Another month, another school. For the month of May, I worked at Yamanote Special Support School, which is a school for the physically and mentally handicapped. Although most public schools have special education classes, families are given a choice to send their child to this school if they feel it would be best. It's elementary through high school, and very small - about 70 students in all - and I have to admit, it was nice being in a small school again. With sometimes only 2 students in a class, it gave me Higashi Yonesato flashbacks!
The first week was spent with the Junior High. They were extremely bright - most of them only having physical disabilities which I'm sure made it difficult to function in a regular classroom. Some in wheelchairs, another not able to speak because of a tracheotomy, but all excited to speak English with me. Well, that is, except a couple of third graders, who like to mock me during class. But I didn't let it bother me, that's typical junior high stuff.
I spent the first two days of the second week with the elementary school students, and what a joy that was! After I ate lunch with them the first day, they asked me if I wanted to play soccer with them, which meant kicking a ball at a few of the kids who were deemed goalies. They were so interested in me, and wanted to ask me all sorts of questions, so it was good Japanese practice for me, and I don't get as nervous speaking Japanese with little kids. One boy in particular stole my heart completely. His name was Ren, a fifth grader, and he was a regular energetic boys except for this machine attached to him that he had to roll around with him at all times. I'm not sure what his disability is, but it certainly didn't stop him from doing the things he loved, namely soccer. One day, after we played, he put his arm around me and told me in Japanese how much he enjoyed playing with me. He also wrote me a letter (all the fifth grader did), and although it's in hiragana, I'm lovingly translating every word. Being around those kids was truly the highlight of my month!
The rest of this month was spent with the High School, which I figured would be good practice for me, since I start at Keihoku HS in August. I loved teaching in the high school, mainly because the JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) I worked with really gave me a lot of work. I truly felt like I was team teaching, and not merely a tape recorder. I'd plan out games and other extra activities. They even asked me if I would present a theater class to the students last week, which I excitedly agreed to. And the kids' English was good - it was nice to actually have English conversations with them.
And yet as always, the month went by too quickly, and I've once again gotten too attached. The high schoolers asked me to come back in July for their school festival, and of course I agreed (it's on a Saturday), so I'm excited to see them all again. I'm also going to miss the crossing guard I saw every day on my way to school - an older gentleman who always talked to me in English - and all the other faces I've grown accustomed to on my subway and bus ride. It's back to Hitsujigaoka JHS, where my spiky-haired and short-skirted friends are waiting for me. I wonder if they missed me?