A year ago, I was told that three of my five schools would be in the islands, and I would have to take the ferry or the kousoku, the express boat, to the islands and then find my way to school. That was how my journey to Nakajima and Nuwajima began.
In her poem “Nothing Lasts,” American poet
Jane Hirshfield writes: ” ‘Nothing lasts’—/ how bitterly the thought
attends each loss. / “‘Nothing lasts’ – / a promise also of consolation.”
While Hirshfield may have not been speaking
about the JET program, her words are applicable here. There are good and bad
days in the Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) Program. There are things, people,
and moments that you love as much as there things, people, and moments that you
detest. You can be bitter that it doesn’t last. You can also be relieved.
As I reestablish my life in America, I am
reflecting on Hirshfield’s words, and considering all the things I miss and
don’t miss about JET. Here’s what I collected:
As an elementary school ALT, I’ve played many roles. I have been the tape-recorder: reading dialogue from a script as the children fidget and try to match pictures to numbers based on what I’m saying. I have been the planner. I have prepared materials and designed lessons. I have adjusted things between classes and addressed problems that came up unexpectedly. I have been a kind of class pet: little children literally climbing on me, pulling at my hair, shouting for my attention, comparing hand and foot sizes, marvelling at my non-brown eyes and occasionally trying for that elusive kancho – and that’s where I draw the line.