I know I'm supposed to be providing pictures of my second trip to Nikko, but it's taking longer than expected and I want to talk about my day today. Since I'm leaving on my next trip, into the Japanese Alps, next week, it is unlikely the Nikko trip will posted soon...

Today was a pretty good day, as far as workdays go. I was assigned a sub shift, a sort of waiting shift where if something bad happens I'm ready to go replace a teacher or something. Very often nothing happens, and we are left with nothing to do for an entire shift. So most of the day I was able to plan my lesson for tomorrow, study maps for my trip, and watch the other teacher at the school teach kids. Only at the end did I take over for the regular teacher who was also there, so he could have some time off as well.

The real pleasure of the day was seeing one of my kids from last school year. Though she was somewhat of a trouble maker, she was that way because she is different, smarter than most kids her age (she's now six years old). So I had sort of mixed feelings when I taught her--she would cause trouble in class, but I could tell she was going to grow up to be quite an individual, and those kids are my favorites.

It was a real surprise to see how much she had grown and changed in just a few months. She was much taller, and she had become much more obedient in class (I hate the word obedient, but I can't think of a better one at the moment--I guess I mean more studious and less disruptive).

She was a bit shy at first, but she quickly let down her guard and was asking me questions (in Japanese) and laughing. I watched her class, and she would often turn to look at me and smile a big gap-toothed grin (there are windows looking in to the kid's rooms, a feature which absolutely horrified me at first but which really is good for the mothers and fathers, and the occasional teacher with free time). A couple of times she caused trouble in the class, then immediately looked my way, as if to show she hadn't been completely tamed. When she left, she waved, walking backwards toward the elevator, seemingly reluctant to go.

This is the real joy of being a teacher--the respect and love of your students. I complain a lot about my work, and to be honest the joys are outnumbered by the trials, but just barely. The kids can certainly be painful at times, but I have yet to meet a kid who really was trouble, who was unlikeable and who I just couldn't teach (I'm lucky). And then, rarely, I have these brief moments of recognition when I get, for example, to see the growth of a student I taught before and to understand that I have had some effect on her life (though I'm afraid her English isn't a whole lot better than when I taught her!). Unfortunately, I probably won't get a chance to see her again, but I wish her well. I felt from the first few days I taught her that she will have a hard life because she is different, but I hope I am wrong. I hope she remains different and yet is still able to make her way in the world.