Never listen to my predictions of what post is next, I can’t plan my life like that. I’m not going to talk about special events. I’m going to just make a list of little tiny daily moments that I love.
The second-year from the rowdiest class who, while cleaning the board after a particularly uncooperative class period, quietly asked “Do you have another class after this?” and when I said yes, told me “Ganbatte kudasai.” (“Please do your best”, but almost with a connotation of “have strength”.)
The girl from the special needs class who opened up to me when I complimented her haircut, and the way she waves at me every time she sees me now and gets a huge smile on her face when I wave back.
The problem boy of the rowdy class, who follows me during break asking for my iPod–going so far as to use three different English phrasings in addition to Japanese–because I let him play a game on it once, but groans and accepts it when I tell him I need it as a dictionary.
The bright-faced third-year who almost leans forward in his seat when I’m talking and always knows the answer.
The first-year who shyly asked me to check his paper while giving a disclaimer about the sentence he thought was probably totally wrong, and then apologized quietly when I spelled out words for him.
The lunch lady, who commends me excitedly for finishing my lunch ever since I asked for smaller portions when I got here, and sometimes slips me lunch leftovers to take home.
The school nurse who gave me some of the persimmons she had just bought because I had never tried them before.
The elementary kids who ran up to me in the bookstore to see what I was buying and to show me their haul.
The fifth grader who’s so enchanted by English that he sighed “how cool” when his teacher said my friends and I sit around just speaking English to each other because it’s our language.
The way the class had to think for a minute about the teacher’s statement that, to me, they’re the foreigners.
The other fifth grader who, instead of staring at the textbook while we go through the alphabet, watches and copies my ASL finger spelling with a fascinated half-smile on his face.
The sixth graders who seemed uninterested during class but then decided to count to 60 in English and recite the alphabet at lunch just because I was there.
The way junior highers slur the syllables of their names when they introduce themselves at the office door.
The chorus of elementary schoolers yelling goodbye from the hallway when they leave school.
The pastor’s wife, who talks to me like I’ve always been her friend instead of like I’m a foreigner who can’t speak her language.
The church pianist with four kids who thanks me for taking the trouble to hold her baby, when in fact that’s my favorite part of Sunday.
The way the lady at the burger joint recognizes my little study group and says “for here, right?” when we order.
The sudden appearance of almost-native phrasing or pronunciation; all the effort students have made to get to where they are with the language, whether 7th grade or 70 years old; and just the sound of English, even so accented that I know my friends wouldn’t recognize it, coming from the mouths of people who are trying their best to communicate.
Looks like I lied again–they aren’t even moments so much as people. Oops. That’s how teaching is, I guess. Or that’s how life is. I don’t think I can be a teacher forever, but while it lasts I’m going to soak up as much of these moments (people?) as I can.