There is a young, autistic student that has taken quite a liking to my English classroom. From time to time, this student loves to come in and look through some of the English materials in my room. Usually, he breaks out a set of English cards and tries to say the names of different animals in English. Today he came in and did the same thing he always does, play with my English teaching materials and props. But today, after playing for a little while he walked over to me and said “Isshoni asobo!”. I thought nothing of it, really. He had been singing a few minutes prior, and I thought maybe he was just singing fragments of a song he remembered. He went back to playing, and just a few short minutes later, he came over again and started to touch my head (for some reason, Japanese children of all ages, shapes and sizes are magnetically drawn to my bald dome). Once more he said “Isshoni asobo! (Let’s play)” “Eh, why not? I’ll play” I thought to myself.
So he grabbed my hand and took me over to the shapes and colors posters in my room, and started pointing to different pictures. He wanted me to say the words in English. “Wagon!” “strawberry!” “Carrot!” “Orange.” I tried to make each of the voices different enough to keep him entertained. As I continued to say the words in English, two of teachers walked up to the door and peered inside the English room. After we went through all of the words, the boy began to clap. I opened the door for his teachers, and in Japanese they asked whether the student asked me to play or if I just came over voluntarily. When I told them the student asked me, they were so surprised. They told me that the young man never asks anyone to play except for his main, special needs teachers. I was happy to make a connection with a student I don’t usually teach, even if only for one day.
Cleaning time is an everyday thing at the school. I don’t know why, but if disagreements are going to happen between students cleaning time is prime time. I always have a group that comes to help me clean the English room. Today, while I was sweeping, I suddenly heard one of the 2nd graders start bawling. I didn’t see exactly what happened, but when I asked her, she pointed at another boy who was cleaning. I tried to take both students to their homeroom teacher next door, but she had gone downstairs for a moment. So I had to listen very carefully to find out what happened in Japanese. It seemed to be an accident, so I got the boy to do an “English-style” apology, had them shake hands, then give me a high five. We all went back to cleaning. Whew…disaster averted.
I had one last instance of a special connection with another special needs students. This student from time to time will become unresponsive to his teachers and is subject mood & behavioral changes.
One particular day, the majority of the kids had left the school, except for those who were a part of the after school program (but they were outside playing). I was in my classroom prepping, and just outside of my door I heard pouting and muttering, but there was no one else on the hall, I didn’t think so anyway. I went outside to find one of the special needs students, arms crossed, looking very upset. When I walked over to him to ask him what was wrong. He turned to me, buried his head in my stomach and started crying. I stayed with him a while to calm him down, and then draped an arm across his shoulder as we walked to find his teachers. When we finally caught up with them, they bowed and thanked me for bringing me over.
Ever since, whenever I see that this child is upset, I walk over to him and his mood changes instantly. Whenever he sees me, he ALWAYS smiles, it’s so heart-warming, that I all I can do is respond in turn. Whenever I see him in the hall, he shouts “Donaldo Sensei” and comes over to high five me.
I know I don’t make much money as an ALT, but the connection I make with students everyday is something that makes me look at my salary and say…ah, who cares.
See you tomorrow,
P.S.-Do you have any teaching stories you’d like to share?