Sunday, September 9, 2012

Plans to Prosper, Not to Harm

What's interesting about teaching as a job is that even though I have the exact same schedule as last year, this year couldn't be more different.  On paper, teaching looks repetitive, but in practice, the variety is endless.

I deeply appreciate my students this year because their energy and their willingness to invest in my vision for the classroom makes my job fun.  I look forward to each new day of school, and can say with all honesty that there is not a single class in my line-up that I dread.  Each class period (well, two periods in the case of Humanities) is different from the others, but all are genuinely enjoyable.  A healthy classroom environment makes a world of difference for both the students and the teachers... it motivates me to put my all into planning and grading, gives me energy for each day and gives me perspective when something doesn't go the way I'd planned (as a healthy class will be understanding and forgiving).

Beyond the classroom, I feel like I'm finally starting to find avenues for making good friendships and plugging into community.  Don't get me wrong--I love CAJ and the community around it.  That said, I feel like I'm not all that close to the other young teachers (there was a pretty solid group of us two school-years ago, but that has dissolved as about half that group has since left CAJ).  At this point, I don't feel like CAJ is where I'm going to build deep relationships with peers.  I feel like I'm closer to the older staff members than I am to the colleagues who are my age.  Maybe this is preparation for me to one day be for younger staff what those older colleagues have been for me...

This was much tougher for me to accept last year, as I was often lonely and wishing for friendship and community that wasn't materializing despite several attempts on my part to create it.  This year, I've plugged into my church community at Grace City in Ginza, and, as they say, that has made all the difference.  I attended GCC sporadically over the course of the last school-year, tentatively testing the waters.  I appreciated the preaching and the worship but for whatever reason, held off on getting to know people until several months ago.  I think it was mostly shyness on my part, shyness being a quality in myself that I really do just forget about while I'm working a job that tends to amplify the small part of my personality that is outgoing.  In any case, I'm glad I got over the shyness because being a part of the church community at Grace City has been wonderful.  I've done dinner and games with friends, I am involved with weekly set-up at the church, and I'm becoming more comfortable introducing myself to new people and talking after church (usually in Japanese).  I feel at home there.

Also, on Saturday, I had the privilege of reuniting with a friend/classmate from high school, and his wife, who are currently stationed at an Air Force Base here in Tokyo.  I gave them a tour of the school, and enjoyed dinner/a round of "Settlers of Cataan" with them, as well as hours of good conversation.  This is the second time I've met up with a high school friend in Tokyo, and another old friend will be coming to serve on base in Tokyo early next year.  This is a circumstance that I never foresaw when I moved to Japan several years ago--amazing how small the world is and how God allows people to stay connected even after years apart.  Though we're now part of different communities and circles of friends, I am grateful for the opportunity to renew old friendships with the occasional evening out.  It is indeed a blessing.

All in all, the difference this year is a feeling of settling in.  Until last year, I'd always thought of Japan as "just a stop" on the journey, and even last year carried a feeling of impermanence as I knew my roommate would likely be gone this year and therefore I'd be in search of a new place to live.  This year, there's none of that.  Less loneliness, less uncertainty, more root-placing.  "'For I know the plans I have for you', declares the LORD..."

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