In addition to my daytime work as a writer and illustrator, and recently, CG artist, I teach English in the evening for my bread and butter. The school I work at is small and close-knit and the students come for serious study as they try to up their TOEIC scores. This makes for inspiring classes, often carrying an atmosphere of challenge and exciting conversations.
Today in particular, I had a class of students still struggling with the basics of the language, but they dropped the usual Japanese penchant for shyness and opened up with a quick succession of interesting questions. We had fun. So often I hear teachers lament the ineffectiveness of teaching Japanese people, but I think it has more to do with lack of cultural sensitivity on the teachers’ parts than on the students’ inability to learn. Japanese are a very curious people. Give them food for thought and they will come out. Get them to laugh and the reservation melts away. We laughed a lot today, making light of language mistakes and not taking the process too seriously. When a class engages both the students and the teacher this way, when there is a real human dialogue and all barriers are momentarily forgotten, the joy and satisfaction of teaching and learning shine through. It’s what makes me love teaching.
Such a day brings me a sigh of contentment. It’s great when you can feel as if what you do has some value somewhere, even if only a tiny shard.