Saturday, September 24, 2016

Developing Youth My Own Way

It’s great when you find what you are passionate about. For me it’s, youth development. When I was thinking about doing the JET Program and living in Japan, teaching English was far from the main reason I had for wanting to do it. Instead, I wanted to challenge myself to live in another culture and travel to new places. However, being an assistant language teacher is allowing me to live many of my passions every day, including youth development. 

Having only spent a small amount of time in Japan, it’s not hard to see that the Japanese are perfectionists. They are always striving to do more, achieve more, do better, and be their personal best. I can’t relate.The goal of perfection starts at a young age and the teenagers I work with are surely striving for it. When they complete an assignment or show you something that they’ve done they want you to tell them how they can make it better or how they can make it stronger next time. 

This has posed a bit of a problem for me. My approach to youth development in the past 10 years has been to lend support, encouragement, love and compassion to the youth I come into contact with. My contact tends to come outside of a classroom setting, where I believe true character is formed. During my interactions with my Girl Scout troop, I loved listening to stories about their day and teaching skills that could mold them into well-rounded human beings. I loved just being there for them and showing them how much I cared. When I worked with young children in Morocco, it was enough for me to give them crayons and paper, inspiring them to draw pictures. When they would gift me those pictures I would receive them delightfully, which always put a look of pride on their young faces. Moments like these warm my heart and let me know that I am doing my true calling. 

Being put in the situation to constructively criticize students’ writing and performances is just part of my job and is something I must accept. However, it doesn’t mean that I can’t also interact with my students in my own way. It’s something that I have to do, just for myself, but I hope that it has a positive effect on their self-esteem.  

Recently, three students of mine participated in an English speech competition. I worked with them for three weeks on their delivery, pronunciation, and gestures. They wanted to continuously improve their performance, so I gave notes after each time I heard them practice. To balance this, I made sure to continuously praise their effort and hope I made it clear that they were doing well and should be proud. After Soma, a young man of my school performed his speech at the competition our eyes met just for a moment. I gave him a quick power fist to show my support. When he took 2nd place, I found him after, gave him a hug, and told him how proud I was of him. I love Soma’s smile, it is one that exudes self-pride when he feels it. I believe there is no mistaking that look in people, and I love seeing that look when I tell people how proud I am of them. Unfortunately,  I didn’t get to have similar interactions with the two young lady students of mine that competed. But, I took time to make them little cards and snuck them in their school desks.
I didn’t come here only to teach students’ minds. I came here to teach their hearts and souls too. I feel these interactions are fewer and farther between than I’d like, but you’d better believe I will seek them out and revel in them when they happen.