I just returned from teaching on one of the islands here. I didn't see much of the island itself, so this entry is not about the terrain, but about my experience at one of the junior high schools where I teach. Today, for the first time in a very long time, I felt absolutely overwhelmed with joy from seeing another person experiencing the same thing. One of my students was so happy today to be in English class that just moments after finishing a round of the "telephone game" and getting ready for another round of it, he skipped along with such a sense of excitement and wonder that he looked like this moment of his life was the best moment he'd ever experienced. The object of winning the game was not his priority and there was no agenda or self-consciousness in his behavior, it was just that he was enjoying that particular moment and was also happy that others were having a good time as well. I could see in his expression that he wore this joy with a developing humility and a love for life, so that when I saw his smile I couldn't help be feel like my heart would burst (it's a cliche, but I thought for a second that I might cry in class). Maybe I'm projecting, but I really did sense the same extreme joy this student of mine expressed and I wanted to capture this moment because I don't see it happen often. I later told the JTE (the English teacher) about this and she said that he is such a good person who always goes out of his way to help her and that he is extremely gifted with language and in the arts, especially with music. I really hope this student goes on to do amazing things with his life. I suspect he will. His English language skills are at an exceptionally high level and I have a feeling he may be a genius.
Something really wonderful happened today. For some time now I've started to notice the bad in this world, because of some of the experiences and people I have met along the way in my life and also because of large global issues which have made me feel cynical. I haven't really focused closely on the beauty and the goodness in this world that humans do indeed contribute without any reason. That we are capable of affecting others around us in the way this child affected me baffles me. If we knew that radiating extreme joy would have the ability to change another person, would we not aim to do this as much as possible?
Ok, so this next section is an extension of the previous and is going to sound a bit like a motivational speaker (or maybe it sounds like a teacher), but today I also introduced the concept and phrase: "What would you do if you knew you could not fail." The class was learning, "If I..." and I wanted to incorporate the story of the blind para-olympics swimmer that they read in their textbooks into a real life discussion. I am starting to realize that many of these students are very stressed out by the process of doing well in the Japanese school system. I want the students to realize that they can indeed live the life they are imagining for themselves, that they make their own reality through their perception and that they must use positive thinking to not only help themselves but to help and encourage others in their lives. They have to share their dreams and support the dreams of those around them. Some of them though say they do not have any dreams, but I think they feel that way because they feel stressed about the possibility of failure. I told them that they can achieve things if they slowly work at it, every day and with a love for what they are working towards. The JTE and I drew out a map of where they are in their lives at 14 years old and where they might be in 10 years when they are 24 years old. I told them that it seems like such a long time off, but that 10 years goes by very quickly. I tried my best to convey that the journey of life towards fulfilling their dreams with joie de vivre is the reward and that they must enjoy the process. These children become very stressed out about school and are under pressure, so I want them to realize that there are many people in this world who believe in them, myself included.
Maybe I'm answering all of my own questions I've been pondering. Maybe all of the answers are here in my experiences in the classrooms. Now, not all of my classroom visits are like this, but if I can hold onto these memories then they may provide me with insight into how I can make certain all of my classes enjoy their lessons. Maybe...
Also, I want to note that I experienced subtle deja vu today at lunch. One of the teachers asked me how tall I was in meters and I told him. He and the students were surprised. He then said something about high heels and suddenly I was hit with a memory of a dream I had that involved this conversation. It was a vague memory that slipped away from me as soon as I recognized it, (as deja vu usually works).
The weekend is here. If the weather is good, I will hike up Mt. Omoto and I will also sing in a chorus contest with one of my classes from one of the schools here. OMG, I'm in elementary school again (that's when I was in chorus)!