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October 3rd, 2011


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07:52 pm - An interesting high school trip
Today at the request of one of my students who is a high school teacher I visited his high school to help his students practice for a speech contest.  One of the girls was slightly shyer than the others in the group (although they were all quite shy to talk with this foreign chick who was decked out in a tuxedo jacket and string of earrings topped with dark red lipstick) but I didn't really think much of it since I had seen more than my fair share of shy people at my school.  This girl was shy, but I have students that are way worse, plus she's in high school, that awkward age where anyone outside of one's friend circle is met with at least some apprehension.

After the practice, as I was walking home this girl came running after me trying to tell me in English how sorry she was that she was too shy to speak to me.  She was so frustrated that she started crying which totally caught me offguard so I tried to tell her that it's ok, that I didn't feel like she offended me or anything in my own broken Japanese (which consisted mostly of "daijoubu, daijoubu, nakanaide, honto ni daijoubu"/"it's ok, it's ok, don't cry, really it's ok").  I felt so bad for her, and I could see how frustrated she was with herself.  She said she was really nervous since she couldn't speak English and as we walked a little ways together to her bus stop her tears kept coming.

Thinking back, before working at my current job I was also not the most outgoing person.  Even now, outside of school, I tend to stick to myself.  This job, has, however, really pushed me to work on my social skills, finding ways to start conversations and keep it going.  Also, I guess to high school kids, although they're beginning to spread their own wings and find their own niche in society they're still kids, so although I didn't feel like I was that much older than them they saw me in the role of "teacher", a strange teacher with odd fashion and perhaps a little strange no doubt, but a teacher of some sort.  I think it's the same with me and my high school/junior high school students at my school, I just want to be their friend who happens to know English, learn a little about them, have them learn a little about me, help them out with some English stuff, but because to them I'm in the role of a "teacher" it's difficult for them to think of me as just a "friend".  I had high school teachers whom I thought were cool and enjoyed chatting with at school, but they were still "teachers", not until I went to university did I slowly begin to realize that teachers are people too with their own friends and families and no, teachers don't know everything.  What a surprise that was.

Also, as the students were practicing their speeches today I realized that many of them were doing their best to copy native English speakers' pronunciation and intonation, but the problem was that while in their minds their voices were rising like mountains and falling like valleys, to listeners the difference was actually very minute.  When I read the speech to them for them to repeat after I exaggerated like hell but in no way do I speak like that in normal conversation, but to high school kids it's probably insanely embarrassing to exaggerate to such an extent.  Even to my students at my school, trying to get most of them to put a little more intonation is insanely difficult because they find it embarrassing.  Before I started teaching I also would never intonate so much, in high school and university French class everything was read in monotone and thinking back it probably drove my teacher crazy too.  Intonation's also really hard to copy because usually it comes naturally, so we don't really think about where an emphasis is or where our voice rises or falls.  Sometimes it doesn't so much as rise and fall as...I don't know, go in circles or..something.

Anyway, the experience kind of made me miss high school, and at the same time I've realized that without my realizing it how much I've grown and changed.  From the girl that used to only feel comfortable amongst friends and never owned a fashion magazine or knew how to use make up to the girl that strutted down the street in fashion that turned heads and am damn proud of it with little apprehension of talking to new people I think I've changed a lot.  I hope I'll get to see that girl again in the future   

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