That was Close

img_20160913_133326391I work at three schools. Because I work with a large number of students throughout the week, my classes generally wear English name tags so that I don’t have to be a jerk and point at them. Usually, this makes things less awkward.

Today, a student forgot his name tag. Conveniently, he was wearing a record company T-shirt, with the logo, Virgin Records, right where his tag would usually hang.

You can see where this is going.

“OK, Ryo, try answering number one.

Sono, you write number two.


I Love My Job

One of my favorite activities to lead has been making flashcards. Because of the language barrier (read: my inability to understand Japanese without copious interpretive dance) it’s a chance for me to get to know my students a little bit better, outside of the confines of my limiting Japanese or the rigid English vocabulary.

A depressing number of kids will just copy the flashcards they’ve already seen from memory, including the oddly specific cartoon style that comes with the English vocabulary words. and honestly, that’s their prerogative- if they just want to finish the assignment, it’s not like it’s a life changing activity. But it gives me a chance to understand their likes and dislikes, their sense of humor.

This student, writing as God, says that he hates studying but likes video games. Not listed, but quite apparent from the drawing, is that God likes six pacs, pecs, and beards as well.


After practicing likes and dislikes with the 5th graders, I return to the teachers lounge, where the art teacher shows me… this.
I immediately try not to tear up, and fail.
As part of a drawing of the whole school with all the staff, the kids drew… me.


Maybe I’m a bit soft about some things, but it immediately became my first priority not to tear up in front of the art teacher. Because of the language barrier, it would have been too difficult to explain that there wasn’t anything wrong and that I’m not insane.

It has been hard- between being at three different schools, having over a thousand students, and a pretty impressive language barrier, to boot- for me to feel like I am concrete part of this community. That my efforts had any lasting value to the students, besides being something of a novelty. This felt a little like affirmation.

Sardine Can Time

Earlier this week, I was called in to sub at a junior high. This was the sight that greeted me at the train station:


Trains are usually quite packed in the morning; it’s standard to really be able to move your arms or legs, or even see below chest level. I’ve heard stories of people losing their briefcases or bags, stuck in between people. But this was a different issue altogether. Train delays meant that we were really going in, sardine style. And it was an hour long train.


Luckily, I was subbing at a school where a friend worked.After this wonderful human being learned of my plight via text, I was met with surprise breakfast at my desk. The rest of the day passed much better than the morning commute, including a short discussion in one class on the American civil right’s movement.