I have been a teacher to Koreans and Japanese for ten years and have been in the field of education here in the Philippines for another five years until today.

I took three years of relevant experience here in our country before I flew off to Japan with a plan to also get in schools there with my proof of work certificate.

However, when I arrived in Japan, setting in for a teaching position was quite tough. I had my hands tied in manufacturing and electronic companies just to survive while waiting for progress in the over a hundred applications I sent to different work provider companies. Two years have passed when I received an interview and exam call and I did all I could outshining more than 50 applicants from different countries. Then on, I got my first teaching Job in Chiba. The biggest prefecture in Japan where Narita Airport is exactly located which they just named Tokyo Narita, and where Tokyo Disneyland is also situated. Don’t be confused- they’re all in Chiba! Even the biggest mall in JP is! Tokyo is too small for everything at one place! My city assignment was just 15 minutes by Train to Chiba City which has easy access station to all points of Japan’s major cities.

One of the three schools I was appointed in is also the biggest in Yachimata City with seven to eight sections in one grade. The junior high library was gigantic and immensely beautiful, the perspective’s like a children’s tent but made of wood and glass, you can see the books from the outside.

However, life in Yachimata isn’t that glamorous. It’s an agricultural city known as the Peanut Capital of JP. For me, not just because it was my first experience that it was the toughest, but because I think that the way of living there and the educational attainment of parents have an influence in my students’ behavior in class.

When we speak of Japan, we only think of Tokyo, Anime, Advancement & Technology! But it’s not all that! There are cities that are also striving to thrive, just like Yachimata. In junior high, I had many students who were like “gangsters” and they were those who just attend school because it is compulsory to finish high school, then “the hell with the world!”

With my lack of classroom teaching experience, since my previous were one on one and small group classes, I felt lost and shocked everywhere. I have seen students who were pretending to be sleeping in class because English is difficult or probably of their belief they don’t need English in life because they will be staying in Japan anyway! I just kept going despite the tears of disappointments and feeling incapacitated. Then one day in class, I woke up the one I perceived, “the leader” of that group, borrowed his pen, and he let me help him all through out with the activities, my Japanese co-teacher showed admiration in disbelief. From then on, I gave the same assistance with the others until none was acting to be asleep in class.

One afternoon after work, this group showed up in my apartment and bought drinks in a vending machine just beside where I live. To my surprise I asked what they were doing in my place because it isn’t allowed. It is a rule not to spend time with the students after school hours. They just smiled and replied, “We love you, Mary Sensei!” In japanese of course! I just smiled back and asked them to go home, which they immediately obeyed.

There’s this class also in my elementary school where in the environment was too loud, and that it was really difficult to lead that they needed two teachers in the room. I probed as to why and it was because of home setting according to their adviser. In this class, I literally melted down to my knees when I heard the “f” word during my session with them until I found out that they just heard it around and they have no idea of its meaning. Despite the children’s apologies, which I considered dearly, the situations still went on for weeks. I felt like giving up that I was starting to lack confidence and zest every Tuesday as my schedule in that school. Then, I decided to brainstorm that maybe, just maybe I could do something to lighten up the situation. Every after class, when I reached home, I just prepared lesson plans with activities specifically intended for that group using CDs and Arts & Crafts.

As the academic year was about to end, the Board of Education presented new teaching technology, which the advisers can use to teach English independently when I am not around. The teachers were asked of their opinion about it after a demonstration and all of them answered in unison, “We still want Mary Sensei. We only want her.” I was astounded. By the way, did you know that I had to ride a bike for 45 minutes just to reach that school because it’s surrounded with farmland and there’s only one bus servicing from the city center?

Japan is truly a little bit of everything or in fact, a lot of everything! Despite high technology as its crowning glory, life is grueling for others, too. It isn’t perfect. It has its own flaws and struggles in economy, education and society. And as the saying goes, “Live like romans do.” I lived there like a sponge to understand its culture and way of life. While I was with the children, I considered them my own and I, as part of each of their families that I made the most necessary adjustments just so I could help the kids not  just love English or my lessons, but LEARNING. That one day, as they were growing they have found in their hearts the answer to my one question they defined as extremely baffling, – “What do you want to be in the future?