Last year I would have never imagined getting so close to any of my Friday school’s kumis. However, now that the school year is over, I can’t help but think back at how much I looked forward to teaching Nishikawa-sensei’s 6-3. I have talked about them before; besides my Wednesdays school’s 6th graders, these group of kids were my favorites. I don’t know how to describe it, I just felt more at ease around them compared to the other classes, I acted more like myself rather than a strict teacher with them. Teaching English was just a routine thing but with these kids, there were always laugh out moments every week.
I remember when everyone was practicing for demaejugyou. It was fairly boring except when it came to 6-3. Every week we would have to practice “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” so that they could nail it when they taught the 2nd graders. You can only do it so much before you get bored though. 6-3 though had one prankster known as Sohma who would be happy to look like a fool to get a laugh. One day, before I started the CD to practice, he said to us “Hey, let me teach everyone this time!” Nishikawa-sensei shrugged with a “Sure, go for it.” When the music started playing, he would move his hands to each body part in a extremely exaggerated fashion followed by a silly pose. It was so goddamn hilarious that everyone started cracking up, including us teachers. He managed to do the whole thing without breaking into laughter. After that, teaching the song got a lot easier.
Not too long ago, a girl I’ll call Sae came up to Nishikawa and I while we were talking after class. We were talking about how all the 6th graders recently wrote what they wanted to be in the future. Miki had just told me that she wanted to study abroad in the U.S. in order to learn more about fashion design. Nishikawa notices Sae and says to me “Oh Diego, Sae wants to be an elementary school teacher when she grows up.”
“Is that so? Where do you want to teach, Sae?” I asked.
“This school!” she heartily replied.
“Oh yeah? Why’s that?”
“Because I want to drink with you two at noMIkai!” she said as she gestured a kanpai. Nomikai means a drinking party; I hadn’t laughed that hard in awhile after hearing her response. Nishikawa followed right after. These are the kinds of replies that I love about 6-3. The way she said it in English and accentuated the mi in nomikai was the icing on the cake.
I feel like the kids in 6-3 try their damn best to practice English with me; most students will try to go the easy route and ask me in Japanese. However, 6-3 will usually try to ask in their broken English with gestures and it makes me happy that they’re trying. One of the funnier requests was when a boy in the back stood up after class and yelled my name.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Soccer? What about it?”
“After school. Let’s. Play. Soccer! Together! Okay?” He replied with a yell followed by a “YEAH! COME ON!” and a thumbs up. So funny.
The last day with them was so bittersweet. I didn’t have many classes that day and noticed that they were playing dodgeball for an entire period. I decided to join them and had a blast. It was really great to experience such innocence one more time until they were sent off to junior high school. “What did you think, Diego? Did you have fun?” a boy asked at the end of the period.
“I did. You have no idea.” It made me think back of my recess days.
During actual recess time, I was wandering down the halls out of boredom. I noticed a lot of 6-3 students were hanging around the class which is rare as most of the kids play outside. After walking into the classroom, I realized they were all signing each other’s yearbooks.
“Oh Diego! Sign my yearbook!” Hiroki asked. Naturally I signed it and he was psyched. The other students began to notice my presence and started hounding me for signatures/messages. I felt like a celebrity. It was hard to keep track whose yearbook was whose.
“Who is this from?” I asked while I was thinking of a message.
“Oh that’s Sae’s.” Hiroki replied.
“Okay, cool. Dear Sae…”
“Oh wait, I’m wrong! That’s Rei’s!!” Hiroki yelled but it was too late. I had already wrote Sae’s name.
“Whaaat?” Rei heard her name and ran up to us. “Oh wow, you’re signing my yearbook Diego???” She was clearly excited. “Can I see what you’re writing?”
“Nope! Nope nope nope. Not yet!” I playfully pushed her away. “Hiroki, get me some White-Out!” I whispered to him.
“Wait, what are you saying to Hiroki? Did you screw up??” She was starting to freak out.
“No, of course not! Quit peeking!” Miki noticed what was going on and dragged her away from me. I quickly fixed the mistake by the time Rei came back. “Omigod omigod omigod Diego is writing on my yearbook!!!” she started to screech. I found it funny how she made it seem like I was a rock star.
Finally it was time to teach them one last time. Rather than teaching, I just played Pictionary with them. I would give each team rep a word and they had to draw a picture. A team would get a point for guessing the word in English correctly and another point for whose drawing I liked best. At first we reviewed English words but then I got silly and started telling them to draw characters. Eventually I told them to draw Nishikawa-sensei. Realizing what was going on, Nishikawa covered his entire face up. It was so funny.
At the end of class, I asked if I could take a picture with everyone. They happily agreed. This was the last time I saw 6-3. I wish I could’ve seen them graduate but sadly I was already going to my Wednesday school that day. I’m really going to miss them. They reminded me why I loved teaching and why I love the job I’m at right now. I hope that they’ll be awesome people in the future!