What a difference a year can make

Reflecting back this time last year I was depressed, absolutely miserable and fighting many insecurities, internal conflicts and struggling at work. I hated my supervisor and English co-teacher. She was overworking me and still does to this day and even though she was ‘nice’, she could be cruel. My students don’t like her and I’m not quite sure why. When I wanted to go to my elementary school graduation, she refused because she needed me at junior high school to do 3 normal lessons. It was frustrating and useless as I wasn’t even doing anything important in those lessons. My students were teaching me a game and playing the piano with me and she said they could no longer teach me anymore. She said the other students couldn’t play piano during lunchtime, but we already asked and were granted permission from the music teacher. So in my mind at those times, she was a cruel, jealous and horrible woman. She wasn’t nice or even a good teacher in my thoughts.

Likewise, I hated my 2nd grade students and resented my 1st grade students at Junior high school last year. My 1st grade students were so shy they didn’t want to speak English with me. My 2nd grade students were so mean, they laughed at me, one girl ignored me and turned her back to me when I was talking to her. They were rude. In January, one boy said at lunch during one of my lowest points when I was trying to speak to them that he doesn’t speak English. He hates English and no-one understands. I sat there in silence not daring to speak after that, in such a foul and angry mood wondering what the hell I was doing wasting my time on some useless children who didn’t even want my help nor my teaching. Not that anything would help since their English was beyond despair, since their level was so low and they weren’t even motivated to try. After I finished eating I immediately stood up abruptly and without saying goodbye walked away. I think I shocked them. I almost gave up that day. I almost gave up a few months later after the earthquake.

One year later. 

I am happy. That same boy who told me he didn’t want to speak English began speaking English with me. He taught me a Japanese game and tried to use English to explain. He was patient and kind. That rude attitude and that distrust, suspicion and dislike melted away though I’m not sure when. He still dislikes English, but now he at least tries and has promised to do his best. He’s in 3rd year and has now graduated. I was so sad to see him and the fellow 3rd years go. I fell in love with my students (platonic off course).

I almost gave up on them, but somehow I kept eating lunch with them and I kept speaking English to them. They didn’t like it off course but eventually they opened up, eventually we started to joke and laugh. Those mean 3rd graders became kind and friendly. I don’t know why. The girl who rudely ignored me while I tried to speak to her when she turned her back to me, I was so shocked. six months later she began to thaw. She wouldn’t cover or hide her work anymore, she let me look and check. She didn’t ignore me but would say hi. When I spoke to her, she would try to speak English. She had such a strange personality transplant I wondered what happened. In all these incidents I have no idea why they changed. Maybe they got used to me. It’s hard to replace your predecessor who was so loved by them. It’s hard to fill big shoes, but I managed to change my attitude and they changed theirs. And somehow we improved and they became my favourite classes.They were still naughty sometimes, but more cheeky than bad. They certainly improved a little bit – mainly their speaking and conversational skills.

I don’t hate my teacher anymore. I just accept her, though she still pisses me off from time to time, I no longer care. She is not significant. She is just part of the job and will be leaving in two days.

During graduation, my favourite student when giving me a present told me that he was very glad he met me. He truly had fun in my classes and one day he wants to speak English with me as an adult. Earlier when I met his mother, she told me that he always spoke about me and how kind I was, how he enjoys my classes and wants to do well in English. Truly he was the kind one. He also was enthusiastic about my ideas and games, getting other students involved. He always spoke to me and asked my questions, not letting the conversation die. He always tried even though his level was very low. He always did his best speaking. I was very proud. I managed to inspire one kid out of 44. Only one, but it makes a world of difference to me because I was extremely happy to know I had succeeded with one. He wants to go to America one day. It’s not England but it is abroad at least. It’s not just about Japan. I changed that view.

My 1st years who were very shy have also improved and opened up. They are still quite shy but they are very kind and always have been. They try to speak English and even when I ask questions in Japanese, they reply in English.

I can’t believe the transformations. I have met some wonderful and lovely children. I am so very happy now. I am also sad because my students are leaving and graduating. I am sad because soon I will be leaving and the harsh truth has hit me. I’ll never see them again. But I’ll always love them. I am so so glad I stayed. I am so glad I stuck it out and never gave up because in the end, the benefits reaped were far greater than the losses I’ve experienced here. I am stronger emotionally, internally and as a person. I am more confident.

What a world of difference a year makes. I don’t know what changed and why. I only know that I am now happy.

 

In times of stress

This post was written in November 2016. I just forgot to publish it so here it is.

It’s been a while, but I’ve been very busy. That’s always my excuse I know. Today was a good day but a very tiring one. It was culture festival at school and it was very funny when the children performed their drama shows. I may understand very little Japanese, but the actions and gestures I could at least follow.

At the end, the children posed for photos and asked all the teachers to pose with them except me. I took the photos instead, but you know what? I know my kids like me. I know they don’t mind me and I know some hate me. I don’t mind. This time last year, I would have cried unnecessarily and wondered what was wrong with me, why I wasn’t popular. But now it’s such a small thing and although it hurt at first, I realised that it really doesn’t matter because what’s important is that I don’t let the small things get to me. Don’t sweat the small things as they say. It’s one of the reasons I realised that I love my other elementary school so much. The children are so different, so inclusive in everything they do, so much more welcoming, friendly and happy. I enjoy their company so much and I feel appreciated. At my other schools, I don’t feel appreciated so much, but I’ve learnt to accept that this is just the way things are going to be until I finish. And you know what? It’s okay. It’s okay that I’m not fully accepted or liked, it’s okay that I make mistakes, it’s okay that things don’t work the way I want them to. It’s okay because life is a journey and this is just a fact of life. There is no such thing as perfection or being universally liked. What are the burdens with being universally liked? Well for one thing, it’s like living a lie, in an expectation and not being able to break free. It’s so much nicer when you can be yourself and not care what others think. Truly it is. It’s something I am learning and discovering and it feels difficult but great. As a person who has always pandered to requests and tried to be the ‘nice person’, I often got sick of it. It was too demanding and it feels way better to have an opinion, to be nice and respectful but not walked upon. It’s nice to say no sometimes.

I’ve thought many times of just throwing in the towel and walking away, but somehow I can’t seem to do it. It would be so easy to just walk away, book a flight and leave. It would be so easy to up and leave, but everything has consequences and I’m not about just giving up when the getting gets tough. It’s taken a lot of effort to stay and it has been worth it. Things have improved exceptionally and although I face many internal challenges as well as other challenges, it serves to teach me something. I always try to better myself, take risks, learn how to overcome challenges and pressure. I realised another thing today. I don’t do well under pressure.