It’s been interesting to see how the students’ reactions to me have changed over the course of the year. Initially I was looking forward to teaching fifth and sixth graders based on my positive experience teaching Chinese elementary kids last March. Japanese kids are different. I quickly found this age to be difficult. They’re shy and almost paralyzed by the fear of breaking away from their peers. The group mentality dominant in Japan starts to take root around the third or fourth grades and by the end of the sixth grade whatever is deemed cool by the leaders becomes the law of the land. Obviously in the start of the school year English class wasn’t cool.
The younger kids reacted differently. For many of them I was maybe the first foreigner they’d spoken with, possibly even seen in this small town. I am an alien to them and they remind me every day of this fact. I am tall, as is my nose. My eyes are reportedly scary…but in a good way…maybe. The young kids liked me a lot at first, but as the newness of having another foreigner around wore off I started to blend into the scenery like any other teacher.
What has happened over the course of the year has been a reversal of roles that is indicative of age. The older students have steadily warmed up to me and the young kids have grown bored of me like an old toy. I used to dread climbing the three stories up to the sixth graders rooms, but now look forward to their classes. It just shows the change kids start going through at 11 or 12. They are leery of new people, especially someone who doesn’t look like them. I’ve had to play a lot of soccer and spend many hours jumping rope to earn their respect.
This human being thing is fun.