By Jevon Allen
I have taught numerous students over the years, a few hundred in my Eikaiwa (cram school) days and thousands through the Junior High school, but there are a few that I’ll never forget.
Now that I look back, I am surprised at how nostalgic I am about the ﬁrst group of beginners that I taught. They came to me as a scared little group of six and
seven year old “Taiken” students, all clean slates waiting to be written on. I had the chance to teach them everything that they would know about English and I took a lot of pride in that. In a way, that class taught me in return the preciousness of every teaching opportunity.
When they came in the door, I was waiting for them. It was time to start the class but they just stayed huddled together as my six foot plus frame towered over them. I was the ﬁrst foreigner that they had ever seen. Everything about me was big.
Then, to make it worse, I started saying things to them in a strange language that they couldn’t understand. They moved in closer wondering which one was going to get picked off ﬁrst.
I realized how intimidating I must have been to them since none of them even came up to my waist and Yuya, the littlest one, was barely over my knee. I had to lighten things up, so I grabbed a cute little stuffed animal – a tiger, to toss back and forth as we said our names. I started. “My name is Jevon.” I said with an over cheery smile and gently tossed the little tiger to one of girls. It bounced off of her face and fell on the ground.
Soon, they got the hang of catching and throwing and questions and answers. We progressed along very well as a group and improved rather rapidly over the months. We were always doing different types of activities to keep things interesting and there was never a dull moment.
At the end of the year we had a little down time between activities and we had just ﬁnished studying commands, so I told them to, “Draw the person on your left.” We merrily drew away and after a minute or two I said, “OK, show everyone your pictures.” Well, of course they were a little hesitant. They were afraid that they weren’t good enough drawers and they might get ridiculed for this but I reassured them that we were all friends and that it was OK. One by one we went around the room and the kids showed their drawings and we had a good chuckle.
At last, when it came time for shy little Yuya to show the picture that he had drawn of me. He was adamant not to have his drawing be seen. I just assumed that he was being modest. I didn’t heed that fact that he was trembling and because he was so tiny, it was quite easy to liberate the piece of paper from his fingers. He froze and went white as chalk as I unfolded it. He had drawn it in conﬁdence and apparently had no idea that we would be sharing. I didn’t care.
I opened it…