Awkwardness and warmth

I’ve spent all of today (with the exception of the 90 minutes I was in class) designing the programme for the musical. It actually took me pretty much the whole day to finish the typography on the cast list, and I’d just gotten started on the front cover by the time 4:10 PM came around and it was time for me to go catch my bus. I’d consulted my JTE for help, with the katakana and some phrasings and whatnot. But other than that, saying my requisite “hello”s when I came in, asking a nearby science teacher for help with finding an outlet to plug my laptop power cable in, and complimenting the music teacher on her swishy corduroy pants when she was talking to a few other teachers nearby about them, I didn’t talk to anybody today. At all.

It makes me feel incredibly guilty. I know I need to put in much more of an effort, but I just have no idea what to say. I’ve noticed lately that I seem to always just talk in the first-person to any of my teachers, not counting my JTEs–I have no idea what to talk to my teachers about, unless I need their help with something. I do try to go into the lounge area when a few other teachers are in there and join them and listen in, and sometimes I can follow what’s going on…the thing is, it isn’t just a language barrier thing, because I’m on pretty good terms with my coworkers/superiors at the community center and board of education.

So I left the teachers’ room feeling guilty and uncomfortable, and when I went walking down the hill that leads to the main street, I passed the bus stop (that doesn’t have nearly enough buses that go by it) just below the school, where two of my girls were waiting (ninensei? sannensei? Don’t remember, whoops). It was drizzling lightly, freezing cold, with the weather just above freezing…and while they were wearing jackets, they were wearing their school gym shorts.

They saw me and waved, and I smiled back and said, “Samukunai?

They both responded, simultaneously, “Samui yo!” and then one repeated, in hesitant but enthusiastic English this time, “It’s cold!”

I gave them a sympathetic look…if I’d had any warmth-inducing stuff I wasn’t using, I would have gladly lent it to them. I don’t understand how so many kids keep wearing shorts in the winter–apparently there are sweatpants, but nobody wears them because the shorts “look cuter.”

Suddenly, they kind of murmured to each other, and then both trotted across the street towards me, with an expression on both their faces as if they wanted to give me something or tell me a secret, and then they came and huddled next to me for a moment, kind of holding out their arms as if they wanted to give me a group hug, but feeling a little shy/embarrassed about it. It was such an incredibly sweet gesture! It caught me by surprise, but after a second I put my arms very lightly around them (only briefly, unfortunately–I had my own bus to catch), and must have said something like, “Awww!” because they both started echoing me and pretending to sniffle, as if they were crying because I was leaving them, as I finally let go of them and made to continue walking down the hill.

“See you!” one wailed, still mock-crying.

“See you…next time? Next time!” the other chimed in, interrupting her mock-crying to straighten out her English.

I grinned and said, “See you! Tabun ashita…see you tomorrow!”

They both perked up and grinned back at that. “See you tomorrow!” they repeated.

The smile on my face, and the warm fuzzy feeling the encounter left, stayed with me the rest of the way down the hill, even as I passed the bus that they were waiting to catch not even a couple of minutes later as it climbed the hill, and I knew that they’d be a little warmer, at least. It doesn’t make me feel better about not being a more proactive member of my teachers’ room (even though I’m only there 3 days at most and usually not even for a full day, due to coming in late or leaving early because of elementary school lessons), but at least my kids really like me–maybe because I do try to have fun in class and laugh along, I’m not a strict disciplinarian (though I did notice today that while the kids were still messing around when my JTE kept shushing them, as soon as I said, “shh,” the class immediately fell silent–hahah!, I’m okay with (shh) slipping into Japanese to answer their in-class questions…I also make it a point to try to comment personally on all the papers I grade (on the rare occasions that I grade them). I don’t have much of a chance to get involved with the students and in their activities and whatnot since my “base school” really isn’t much of a base, but I guess the little things I try to do are making a difference, somehow.

I may not be going to school tomorrow, though. The 3rd-years have tests (not sure if that means more entrance exams or just regular testing), so I may hang around the community center again. I think I’m “supposed” to go to school, since it’s one of the days I should be there, but nobody seems to have a huge problem with my deciding to stay at the kouminkan instead. (And that way, I can make sure I remember to draw money during the business day, so I can immediately pay off my rent, which was due today. CRAP.)

I don’t know. I wish I just knew how to jump in and get involved and become a bigger part of the team. I’m here for another 17 1/2 months, and I don’t want it to be this awkward and stilted for that entire time. It’s fine at the rest of my elementary schools, generally…it’s just this one thing that I really would like to improve.

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