アレックス先生, reporting for duty.

It’s the Little Things

It’s no secret that I really, genuinely, totally love my job. I look forward to going to work every single day, and so many of my fondest memories of my time in Japan are from time spent in the classroom. Being a JET, especially at a school like mine, carries a whole lot of perks. And for me, the greatest perk of all is getting to work with kids who are motivated, intelligent, and energetic. (Though that last one doesn’t always apply when I have lessons with them during Monday’s first period…)

It’s the little things, like how one of the baseball players whom I thought didn’t really care for my lessons yelled “Alex-sensei’s lesson today?! YES!” when I came into class last week, that really make me love my job even more, because it makes me feel like the attachment and fondness I feel for the kids I teach goes the other way, too. Sometimes, when I’m lucky, that manifests concretely.

Case in point: in the next month and a half, 青森高校 will have its annual sports day and school festival. As you might have seen in these posts from last year, each of the homerooms – both students and teachers – get their own T-shirts. Even though I’m part of the first-year teachers, I’m not linked to any specific homeroom, so I’ve never managed to wrangle a jersey for myself.

This year, I was bound and determined to wheedle and persuade one of the homerooms to let me in on the action. Even though I teach the first-years, I asked one of the senior Japanese English teachers if I could get a shirt with his homeroom. I reasoned that I know the third-year kids the best, seeing as I’ve taught them the longest. (And I won’t lie…the seniors always get the coolest jerseys.)

They're all jersey styles used by European football teams. Pretty fancy, right?
They’re all jersey styles used by European football teams. Pretty fancy, right?

And I went about it in a pretty Japanese way, too. My request went something like this: “K-先生, I’m so sorry, I have a favor to ask of you…but if you don’t think it’s a good idea, it’s okay! And if the students also don’t agree with it, that’s okay, too! And if it’s too late, I understand! But…if it’s all right, would you mind if I got a jersey with your homeroom?” Plenty of お願いします (onegaishimasu, “please”) peppered in for good measure, too.

I was told that as long as the students agreed and hadn’t ordered their shirts yet, it was A-okay by him. Not even ten minutes later, a couple of kids bounced up to my desk with the form. We got the size, cost, and what name I wanted on the back all sorted out, and they said I could just pay when the shirts came in.

I told them I just wanted "Alex-sensei" in Japanese on the back of my jersey, and one of the boys told me that if you write "Alex" in certain kanji (characters), it means "powerful dinosaur." I stuck with my standard name, but next year, I am definitely getting "powerful dinosaur sensei" on the back of my jersey.
I told the kids I just wanted “Alex-sensei” in Japanese on the back of my jersey, and one of the boys told me that if you write “Alex” in certain kanji (characters), it means “powerful dinosaur.” I stuck with my standard name, but next year, I am definitely getting “powerful dinosaur sensei” on the back of my jersey. I’m not missing that opportunity again, believe me.

On Tuesday this week, those same kids dropped by to give me my fancy new jersey. And if I do say so myself, it’s pretty damn snazzy. But as cool as it looks, that’s not what really thrilled me the most. When I tried to hand over the money I owed, they put their hands behind their backs and backed away a pace. “We ordered many shirts,” one of the boys explained. “So we got one for free…and we wanted that one to be yours.”

And the friendship present one of the girls gave me was just the cherry on top. (PS, can you tell I'm in the hectic midst of planning for summer vacation in Turkey?)
And the friendship bracelet one of the girls gave me was just the cherry on top. (PS, can you tell I’m in the hectic midst of planning for summer vacation in Turkey?)

Yeah, it’s only a twenty-five dollar shirt, but that just about made my heart burst. That homeroom is definitely getting a hulking batch of cookies delivered to them soon.

 

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