There is now one week left of summer break before the girls return to school. The summer break in Japan is six weeks long, and the students resume the school year in September (the academic year is from April to March).
As the first semester came to a close at the end of July, there were parent-teacher meetings. As the girls are both in elementary school this year (Aliya is in 3rd grade; Mikayla in 1st), I met both of their teachers. I always have the same questions for their teachers:
- How is her Japanese?
- How is she doing with her school work in Japanese?
- Are there any concerns you have regarding her Japanese?
- What can I do to help her improve her Japanese?
Regarding friends at school:
- How is she doing socially at school?
- Does she have friends?
- Do you have any concerns?
From my questions you can see my two main concerns for my girls in school are: Japanese and friendships.
And to be frank, of the two girls, I am always a bit more anxious about Aliya, mostly because she had such a difficult time in 1st grade; and though she has done so well since then, the memories of her suffering during that long year have left residual scars in my mind and heart.
As Aliya is in 3rd grade, I can see that by 4th grade, her level of Japanese in the various subjects she will be studying (science, history, etc.) will exceed my level of Japanese; I foresee that day when I won’t be able to help her with her school work anymore.
So I am constantly worried about her level of Japanese at school. As I was talking with her teacher about this, she did mentioned some concerns she had, namely that because Aliya is not a native speaker, her vocabulary isn’t at the same level of her classmates, and she has difficulty understanding spoken instructions. As I heard this, I felt my heart sink, and I remembered something I had seen a few months back at the start of the year in April.
There was a classroom observation day where parents are invited to see one class. In Aliya’s class, each child did a presentation about a place in their neighborhood. When it was Aliya’s turn, she stood in front her her class, with her paper in hand, and as she read her report, her voice was so quiet it was almost inaudible. She stood up there, speaking in her mouse-like voice, shoulders slightly slumped…she looked so tiny.
I remember thinking, “Who is this?”, because the Aliya I know is so loud at home, I’m always having to tell her to be more quiet so we don’t bother our neighbors.
In that moment, I realized that she lacked confidence in her Japanese ability; she felt insecure. In addition, she too probably has residual scars from that first year’s hardships. It made me wonder how she felt every day at school. It broke my heart, and I stood, fighting back tears, in the back of that classroom, looking at the tiny Aliya.
As I listened to the teacher’s concerns about Aliya’s Japanese, I felt a flood of emotions–and mostly, I felt discouraged. Aliya works so hard during the school year; she studies Japanese with a tutor twice a week, and recently she has had moments when she’s complained about how many lessons she has. Sometimes I too just want her to play like the other kids. “But even with all that, her Japanese isn’t good enough,” I deflatedly thought as I listened to the teacher.
While I sat there, silently spiraling into despair, as if on cue, the teacher looked at me directly in the eye and said, “I often tell Aliya that she is special. She speaks two languages, English and Japanese, which is something that the other kids can’t do. She is a kind-hearted, loving, and caring person. She cares for the other students. She even cares for me, asking me how I am. I am not worried about your daughter; she will be ok.”
At that moment, I saw how much the teacher liked, even favored, Aliya; that moment testified to me about how the Lord answered our prayers for her teacher to “show favor” to Aliya.
Through the teacher’s words, the Lord directed my attention to the blessings Aliya has received, rather than focusing on what I perceived was lacking. This is my consistent perception, as a glass-half-full type of person.
In fact, the Lord used her teacher’s words to help me step back to really see that she will be OK, really, no matter what. The Lord has provided for her in the past, even with the residual scars, and he will surely provide all that she needs for the future, even if her Japanese isn’t on par with native-speakers.
But more than being OK at school, I saw how the Lord has kept Aliya in the palm of his hand and how he will continue to do so. And he showed me this through the words of her 3rd grade teacher in Japanese elementary school (!!!), which reminded me how he is always in control and provides through abundant and various means.
Thanks for reading. 🙂