Sunday, 20 March 2016

An inspiring colleague - I wish I was that good

I have had the wonderful privilege of working with this fabulous young teacher for the last two and a half years, at Sasabe kindergarten (in Matsumoto). Had to say goodbye today, but only after she melted the hearts of everyone at final assembly announcing her departure. And bless, Encho-sensei asked all the gobsmacked children "Can you hear that?" looking around. "I can hear a heart beat. We are not losing Ikuko-sensei, we will have a new little friend". Awesome.

Most recently Ikuko has been senior teacher (and therefor my boss), responsible for absolutely everything from making drinks for visitors to dealing with parents, managing first aid emergencies, setting out chairs & making decorations, filling bags & co-ordinating rotas, organising parties & moving drums, jumping in at a moment's notice to cover teachers and backing up everybody on the staff. I think she maybe even changed the tyres on the school's buses!

Momo-gumi champion
When I was very new to kindy teaching, I was overwhelmed with the idea of spending a day with the teeniest ones - and a teacher who boldly told me "No English!"...she was more or less right about that, but her attitude & style was anything but - come on Jim-sensei what's this, and 'help', and...and...bowled me over with her enthusiasm, calmness in the centre of eternal storms, and love. I christened a new style of teaching after her: Smile Deprivation. The very last thing her class wanted was for her radiant smile to fade into a frown and her cheeks to puff out (a brilliant bit of body language I'd never seen deployed before in a class!) - not because the frown was a portent of teacher losing her rag, but that her happy full-face smile missing was like the sun being eclipsed. And how her little class managed each other to get that smile back asap?! And I still don't think she knows how hard that is for the rest of us triers to pull off even half as well - let alone convincingly!

It is very hard to describe how magical teachers can glide through a room shedding warmth & love without distracting everyone or putting off the room teacher. Add to the vibe in the room without being a magnet for attention? One hell of a trick. I try to slip into a room and pandemonium breaks out - kids pointing at my paunch & sotto voce "baby" until I want to clout them!

And to become a senior teacher within a very close-knit staff, some of whom peers from college and still keep that smile working? Still remember every child's name and be wonderful? A class act.

Luckiest young man alive!
I've seen loads of demo classes, countless presentations, workshops with genki this & TPR that, up & down the country. I've been in classrooms from universities & corporate HQs, high schools, you name it. I would be struggling to think of a teacher who has impressed me more, without appearing to try at all, than Ikuko-sensei. A teachers' teacher, and an absolute gem. I learned heaps watching her cast her spells.

Thank you Ikuko-sensei for sharing your classroom with me, and for being so enthusiastically wonderful. You truly are an inspiring educator. Sniff sniff!

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