A week or so ago, I was team teaching an ichi-nensei class and we were
doing a conversation activity. The activity was called Q&A with
[Apollo]-sensei and involved me walking up and down the aisles,
speaking to each student one by one and asking them a question in
English. They also had to reply back in English, and after a succesful
exchange, i would give them a stamp for a job well done.
So the students were really enjoying the activity and I was having a
lot of fun switching up the questions to throw them off. Eventually I
reach one of my students, a good natured but extremely shy and quiet
boy who you can barely get a peep out of. Whenever he answers
questions, he looks down and whispers his reponse.
Determined to try to get him to speak up a little, I went over to his
desk and asked him “What is your…MOTHER`s name?” At first, he gave
no response at all like usual, and just stared at the floor. So I
repeated the question again, a bit slower, “What…is..YOUR..MOTHER`s
This time, I got a tiny whisper! Progress was being made. So I asked
him to speak up a little bit louder and to be genki (more energetic).
This is when I saw this his eyes started to begin watering. Thinking
maybe he was just really intimated by my presence and the peer
pressure of speaking in English, I lowered my voice and decided to try
one more time, in Japanese.
“Anata no okasan no namae wa nandesuka?”
As I stood there smiling like a moron, tears slowly began to stream
from his face as he answered a little bit louder in Japanese.
“I..I have..I have no..”
It was at that second the realization hit myself and my JTE at the
same time, and she proceeded to confirm my worst fear.
“He has no mother now. Maybe..maybe..something happened..”
Never have I felt like a bigger asshole than right at that moment.
So I gave him 2 stamps.