It’s not often that my students surprise me.
Which is not to say that I’m not cynical or jaded, because it’s nearly impossible to grow up New York Jewish without having that Woody Allen perspective come charging through your DNA.
New York Jewish: When your parents are New York Jews, probably from Queens or Yonkers, but you might not necessarily be. In fact, if you’re religious you thank whatever higher deity you believe in that you popped out somewhere besides New York. Okay, enough digression.
Cynical: check. Jaded: check. Leaving the door open for suprise, like a little bit of Elijah: check.
Student who requested that I not teach him because I had the audacity to tell him that bigotry doesn’t belong in my admittedly meager classroom, randomly showing up on my schedule: check.
Well, I wasn’t expecting that one.
So, we’ll call the aforementioned student Kenji, for the sake of his privacy. I walked in to the school, and there’s Kenji’s name on my schedule. I asked the Japanese staff if that’s okay, since he had made a point of requesting to not be in my classes.
Tabun daijoubu desu, ne. Maybe it’s okay, they said.
I walked into the class, my last of the day, not really sure what to expect. Kenji, who is a respectable salaryman and a quick study at English, was smiling warmly. Okay, I thought, who stole my Kenji and replaced him with a pod creature?
The conversation was polite, and interesting. We talked about several different subjects, I carefully avoided talk of anything we discussed in our last class, and at the end he thanked me and said that it had been a long time since I taught him, and that it was good to see me again.
I won’t even begin to speculate on what happened. Did Kenji change his mind, or did the staff tell him that I was the only teacher available tonight? Doesn’t matter.
It’s great when students learn, but sometimes just the appearance of it is good enough for me.