Next April will mark the first graduation where I will have known the students from the time they nervously and excitedly crossed the threshold of the school for the first time until they tearfully and optimistically cross it for the last time. And, man oh man, am I going to be a wreck come that day watching this group go. It’s one of the hardest and yet most fulfilling parts of being a teacher. I mean, we’ve basically grown up together; I as a professional educator in a foreign country and they as blossoming young adults. Together we have navigated and traversed the academic challenges and social perils of Junior High School life and came through it all scathed but the better for it (we’d like to think.) We have survived.
Within that class there are several students with which I have forged special bonds. One student, who I will call Baba-san for the purposes of this post, never ceases to surprise me. In fact, I think he gets off on it. He is the progeny of what can best be described as a human music library. His father (who I’ve yet to meet but hopefully will at the graduation ceremony come March) must be something like my father was. Loco-San Senior, my dear old dad, may he rest in peace, was a truck driver in his head, but a Jazz guitarist in his heart. He had a music library of LPs (Albums) that would make any collector drool, mostly jazz, R&B, classic soul and funk.
When he and my mother separated perhaps one of their biggest battles was over his treasure. Keep the kids but give me my records please. They settled on half or so, he splitting with most of the jazz and leaving her with the majority of the genres. But, half was A LOT of music. What he couldn’t depart with he recorded onto giant reel-to-reel tapes (about as big as a movie reels. The funny thing is I have an Ipod now that holds more than 10 times his entire collection.) His collection was my introduction to music and believe me I tried to listen to everything he had, and studied the album covers and liner notes. When I was a kid I could tell you who the Ohio Players dedicated I want to be free, too.
Baba-kun is a Japanese version of me. A virtual walking encyclopedia of, shockingly, the same music I grew up on. He’ll see me in the hallways, run up on me singing (in hardly comprehensible katakana english of course) Games people play a Spinners hit from the early 70’s, screaming “Shitteiru? Shitteiru?” (Do you know it? Do you know it?) Back in his first year I became aware of his vast musical knowledge. He knows the songs, the artists, the bands and the name of the band members and even some of them by the instruments they play.
He’s a senior now and I’m gonna really miss him. He’s given me so much he’ll never know. He’ll never know how many times I’ve walked into the school after a particularly rough train ride, just seething with animosity for all things Japanese, having revoked, in my heart, their membership cards in my idea of the society of decent human beings relegating them to a status that previously had only been obtainable by rapists, child molesters, corporate polluters, Nazis and the KKK. Oh, and the IRS. Then, I’d run into him in the hall with his shitteiru shitteiru song of the day which would be something like Hot fun in the Summertime by Sly and the family Stone or Try a little Tenderness by Otis Redding, and he’d redeem his entire race.
“What christmas songs do you like?” I asked him in early November.
“Well, my favorite is The Jackson 5’s Give love on Christmas Day…”
I stood there gaping mouthed astonished, as usual. This was a song from the Christmas album I loved most as a child.
“Do your classmates know it?
“I don’t think so…it’s my mother’s favorite. She loves Micheal Jackson.”
“You should tell them about it…”
“Why?” Sharp kid, he smelled what Loco was cooking.
“We can sang it in class maybe…”
“You want me to suggest it to Kawaguchi sensei?
“Maybe…if the other kids like it, it might be fun.”
And, Baba-Kun did just that…he brought in an Minidisc of the song and played it for all the class and they petitioned Kawaguchi-sensei. Almost too simple.
We sang the song and the kids seemed to get off on it (-: Some were even doing the back ups in baritone like Micheal’s brothers.
Takahashi-sensei, however, was not so simple. She had the first year students I mentioned in a previous post, and they were not inclined to even sit down during class let alone sang a song.
I had to be a little more devious.
I had prepared everything for an alternative song, The Jackson 5’s I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. I presented my materials to Takahashi but she’d already prepared everything for yet another year of Wham (she still had the originals from last year).
The day we were to introduce the new song, though, there was a problem. The CD wouldn’t play for some reason. And, unfortunately, she didn’t have a back up. She was panicked….this was a solid 15-20 minutes of the day’s lesson plan.
“Let’s use mine. I already have all the materials ready. They’re on my desk.”
“Oh, that’s a great idea,” she said, considering the alternative. I ran to the office grabbed my CD and lyrics handouts, with the Japanese translations, all copied and ready to distribute, off of my desk, and returned to the class.
While I was in the office she’d explained to the class that we were going to learn a different song.
Maybe it was Micheal Jackson’s childish yet soulful voice that appealed to them. i don’t know. But, they loved the song.
Even Matsui-kun sang.
Takahashi-sensei never questioned what happened to her CD. CDs cease to operate all the time, don’t they? (-;
HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM
LOCO IN YOKOHAMA