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.

 

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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.

Grasping at straws

I sure am churning out these blog posts recently. I can’t stop writing. Anyway, today I reached a crossroads. I am lost or should I say confused about which path to take. Each path is dark and surely paved with challenges, but the million pound question in my mind is do I stay or do I leave?

A few days ago I asked whether it would be possible to leave and go back home in July. I would have been here for a year and after the earthquake and unhappiness I felt it was time to cut my losses and get the hell outta here. I came to accept it this morning which is ironic really because in the afternoon, I am told that I can leave. I can’t tell if my unhappiness these past few months have stemmed from the earthquake or if I was unhappy before that? The truth? I was unhappy before the earthquakes. I had problems with my brother who finally won the battle to drag me through the mud. It’s the second time he’s succeeded. I’ve never cried so much than I have this year and it’s only April. Every month I’ve been cursed with some unforgettable crisis. December – car accident, January – depression, February – was okay, March – change of staff and deterioration of relationship with main teacher, April – cancellation of flight, earthquakes, car accident no.2, return to depression. This month I’ve been hit with the worst all in one go. It’s not even  my car as well – it’s my Board of Education’s.

I want to go home. I want to stay. I am a walking contradiction. I feel like that is my life.

I don’t know what I’m hoping to achieve if I stay. Is there anything for me here? I don’t think so. I guess I’ve answered my own question but somehow I don’t know why, I don’t feel right leaving. I can’t explain it. Most people ask me what my gut is telling me, but honestly I don’t know. My gut is just as confused. A few days ago when I thought I couldn’t leave, I felt outraged, trapped and finally acceptance. I can’t tell if I was a little bit relieved. But I also felt like I didn’t know how I would survive another year. Today, when I am being told that I can leave in July, I feel disappointment and sadness. What is wrong with me? Why am I having these conflicting emotions? Why do I feel like a failure if I decide to go home? Why can’t I deal with any of these problems by myself? Why does it all have to be so difficult?

One of the main reasons and one of the only reasons I want to stay is because I can’t bear to leave my kids yet. It breaks my heart to even think of leaving them. I love them so much and I’ve already formed this emotional attachment in the space of just 9 months! It’s ridiculous! It’s natural. It’s crazy. Can you believe the only thing keeping me here is my children? Most of them hate English so what’s the point of even staying? But I just can’t seem to leave them. There’s only a handful I can’t bear leaving. They are so beautiful, bright and wonderful. Everytime I think of leaving I think of their smiles. But what if I do leave? I feel irrationally jealous of the new ALT who would arrive and take over my schools. We are all irreplaceable and that is fine. But I still don’t know if I want to be replaced just yet. Would one more year hurt?

If I went home what would I do? I shouldn’t be scared to face the future. Will I regret though? I could go somewhere new. I could teach in another country. I could travel more. I could discover something else. Anything is possible. Those possibilities makes me excited and yet scared. Is it time to go home? Lord, I don’t know. I am afraid of the future, but I am also afraid of my choice. Today I found out my best friend was surprised when I announced my decision to stay in January. If I stay, my life has to change drastically. But what do I do? Universe send me a sign!

What am I clinging onto?

 

 

 

Learning to drive

So today I had my driving test (first time) and I failed! 😦 I was sad but I didn’t cry, I knew I failed! I won’t go into details because to be honest it is pretty depressing. No one likes to fail, but sometimes in life it happens. Not every can always be a winner, despite some people claiming never to lose (I don’t believe it- its all lies!) They say that good drivers pass second time round, but I have to admit it was a blow to my ego! Learning to drive is actually a very difficult task! I love driving, though people seem to forget that they once were a learner driver. They were in my shoes, and although it may have been easier years ago because you didn’t have to do independent driving and remember all these questions and just generally do more. But everyone whether it was years ago or recently was a learner once in there life! I learn to drive in London which is tricky because it is ALWAYS busy! Never is there a boring moment- whether it is a child/pedestrian running across the road, a crazy driver trying to squeeze through a tight space or take your right of way or even one who overtakes you when you stop at a zebra crossing. Driving is full of chaos, challenges and sometimes problems. But life too is full of twists and turns! Though some people I swear have death wishes!! They just cross expecting a car to stop. I am not blaming pedestrians only! Car drivers too must be weary, but it is not always their fault! Some drivers too have death wishes in which a collision may occur anytime with the amount of speeding I’ve seen as a pedestrian! They zoom past thinking they look cool. No you look like a crazy idiot!!! SLOW DOWN!

Anyway I kind of wish I could redo this day. If I could I would go back in time and correct my mistakes! I would do things differently and perhaps life would turn out differently. How much of a change would it have made to my future? Well for one thing I wouldn’t have to splash out of an extra £200 on lessons, hiring instructors car and redoing the test (£62) wow everything is expensive nowadays! But since when did driving become less of a skill? The government are increasing prices for people to take tests, to encourage them to take public transport, but driving is a skill. And frankly the public transport in London is pretty crap! I’m sorry but how many times have I heard “The train is cancelled due to a signal failure.” Or “I am sorry the train is cancelled/delayed due to a broken down train at ……station.” How does one broken down train affect all journeys???? I don’t care how- I want it fixed asap so I can travel and get to where I want! “We are sorry for the delay to your journey” yes clearly- that is the most annoying because you know its not true and the monotonous voice it is delivered in really makes you want to hit someone. Not only that its repetitiveness really grates on me because they really aren’t sorry and they’re not in my shoes, I have places to be. But really? Come on you can’t keep up these problems for the Olympics! If this was Japan, they would have apologised profusely if the train was delayed by 1 or 2 minutes!

Anyway I detoured! Back to the topic, learning to drive people don’t realise that it is difficult, so if you are one of those drivers who are in a rush and like to overtake a learner driver, that’s fine (as long as it is done safely) but don’t come right up my car’s bottom because my instructor sure won’t appreciate that and she’ll only make me go slower to piss you off! 😉 hehe I have a funny instructor! She does not take any crap! Pretty funny but people can be rude- I am learner yes give me time- I make mistakes I am not perfect. But everyone makes mistakes even non-learner drivers. I am learning and like little children I fall down. Don’t crush me so I can’t pick myself up- be considerate and patient. I know we all live busy lives, but one or two minutes won’t kill you. Most adults don’t bully children who are learning so don’t bully learner drivers! It is hard and I try to be optimistic, but I know that it won’t be a while till I take my driving test again as I am going exploring for some time and I won’t be back so soon. I just hope I don’t forget and lose the progress that I’ve made in the past couple of weeks. Maybe it was for the best- I’ll never know (Though no one thinks it is for the best!) Who knows what the future holds! (I sure hope I don’t have to take it more than 2 times!) It is very scary, nerve-wracking and tough! Everyone before was saying how ohh 40 minutes is not that long at all! It is fine and goes quickly. Well today I added an extra 10 minutes because I stupidly went the wrong way so I ended up doing 2 extra roundabouts and my exam lasted more than 1 hour!  I was wondering why on earth it felt soo long! I hope next time will go better! I just wish everything was not so expensive and I really wished I was one of the lucky people who passed first time! My examiner was very nice too, such a shame and a waste I made one bad decision! That’s all it takes one bad decision and it could cost you a life, a big F or destruction. (Don’t worry I did not kill/injure anyone!) I just failed!

Anyway just wanted to share my sad news. No not blaming anyone for my failure- that was all my fault. But I am asking people to please please be more considerate to learners, because it is tough! And you were in my shoes once!!!