It’s been another while since I’ve posted (or maybe not, I’m not really sure). But life continues on here in the mountains of Yamanashi. September is almost over, and I’m coming off a long holiday called Silver Week.
I haven’t really been that busy up until the past week. The weekend before last was the middle school’s culture festival and sports day. I made the mistake of showing up to culture day in my sports day gear and all but begged the principal to let me go home and change. He and the vice-principal both told me my clothes were fine, but I was not about to be in front of parents looking like that.
Still, Culture Day went very well, and I got to see the stage plays on which all three classes have been working very hard. Plus, they put out their art projects and essays and things they’ve built and it amazes me what these kids are capable of. These are the kids that, if they were taught maybe a few more critical thinking skills, could do amazing things and go anywhere they wanted to go.
Then we had sports day, and that was super fun to watch. The kids got so into it! Instead of pitting each year against the others, the school divided everyone into four color teams, which seemed much more fair. I was also asked to run in the PTA Relay Race where the vice-principal purposely told us not to win (even now I don’t know if he was joking or not).
The best part of the whole experience, for me, was seeing the kids outside of class. I got to see them as people, not just as students. And some of them actually talked to me! It’s getting better with every day, even though most of the time I feel awkward about…everything.
Last Friday night was my welcome party/the party to celebrate the school festival being over. I think I made a pretty good impression with my Japanese speech, but then, people had been drinking, too. Overall, I hope they can accept me as part of the school. It’s still early days, but I’m hopeful.
Saturday was sports day at one of my elementary schools, and it was fun to watch, but it was probably one of the worst days I’ve had here so far. Simply because I was treated like a guest. I wanted to help in some way, but there wasn’t anything for me to do. Then we went to the after-party dinner (and I wasn’t feeling up to it), where I had a pretty good time. I think everyone realized that I wanted to help and wanted to be part of that school, too.
One reason I didn’t want to be out on Saturday night was that Sunday I had to get up early to catch a train to Osaka. I kind of wish now I hadn’t gone. I think I was overly tired plus I don’t like traveling in small groups. I prefer to travel alone or with a large group. Despite that, I got to see my wonderful Nashville JET friends Megan, Logan, and Sabrina. I hung out with Megan and her husband Josh and we went to Osaka Castle and Dotombori. Sabrina said she may come to Yamanashi in October for the Paul Rusch Festival, and I really hope she does!
After we got back from Osaka, I needed time and space to myself, so I spent all of yesterday’s day off at home. I never left the house once. I did a ton of laundry, made some food, Skyped with my parents, watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for the thousandth time, and just enjoyed the quiet and the rain.
But today I am back at school, and the kids have tests all day. I get to help with the listening portions of the exam but otherwise, I am desk-warming all day. Still, when I came in, the school nurse told me the girl that’s usually in her office asked about me yesterday. She wants to talk more. The students are gradually warming to me and talking me a little more. I’m fine at the elementary school, but here it’s a little more complicated since the kids are in that weird stage of the beginning of adolescence.
I had a student smile at me today before their English exam. Some students have taken to saying “hello, hello” just randomly. It’s these little things that I’m holding on to. Despite any problems I have with friends or just in Japan in general, I feel like the kids make it worth it. Maybe it’s that I worked at the Academy for five years and know what it’s like to be more than just a teacher. The small accomplishments of a kid telling you about something they did yesterday or even just asking you about something are wonderful.
So if any future JETs out there are reading this and feeling like maybe they’re not making a difference or feeling like they’re useless, try to hold on to the small things. Remember, ultimately, you’re here for the kids. They may not love English, but maybe you can help them enjoy it in some way or at least give them someone to talk to about random things. Consider each time they talk to you a win. Consider every smile a win. Consider every time a kid’s like “Oh, THAT’S what it means in English,” that’s a win.
The little things keep me sane.