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New Classes

It's been two weeks since the new school year started here. I've been having hectic days, in many ways.

I have fairly long experience of teaching English. Oh incidentally, my private "after-school" English school marked the 20th anniversary this March. Now, you may wonder why I italicized the word "fairly" in the sentence before last. If you guess it right, you are absolutely a master of Japanese ways of communication. I'll give you the answer at the end of this post. Well, I don't mean to brag about the length of my teaching experience here. Actually, I think I have kept my tiny school just awkwardly, just so long, in this small town, without hiring anyone but my wife. That's what I chose to do long ago.

So, where was I? Year, in spite of my fairly lengthy teaching career, I have one thing I never seem to feel comfortable about - to teach at the very first lessons for new students. Whenever I have to have one, I get cold feet. Shorty before such a class begins, I get so stressed out that I feel like running away. As any teacher would do, I guess, I get more or less nervous before *every* class, but that's never compatible with an entirely new class.

A reason behind this nervousness of mine comes from my hope that my new students can have a very fun time at their first lesson. There are all kinds of students. Some may come with high hopes, some may come reluctantly, and some without thinking anything. In any case, I want to give motives for learning English to as many students as possible. That's easier said than done. What I fear most is the scene where my students show no reaction from the beginning, possibly out of their shyness, nervousness, or apathy. Fortunately, I seem to have gotten away with the worst scenario up to now, but the idea always haunts me. Maybe I'm not yet confident about my teaching style, even though I'm kind of confident that (most of) my students will begin to enjoy learning English after a few classes.

Funny enough, usually it's my new students that are more nervous than I. One of my students once said to me, with an air of nostalgia, that she got so tense at the first class that she felt like crying. Oh, did I look so severe? New classes tend to be filled with a tense atmosphere at first. I don't like it. That's why I must not make my nervousness known to my students.

Don't worry, actually most of my regular classes are lively. But that all begins with my hidden nervousness.

Oh, the answer of the question? Well, the answer is, I dunno. That depends on your guess. And that's the name of the game in Japanese ways of communication. Really? Ah, I'm not sure. Guess what. Guess not. ;p


Was wondering how your first couple of weeks went and had assumed that you were busy. Hope you've settled in now and the butterflies have calmed for you.

I know that fear very well. I'm starting classes again next week. I haven't taught a class since January 19. Oh, I do know that fear.

I too taught English for a "fairly" long time here in Japan, though I don't do it any longer. I think that with new classes it is always the fear of rejection. Because it boils down to the fact that if they choose not to continue it is because somehow they didn't like you. So rather than just being a job, it is all so personal. Almost like a first date.

I only recently learnt from reading the 'about me' page that you own and ran your own school.

I'm sure you've heard this before, but that is just so cool :)

Even as a junior high school student, I'd feel empathy for the plight of the teacher when the class was inattentive, apathetic, or noisy and rude. Then in college when I did my student teaching, I discovered that I hated classroom teaching. I love teaching, but pouring my energy into a classroom of students, trying to ignite their enthusiasm, was just more exhausting than I could face on daily basis. This was bad timing since I was just about to finish school and get my teacher's certification. So I didn't become a teacher after all.

Fast-forward 13 years and I move to Japan (which I wanted to do) to teach English (which I didn't want to do but had to do to live in Japan). This experience changed my life more than my students' lives. I still wonder about some of them. How did they turn out? They'd be in their 30s now--hard to believe.

Now that I'm a student again, I've decided that I prefer it to being a teacher. But wouldn't it be wonderful to be a beloved teacher like the main character in Kurosawa's "Mada da yo"?

*Fairly* long experience? I wonder if there's a connection between Japanese vagueness and the time-honoured British predilection for understatement. Both may betoken an unwillingness to obtrude.

I had my first classroom date with the new freshmen the day before yesterday. Dude! they were, like, totally awesome!