I completely forgot to mention one of the brightest spots of my job-- class 3-8. In the true manner of "The Wayside School," there is no class 3-7. All I knew before teaching in this class was that 3-8 was for special needs students, which my teachers translated as "emotionally disturbed." I was envisioning this class to be all of my shaved eyebrow gang that I mentioned before, that likes to cause trouble for the teachers on a daily basis.
Imagine my surprise when I get to class and see the sweetest little 7 smiling faces you've ever seen. Only 7 kids in this class, out of a school of 700. I'm not sure how that works. I heard a rumor that in Japan parents have to consent to putting their children in a special class, and many will refuse to do it. I can't swear to that fact, though. Some of the kids in there act just like "normal" kids, except you get the impression that much has never been asked out of them. I finally asked one of the teachers today how a child is chosen to be in the 3-8 class, and she told me that they scored as "unteachable" on an IQ test. An IQ test determined the course of the rest of their life. You see, compulsory education ends after junior high in Japan, so since these kids have been separated and pretty much babysat through school. So the chances of them making it into a high school are virtually non-existant.
The kids are fabulous. They know no English whatsoever, other than hello and goodbye, but I really think that they could get all the basic greetings down if they would just let me work with them some. Don't get me wrong-- there are some troubled kids in there. Maybe some of them can't learn. I don't know. But they are the sweetest children you'll find at Namekawa JHS. When I taught them last week we played a game of Uno, and my teaching consisted of me saying the number and color of the card in English. Of course they were doing the same for me in Japanese. :) By the end of the game they were doing pretty good on their colors and numbers!
The kids there are so sweet! Whenever one does something good they all rejoice with them with clapping and high fives. The brighter ones help the more troubled ones play their best cards. They seem to really love each other like a family. Their teachers in that class are just as awesome. At the end of my class with them they all walked me back to my desk at the office to make sure I made it back okay. :)
Ever since my first class with them I have made a point to walk by their classroom as much as possible, hoping to catch the door open so I can wave at them and say hi. Today I got to play with some of them after school. Just seeing any of them makes my little heart so happy it could burst.
I never thought I would enjoy or be good at working with special needs kids. I thought it just wasn't my cup of tea. But these kids have already taught me great lessons in loving and potential, and I can't wait to see what else they teach me over the next two years.