On my way to work I ran in to a former student of mine, Tomohiro (Tomohiro-Kun).
It was about as random as it gets. I was headed to work, and he just happened to be walking out of a coffee shop. We both did the big-eyed, freeze-in-your tracks pause:
Tomohiro-”You’re still in Japan?”
Donald-”Yep, I’m still, here, teaching elementary school.”
Donald-”I am so happy to see you! How have you been?”….flashback…
Tomohiro, was an ambitious, Japanese high-school student who really enjoyed learning English. He was quite taken with American culture and had aspirations of getting accepted into of America’s Ivy League Schools.
Starting his college career and moving to a new city meant that he would have to stop coming to AEON (I can understand, those lessons aren’t cheap). I was sad to see him go, but he was a student whose name always stayed in my brain because (whether he knew it or not) I was really rooting for him, hoping would be able to achieve his goals. Why did I take an interest in this Japanese high school student’s goals? There are other amazing students that I taught during my eikaiwa days…why him?
Well, there were two reasons actually.
First. Several months before application time, Tomohiro requested to have a series of private lessons with me to talk ask about SATs, college applications, recommendations, and the Ivy League schools. It was one of the private lessons that I really enjoyed doing because I had been down that same path. I’m sure many of the American students know what I’m talking about. Getting just the right book the SAT book (the one with the flashiest cover), brand-spanking new from the book store, knowing that it’s going to give you just the edge you need to get you the score you want. Honestly the SAT for Dummies book was my favorite when I was taking the SATs…so simple, but it really helped. Tomohiro had a book of the best college essays (in English), SAT I and SAT II books, and then some. I had some of the exact same books from the exact same makers. It really took me back. Having him for private lessons meant that we got a chance to talk more than the regular student would, he would also email me with questions, essays he wanted me to help revise, etc..
Second. In a weird sort of way, this student reminded me a lot of myself when I was around 16 or 17 (at least his goals did anyway). Like me, here was this slim teenager with not so slim dreams and a desire to make them happen. During those years I felt unstoppable, that I could really do ABSOLUTELY anything and everything I wanted. Pure, untainted, unsmirched ambition. My brain and my goals had no bounds, and it seemed like Tomohiro’s didn’t either. I too, applied to the Ivy League schools, but it wasn’t in the cards for me because I didn’t get accepted (check my “What’s Your Story” page). I was hoping that this young man could succeed where I failed.
He took his SAT’s and didn’t do as well as he wanted because of the English. His math scores were near perfect, though (he said the math section was really easy). I was still hopeful though because I really thought he might be able to pull it off. In the end he decided to stay in Japan and go to ICU. International Christian University is a renowned school in Mitaka, Japan, and I was happy to hear that he was going to a good college. Deep down, though I wanted him to get into the Ivy League of his choice, Harvard University.
…(Donald blinks, flashback is over)
Tomohiro: I am applying to UPenn for an exchange program. I think I can get in.
Donald: I know you can do it. Make sure to email me.
Tomohiro: I will. See you.
Donald: Take care.
For those who don’t know, UPenn (University of Pennsylvania) is one of the lesser known Ivy League schools and Tomohiro emailed me that I he met nearly all requirements to get into the exchange program. The last requirement was to improve his TOEFL iBT (Internet Based Test) score. UPenn requires that scores to be over 100 and let’s just say he’s INCREDIBLY close! In a round about way, he may accomplish just what he was seeking to do. It’ll make his old teacher proud. GOOD LUCK, TOMOHIRO!!
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