Over the past five years, I have seen many students pass through junior high school. When I first came to Japan, the students now in their first year were in the second grade of elementary school, and those in their third year were in the fourth grade. Those students who were in junior high school when I arrived are now in high school, or college, or have finished school altogether. Time passes so quickly.
I remember my first time teaching a class at Kawamata Junior High School. I had never taught a class of students before, but I was determined to do my best. It was a first year class, and the children were all very cute and energetic. I introduced myself and talked about my country, my family, and my hobbies. I thought I was doing a good job, but when some of the students said something I didn't understand, the teacher told me, "They think you look nervous." "What? Why?" I asked. I thought I was speaking confidently. But she explained, "When you wrote your name on the blackboard, you broke the chalk."
It's true, I was nervous first. But everybody made it easy for me to relax. For example, there was one first-year girl sitting in the front row. Her foot was in a cast, and she was carrying crutches. But whenever I looked in her direction, she gave me such a warm and happy smile that I stopped being worried. There were other students who came up and asked for me to sign their notebooks after class. Or when students saw me in the street, they would come and ask me questions. So I stopped being nervous very quickly.
In order to get to Yamakiya Junior High School, I had to catch a bus very early in the morning. I don't like getting up that early, but in this case I didn't mind. I was always happy to go to Yamakiya. Even though the school was old and drafty, full of horseflies in the summer and freezing cold in the winter, it quickly became one of my favourite places. I hope I can go there again before I leave Kawamata.
At Kawamata Junior High School, I soon began having lunch with the special education class. I quickly discovered just how special these students are. They are some of the friendliest, brightest, most charming children I have ever known. Every occasion when I can spend with them is a joy.
These are just some of the wonderful memories of junior high school that I will take away with me and treasure for the rest of my life. I came here to teach these students... but I think that they have taught me much more.