Bummer Time

April 12, 2010

Last Friday, my favorite junior high held a welcoming party for all the new teachers coming into the school for that year. They held it at a fancy party place which also boasted a natural hot spring within its confines. It was a fun time – good food and plenty of great conversations with old and new teachers alike. Everyone seemed excited for the new year — as excited as one can be when they are running off two hours of sleep, as one teacher confessed to me — and even I started feeling giddy about it. Even if it meant a return to, uh, actually preparing lessons for students.

Unfortunately, I won’t get a chance to make those lessons, at least not at this school. I found out Monday morning I had been transferred from this school. The number of classes in this school rose while the total amount in another junior high dropped, throwing the amount of classes the other English teacher and I work off. To compensate for the change, we swapped schools (he is being pried away from his favorite junior high school as well, so this situation really has no winners). We had no prior warning that this could happen…we just came into work and, poof.

Fittingly, ten minutes after this news, a small earthquake struck the city.

Had this been decided, say, three months ago, I wouldn’t be nearly as shaken (ha! Earthquake reference). But I’ve grown a lot more confident in this job since the start of 2010; it took a decent amount of time, but I’ve become comfortable at all three of my schools. Everything feels far less frightening now. I’ve gotten a hang of this “English teaching” thing, I’ve become friendly with all my teachers, I’ve found clubs at the schools I can get involved in. This is the point in the script where I start hitting my stride, my character goes from bumbling awkward guy to matured workplace presence.

Of course, anyone over the age of seven knows life never mimics TV, nothing ever plays out that predictably. It feels dumb to write something so obvious as life is just a series of transitions — jotting down “it’s raining outside” or “my bed needs to be made” seem way more revealing — but it’s true. I just have to chin up and focus on adjusting to this new school. And hey…I still have two old schools to fall back on.

But saying goodbye to THIS junior high…not easy. My mom always ask me which of my schools I like the best, and I always answer with the Congress-worthy “I like all of them the same!” That statement rang true for most of my time in Japan, but now would be false. The junior high school I’m leaving clawed it’s way to the top sometime this year. I spent the most work days there – it probably only makes sense it eventually became the one I enjoyed visiting the most.

Not to sound like a cliche awards acceptance speech, it’s the people I’ll miss the most. Returning to the work party Friday, the biggest revelation – besides the fact I really can’t eat seafood that still has eyes in place – was at just how close I’d grown to my coworkers at this school. Whereas I only spoke to a few people via interpreter at the first school party back in August, I talked to a much more robust selection of teachers nine months later – with and without translator in tow. There were my English teachers, the science teacher who greets me “good morning” even in the late afternoon, the teacher who loves the NBA so much he named his dog “LeBron,” the teacher who quizzes me on Japanese colors every morning, the teacher who wants me to quiz her on English, the cute math teacher I finally got the nerve to talk to at the party, the teacher who has proposed to me on more than one occasion. I genuinely looked forward to seeing and working with these people in the new year. And even if this new school features just as many interesting characters, I’m going to miss them. A lot.

Not to mention this was the school with the soft tennis club. I”m going to miss making a fool of myself in front of 12-year-old girls even more.

(Japanese Fun Fact #56 – I don’t think I ever mentioned nobody says “bless you” if you sneeze. They just let a really awkward silence develop.)

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