A few weeks ago, possibly my favorite time of the school year came around. Since I don't always have a schedule of what's going on with the students, it appeared randomly and out of nowhere to me that the sound of students voices lifted in song started to fill the courtyard between the teachers' room and the classrooms. The students were practicing, beautifully, for the singing contest. Every time, it made me smile. It felt like I was in the middle of some musical or something. They practiced hard, class by class, and they were really good. Any time I heard them, I stopped whatever I was doing and went to listen. Once in awhile I took a picture. Or a video.
It went something like this shaky video across the courtyard:
Maybe I'm just a sensitive dork, but the big day filled my mind with so many thoughts and emotions, way bigger than a simple singing contest. Music moves me, makes me pause and feel thoughts inside my head in a different way. I assume it does this for many people and that it's part of why we like certain songs, because of the power they have to make us really Feel Something.
What amazed me both last year and this year is that as each class sings two songs, one of of the students from the class is the director and another is the pianist. These are junior high school kids. They play the piano well enough to accompany their classes. In most classes, there were two students talented enough, one for each song. I'm pretty sure when I was in junior high there wouldn't have been so many students who could do that. It blew me away.
Sitting there and watching the students from afar, I saw them differently. I feel like when I am in a classroom, most of the time I am too busy to really see them. Sure, I notice sometimes if one of them gets a haircut or if they have gotten better at using some grammar point (or, dismayingly, haven't), but seeing them up there I saw them in a way that I just don't when I am teaching or calling upon them to answer a question or participate in some activity. I noticed almost for the first time how much many of them have grown since I met them a little over a year ago or even the first year students since the start of the new school year back in April.
This led my mind to wandering and wondering what they would look like a year from now and who they would grow up to become in the future. Like I said, music makes my mind wander. It also made me kind of sad to wonder who would be sitting in my seat next year since I'll already be gone already, so soon. Will that person enjoy this day as much as I do? Where will I be? Will any of them remember me? Did I do anything useful here, teach them something that they will take forward? I hope so, but, you know, who knows, right? I do know that I will remember this forever and will cherish these sweet memories in between the realities of frustration and aggravation that are part and parcel of this experience.
At last, it was time for the teachers to go up on stage to sing. Last year we did a Japanese song that I practiced and practiced and practiced. This year, an English song was chosen. I didn't practice as much. I think I sang one part wrong. It didn't matter. I don't think anyone noticed. The students rolled up their programs and all waved them back and forth. I smiled and sang and smiled some more. At the rehearsal, the music teacher had told us that instead of doing the usually serious Japanese style bow and exiting the stage, that we should all do some little hand gesture, like a peace sign (Japan loves the peace sign so much that I have to consciously remind myself not to do it in every picture) or thumbs up or something. I suspected that they were all going to chicken out. I was right. Still, after the serious-faced bow, I went for it and did the forefinger and pinky up rock star gesture because I felt like one. Then. Now. Often here. I appreciate this whole experience so very much. It also made some of my students smile, and that was the cherry on top of this day of song.