Monday, December 19, 2005

Unexpected honor

Last week my three classes at a prestigious university here in Tokyo ended. They were small classes of third-year students and, over the semester, we began to feel comfortable with each other. Each week students had to get up in front of the class to speak spontaneously and problem-solve a particular case study or article they had just read. It would be tough enough for a native English speaker to do this, but these students were speaking English as a second language.

Each week the students worked together in groups and got to know each other a little. At the same time, I got to know them a little. After each presentation, I congratulated them on their courage, and encouraged them to keep practicing their English, even after graduation.

At the end of their final presentations, I again congratulated them on their hard work and wished them well on their life's journey. I told them how much I had enjoyed teaching them, and how honored I was to have known them—even for this brief time.

When I was finished, my entire class rose to give me a standing ovation.

That's when I knew, for the first time, that I really was a teacher. I almost cried.

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