to the other school I went to this week!

But the kids were eager to learn and in the seminar the teachers came out of themselves and once they realised they could be totally honest with me ( I have various techniques to make this work!), we went through how they can make a difference themselves. So although they still will rely on the ALT, they did have the beginnings of having confidence themselves, and that's what it's all about! Actually the first graders were really great, having lunch with them ( to figure out what new things I need to put in the curriculum) they were cool and they loved to play the Harry Potter game at lunchtime! So overall a very well worthwhile visit!

Then a 4 hour train journey back and as I was tired I thought I'd start the 4th Harry Potter book, so I had a good read, on my mobile phone of course!

July 1st 2004 - Thursday - Stress free?

After last night giving up on the remix project my mind was running away with all the new ideas and projects I can now start! I must be mad - but I have some great ideas!

So the plan was to take things easy today and get some rest before all the workshops I'll be leading this month. But it took me till 6PM to just get through my admin stuff! ( Which including booking in workshops, checking new masters of the card game and lots and lots of phonecalls!)

Joel Bacha is out in Bolivia teaching teachers over there, so today along with the GE CDs which he's already given out, I prepared a version of the phonics CD to give to the teachers out there. Apparently pronunciation is the thing they really need help with. And as the teachers only earn around $40-50 a month it's great that I can help out by getting the Genki English materials to them for free. It's funny though that yet again I had Japan schools asking if I could do their presentations for less money, i.e. cheaper than free by asking if I wouldn't mind making a loss on the travel expenses! Another reason to get more International Understanding education into Japan!

Then in the evening I went into town to relax for a bit. I spent an hour or so at the music store playing on the posh keyboards ( very cool), bought myself a copy of Wired and sat with a big Chai Latte down by the river. Cool.

Click here for my Diary Jan - June 2004

Click here for my Diary June - December 2003

Click here for Richard's Diary Jan-May 2003

Click here for Richard's Diary 2002!

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