It was unreal. That glowing JET experience that they splash across the brochures and the websites — I lived it, for 50 minutes. My last class at junior high was one of the few times the students were so engaged, having so much fun, experimenting with their English. (Lately, among the first-year boys, this involves some variation of “You are beautiful.”)
I’ve been doing a Jeopardy-style quiz game in every class for the last 3 weeks, and it’s met with pretty good results, but nothing like the room full of screaming, laughing 12-year-olds, every hand in the air, that I experienced today. When I walked into the classroom, I was met with enthusiastic applause. When I announced that we were playing a game, applause. When I announced the name of the game (they have never heard the word “Jeopardy” in their lives) — applause.
After the game, I showed a PowerPoint that first covered my experiences around the prefecture and then introduced LA, loosely my home city. Questions abounded. These included the standard “How old are you?” ( I guess they’ve forgotten that every single class asked this 4 months ago at the start of term), and when I told them that tomorrow happens to be my birthday, there was yet another enthusiastic outburst, followed by a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
I made a short speech at the end of class thanking the class for a good year. They told me for the thousandth time that I am very cute and “You are Great Teacher” (they know that moniker from this manga/anime), which made me a little teary-eyed, causing shouts of “Oh, sensei! Namida [tears]!” and “Don’t cry!”
God, who’s been on my mind a lot as I struggle to deal with the grief of leaving, was with me today, coursing through the kids of grade 1, class 2 and leaving me with this unexpected feeling not of sadness but of peace — a washed-cleanness like that of the hot blue sky outside. The formidable energy of 36 teens focused, like sunlight through a magnifying glass, on my lesson — there’s nothing quite like it.