Every time I’m at my junior high, there’s always something going on. My student’s personalities are just so different that I always have interesting conversations with them.
When it comes to the third years, I end up talking to JoKo or Ash a lot. JoKo is the kid that claims to look like Joseph-Gordin Levitt, but is terrible at English. However, this doesn’t stop him for greeting me excitedly or trying to talk to me in English. This is enough for me. Sometimes while we are reviewing tests, I’ll see him waving at me with his test sheet full of marks.
“Look, Diego! I got a 42! Awesome, right?”
“No, not awesome, JoKo! That score isn’t good at all!”
“Yeah, but it was originally a 35! I had my teacher look over it again and she made some errors! Good, right?
“Umm…I guess I can’t complain there.”
JoKo is usually joking around with Kouki, who hasn’t really talked to me much beside trying to mess with me during class. We always try to secretly play Janken and my JTE will playfully scold me if she catches me. Yeah, I probably shouldn’t be doing it but when I’m doing nothing but watching my students obviously not caring about class, I might as well have some fun with them. They’re at the point of no return—due to their lack of studying from the past two years, getting them to what a 3rd years level of English should be at is impossible.
The next kid that talks to me a lot is Ash. I call him Ash because he loves Pokemon. He’ll usually ask me something related to Pokemon. I explained to him that I started watching the show during my junior high days and then it came to me that that was around 12-13 years ago. Realizing how long it has been since then, I got slightly depressed, haha. I like Ash because he’s curious and is always willing to try to talk to me in English. His English isn’t the greatest but I like how he tries to put an effort into it at least. I don’t know how he does it but he’ll always ask me a question that has some relation to my life. Recently, he asked me if I liked Saint Seiya, a fairly old anime show. I loved that show as a kid and explained to him I watched in Peru when I was young. Crazy how life works sometimes, huh? Whenever I eat with my 3rd years, he’ll usually get me to sit next to him.
Now that the speech contest has been announced, my JTE has been frantically trying to recruit people to do it. Unfortunately, my 3rd year’s English ability is terrible compared to last year’s graduated 3rd years. We ended up with a boy and a girl. The boy’s name is Kazu, and I really don’t know much about him besides his name. The way I would remember his name is because he’s the guy who always stares at me with no emotion during class. He refuses to turn away and it feels really weird. When we first started practicing the speeches, I was told that he’s really good at memorizing things. Sure enough, he had already memorized half the speech and we still have about a month and a half before the contest takes place. If only he could speak louder and less dead…
I like to call the girl Meeky. Her name is really close to the word embarrassed/shy in Japanese (hazukashi) and I feel like that word really represents her well. She’s really quiet in class and whenever she speaks up, I can barely hear her…it’s as if a mouse was squeeking something in English. My JTE told me that she was the only one that willingly volunteered to do the contest. “I can do it. Anything is fine,” were her exact words. It kinda surprised me, I figured no one would want to do it willingly (Kazu was essentially forced to).
When we first practiced, despite her super quiet voice, I could tell that she was trying her best to learn it. She was proud that she managed to remember the first two lines in the ten minutes that she practiced at home. I think showing an effort is one of the most important things when it comes to learning something. If you don’t want to do it, it’s going to show and affect your studies. I gained respect for her when I saw her trying and underlining her mistakes, something that no other 3rd years do. Overall she’s a really nice girl, who just happens to not stand out and is really quiet.
When I hear both students practicing their speeches, my mind just jumps back to a year ago when I first came to Japan. My first interaction with my Thursday school was helping the speeches with my former 3rd years. The current 3rd years are doing the same speech so I could hear the voices of my old students saying the same words and remember how we won a prize last year. Things are different now, and I’m surprised that time has flown by this quickly. If anything, I’m happy that I’m getting to know more about my 3rd years through the speech contest as some kids just don’t really stick out or you don’t get an opportunity to talk to them.