「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


Those who can

By Samantha Loong


A while ago, I went to a farewell lunch with a group of teachers. They're already a lively bunch sober, so when the wine started flowing, everyone got progressively louder and more hilarious.

After all but one of us had left, an elderly gentleman who had been dining with his wife at a neighbouring table approached the remaining teacher. She apologised for the rowdiness of our group, but instead of being annoyed, the man said something unexpected. He expressed his curiosity at what would bring such a "diverse, attractive group of women" together. We were clearly having a great time and he wanted to know more about us. "We're teachers," said my workmate.

And what a group of teachers -- of people -- they are. I remember looking at everyone at the table and thinking how, despite how draining our jobs can be, here we were bouncing off each other's energy. The teachers I've worked with this year have been inspiringly smart, witty, warm and full of life. Perhaps there's something about being a teacher that makes you sparkle. And perhaps this sparkle shows -- especially after a few drinks.

For years, I avoided teaching. This was partly due to not wanting to be stereotyped as yet another "foreigner teaching English in Japan." I admired the friends who were brilliant at teaching, especially those who successfully ran their own schools. Then there were others who gave teaching a bad rap. The disparaging saying "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach" stuck with me for years. I wanted to be someone who could.

I somehow managed to find non-teaching jobs in Japan. I enjoyed these jobs immensely and loved the people I worked with. Eventually however, I needed to see that my work was making a positive difference in someone's life. And when I thought long and hard about what made me feel alive, all I could think of was the time I was a teaching intern. I recalled students laughing when they learned a clever way to remember something, or when their faces were completely blank because I explained something badly. Teaching kept me on my toes both in and out of the classroom.

Contrary to the earlier saying, teachers can, do and have to do a lot. As a teacher, you never really stop planning. You'll be reading the newspaper and you'll suddenly find something that you know your students will be challenged and stimulated by. As a teacher, you're never really off duty -- one of my workmates was once stopped in the street by a student who asked her to check the spelling of a freshly etched tattoo.

It's funny how things have come full circle. Earlier this month, I returned to Japan to work. This time, as a teacher. And this time, I'm prouder than ever to be one. I look forward to my next Japan adventure -- may it be louder and more hilarious than the last.



The Japan Times ST: October 18, 2013

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版