11 Jan Ginowan, Okinawa, Japan: Welcome to D-class
Six feet under screams, but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there’s still a chance for you
‘Cause there’s a spark in you?
You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July
‘Cause baby you’re a firework…….”
My fourth and fifth graders practice their rendition of Katy Perry’s “Firework” while making hand gestures simulating fireworks exploding in the wind. I chuckle softly, watching them through the mini i-camera on my iPhone. It’s moments like these that I want to record. Maybe I should show their parents.
“Louder, louder! Boom, boom, boom,” I mouth at the girls singing enthusiastically.
“Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon,” they respond loudly.
I turn off my iPhone mini camera just as the song concludes.
“That was so great! I’ll check the video to study the gestures you guys made up,” I inform my students.
The bell rings precisely at 3:00 p.m., signaling the end of our music lesson. At this time, we all have to clean as a class. One child sweeps the hallway; others mop the floor; another one sweeps; another vacuums; and yet another cleans the whiteboard. I supervise the kids, offering assistance when necessary. Everyone works together and supports one another.
Which basically sums up my new life here in Ginowan, Okinawa, Japan.
I just moved to Okinawa from mainland Japan around three months ago, and thus far I am having a great time. I teach a combination class of fourth and fifth graders at AmerAsian School in Okinawa, otherwise known as AASO, mostly serving AmerAsian children. Even though we are living in Japan, the elementary school students are taught primarily in English. I had been teaching English at an international school in mainland Japan prior to teaching at AASO, and so I was really impressed with my students’ near-native fluency in English.
Everything about this school is incredible. Perhaps it is not fair to compare and the past is the past, but everything is in direct contrast to my previous place of employment. Everyone is hard-working; my boss is open and available to discuss anything that comes up; we have all of the teaching materials and resources we need at our disposal; other teachers are caring and help each other. It just feels like a real team. Even more importantly, my students light up my life. I finally feel as if I have a real purpose.
My partner and I relocated to Okinawa from mainland Japan mainly for the many work opportunities. We had been feeling unmotivated and disillusioned–stuck in the same place–for a long time.
But that doesn’t matter anymore. I need to focus on the here and now.
“Ms. J, may I see the video?” my student Miuta asks excitedly.
“Are you finished vacuuming?” I double check.
“Yes,” she replies.
“Okay, then,” I answer as I start replaying the video on my iPhone.
Miuta, the D-class performer, sings and dances along with the video, and when it gets to, “Maybe you’re reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road,” I also join in.
I just love that part!
By that point, the rest of my girls huddle around me, trying to sneak a peak at the video.
“Ms. J, Ms. J, I want to see,” Miuta whines.
“Wait, wait a minute, girls,” I say, laughing out loud. I have so much fun teaching this class!
And that is what my days are like here every school day. Starting from my first day of teaching, which incidentally took place in the middle of their school year, my students welcomed me with open arms; and I just knew that I wanted to stay here for a long time.
Welcome to D-class.
About the Author, Ariana Jauregui: A California native of Mexican-American descent, Ariana Jauregui has been living and teaching in Japan for over 10 years. She enjoys reading, writing, meditating, walking, watching films, and just learning about EVERYTHING, including new cultures. Having recently obtained her master degree in education, Ariana hopes to instill in her students her love of reading, writing, and lifelong learning.
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