It has taken me almost three months to finally finish grading the papers from the Leadership class that I taught in the fall. They were mailed to me, then I had to send them to the translator, who went through and gave them numerical marks, then she sent them back to me where I went through and put comments on them. One of the pastors whose heart and spirit touched me so much had shared a story in the class about his first day at his first job as a fifth grade school teacher at a public Japanese elementary school. I asked him if he would write out the story for me; he had enclosed it with his final paper. The other night a friend and I went through and translated it. As a parent; as a teacher – I can learn a lot from this story.
In April 1977, it was my first morning as an elementary school teacher. Since the gym was under construction, we were supposed to have the opening ceremony on the playground instead of inside. I was looking at the list of students before the ceremony. Then a lady teacher came over and she looked at my list, and she said, “Oh, this is the boy Shinji who is a trouble-maker. I’m betting he makes trouble for you all year. He’s not easy – he’s really hard to control.”
I thought, hmm.. I wonder what kind of boy he is.
It was a very hot day. The principal told all the students to sit down while he was talking. There was a teacher with lots of experience standing with his arms folded, walking around the perimeter. So I did the same thing. The other teacher found Nishio-kun from the other class, sitting on the ground and drawing in the dirt. The experienced teacher went over, yelled at him to listen to the principal, pulled his ears really hard, and forcibly turned his head around to face the principal.
I watched all of this from behind. Suddenly I found that my eyes met Nishio-kun’s eyes. I could tell he was not repentant, but rather was mumbling to himself a response. I thought to myself, “Oh, that wasn’t a good way to correct his behavior. Now Nishio-kun has to start his first day of fifth grade like this.”
Suddenly I saw Shinji-kun sitting right next to Nishio-kun, drawing on the ground. Nishio-kun was looking at me and Shinji, daring me to come get it.
I didn’t know what to do. I knew I had to do something, but I didn’t want to pull his ears. So I prayed, “dear Jesus, please show me what to do.” After that, as I passed by Shinji-kun, I bent down and said to him, “Wow, I think you have a gift for drawing.” I didn’t wait for a response, but continued walking.
After the ceremony, the children and I went to our new class. I talked with the class about my expectations for the class. After the first period, I was sitting at my teacher’s desk. Shinji-kun came up between me and the desk and sat down on my lap. Shinji-kun brought his face right up to mine, within ten centimeters, and looked at me directly. He said to me, “Teacher, I think I can do good this year.”
Everything, in fact, went quite well that year. He was not a trouble-maker, but rather was willing to help me a lot in the classroom. I found out that Shinji-kun did not have a mom, but his father was so happy with who Shinji-kun became that year in my class.