Sensei

As a little girl I thought I would like to teach. Actually, I wanted to be a nun for many years . Obviously, that didn’t happen. Instead, I married a sailor and roamed around the world.

In 1977 we lived in Yokohama, Japan, a seaport city south of Tokyo. We lived in government quarters that were built during the occupation after WWII. Across the street from our home was the building that housed a department of the Army, actually a department of the U.S. Army Calvary, the veterinarians who served the community caring for the pets of the military personnel. They also inspected the food coming into the commissaries on the bases. I was hired on as a receptionist for the days the vets worked with the animals. I loved that job, my bosses were great fun and I loved seeing the animals, and yes, we did end up adopting a dog through my work.

Later that year, and in addition to working with the Army, I was honored to have a job as a teacher. I taught in a private school in Kita Kamakura . The school operated in the evenings. I taught on Thursday and Friday evenings and once a month on Saturdays. It was a fascinating time.

Shoes were not permitted in the classroom, so the teachers had their own area to remove their shoes and put on the slippers to move around the classes. On cold and rainy days the secretary of the school would meet me with a cup of hot tea. Always welcome after a train ride.

I had an interpreter who would translate what I said to the students. When the kids arrived in the classroom they would bow deeply and greet me as Sensei (teacher). I would then read out of a reader and the kids would repeat after me. Although the nights were long, I so enjoyed seeing the kids. I taught a couple of my classes how to write in cursive and sing American songs. I always left with a smile of my face.

I learned so much from those times in the classroom. First that Japanese children were the same as I was as a student. The girls would play the hand-clapping games and sing song to them. They would play cat’s cradle. The boys would fold paper and play football. It was a typical classroom. I still have pictures from my students that they drew one night the interpreter was not able to make it and I wasn’t able to convey what to do. If I arrived a minute late, there would be a caricature of me on the blackboard.

I often think of my students and wonder what they are doing. They all have grown, and have families. I still carry them in my heart. They helped to make me who I am today.

I tend to think that the joy I had watching them in class is similar to the joy the Lord has in watching us. I assume that God tends to shake His head at me consistently. I think He laughs often at me.

“The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” Psalm 121:8

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