Saturday, September 16, 2006

Breaking old promises

School just started again after the summer break, and I'm getting back into the grind of waking up too early and dragging myself in to dance around for my little English lesson/minstrel show for the students. It being the second year, I'm using the same lessons from last year, so I've got the routine down pat. Like last year, I'm preparing students for a speech contest (more on that later) and grading almost 400 speeches others were required to write for English class.

And so I was in a Starbucks in the city grading these tests when a girl walked up to me and started waving. Lots of students walk or bike by me waving whenever I'm in the city, but, raising my eyes with some suspicion and giving her the quick once-over, I saw that she wasn't wearing a school uniform. This seemed to place her in that dubious category of Japanese that might just wave at me, a complete stranger, just for being tall, white, and red-crested. My interest in Japanese just for their Japanese-ness currently being nil, I decided to ignore her and went back to grading.

But, she as she ran up and yelled, "Mr. Adams!" at me, still waving, I looked closer and saw Mami, the girl I tutored last year for entrance interviews for her university. You know, the one the Vice Principal wanted me to promise not to make fall in love with me. In the end, she passed the interview, was accepted, and went off to Nanzan University in Nagoya to study English. This was the first time I'd talked to her since graduation, so it was really nice to see her. She looked very different outside of school - namely, not in a uniform. I'd say she looked older as well, but that has to be taken relatively, in the sense that most all of the students look like they're 14 anyway so it wouldn't take much to build on that. She and 3 of her friends sat down with me and chatted for a while about their college lives.

Being a bit depressed at teaching the same lame lessons and grading the same boring speeches about club activities, seeing her was exactly what I needed: a reminder of the impact I can have on kid's lives. Not in some vague way about changing their perceptions of foreigners, opening their minds to the wonders of English, or whatever; no, in the definite sense that I got that girl into college. And she's going to remember that, and with something so small I was able to change someone else's life. So the minstrel show will go on, because I've got one more year to get to the rest of those kids.

After talking to her for a while though, it became clear that she's remembering me for other reasons too. Looks like I broke my promise to the Vice Principal after all...

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