Why teaching English is great (and other ramblings…)

So, if you follow my blog regularly you'll notice that this post is a day late. There is a small-story behind why this is. (And I honestly considered not sharing it because I fear that when one particular person reads it, I really will never hear the end of it…)

It involves going back to Friday morning and the rather epic rain/snow storm that I accidentally got caught and drenched in. And I mean totally drenched. Soaked to the bone-freezing-cold-drenched. In a very non-waterproof jacket.

Which is no big deal, right? I mean, Sapporo has decided that it's going to start snowing again in April, so you're bound to get caught out weather-wise occasionally. But by the end of church life group on Friday night I was feeling a little weary, and when I woke up on Saturday morning I felt like I'd literally swallowed glass, and then… By the time I finished yesterday's work/choir practice combo, I was running a fever of about *cough* 38.5, and my half-written-blog-post remained very half-written.

Fortunately I live with Kayoko, the best person in the world to prescribe medicine, make soup and keep me stocked up on tea and cocoa. And post an 11-hour-slightly-bizarre-feverish-sleep I feel a whole lot better. (I also have strict orders to never leave the house without an umbrella in my bag ever again… ;))

So anyway, before my blog writing was rudely interrupted, I was going to fill you in on some of the best moments of teaching English. Because right now, although I spent a fair amount of time learning Japanese or researching Masters stuff… I also teach. Which is a job that I love, in a place that I love, with some of the best people.

But I am learning on this journey…

To be totally honest, about 2 days into teaching here, Holy Spirit really called me on my attitude. In like a 'Boom. Change your attitude Peta' kind of way. Because I had kind of fallen into that mindset of teaching-English-here-is-what-I'll-do-in-order-to-be-able-to-really-do-the-other-stuff. Do you know what I mean? That kind of low expectation approach to something, which I don't really think is how God ever wants us to approach anything.

The verses God spoke to me from on that particular morning were the ones in Jeremiah 29 verse 7…. 'Seek the peace and prosperity of the city… Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.'

And the thing is, this chapter of Scripture is amazing. So often, we hear Jeremiah 29 verse 11 quoted out of context, but in doing that you miss the whole entire point of the whole entire story. Because this prophecy is bigger than that. It actually wasn't what the Jewish people wanted to hear. They were being carried off into exile, their sins of idolatry and injustice tearing through the very fabric of what made them the people of God, and they were being taken from their land and their heritage and everything they loved. And there were all these false prophets saying, 'It's ok. In just a little while, God will rescue you. In just a few weeks, you will be back in Jerusalem.'

And then comes Jeremiah. Who honestly, is a man whose job I have never envied. And he brings them the real word of the Lord. This isn't going to be quick. You're going to be in exile for 70 years. 70. So settle down. Build houses. Get jobs. Get married. Prosper. Pray for the peace of the city. Because in the long term big picture 'I know the plans I have for you…'

Like, this was seriously not the good news the people were after. This wasn't God rescuing them and restoring them and blessing them in the way they expected. This wouldn't have felt like the out working of God's plans to prosper them. This wouldn't have seemed all that hopeful. Which is why when people tell me that Jeremiah 29 verse 11 is their favourite verse, I think that's really cool, but I sometimes wonder if they really understand what they're saying.

Actually, as much as I love this passage, I find it's message hard sometimes. Because I'm like the Israelites. Just like them. I want what I see as blessing and prosperity on my terms and in my timing. I want learning Japanese to be easy. And I want there to be a quick way from A to B. I want…. But trusting His plans means trusting His timing. And being faithful. In everything.

Especially wholeheartedly praying for the peace and prosperity of whoever and wherever I find myself working, learning or doing life with.

You know, changing my attitude also means I love my job a whole lot more. I am truly blessed. I'm in a foreign land because of choice and calling, and that means that it's not a wrestle and it is a joy. Because I teach between 15 and 18 English classes a week. And that's between 60 and 80 people. People whose names and stories and lives are now on my prayer list and in my heart.

Ok. So, don't just pray for my research or my language learning. Pray for my teaching. And the school I work for. And the people I work with. And those I teach. Pray I can be a blessing and a carrier of shalom into this city as I seek to serve it joyfully.

And because you have been waiting for the humour… Here are some of my highlights when it comes to teaching English.

  • When you're teaching the fashion module for your level 3 class and you realise that your double-denim-high-top-trainers-combo is the perfect example of the word 'retro'.
  • When the exact same thing happens in another class in answer to the question, 'What does the phrase 'clashing colours' mean'? (I really need to not wear a pink/orange/red colour combination when I'm teaching this particular lesson…)
  • Students who become friends. This is one of the great things about teaching a mixture of kids and adults classes. A large number of my students are 20-something-have-lots-in-common-with-me-people. And so teaching them is a joy. And a whole lot of natural fun.
  • Friends who become students. (Yes, if you show any interest in the English language I will give you a card…)
  • Seeing individuals really progress in such a short space of time and hearing their success stories.
  • The guy who specifically asked to take my class because, I quote, 'He wants an English teacher who can speak Japanese.' Not at all true, and the grossest exaggeration of the century… But still a nice little self esteem boost!
  • Teaching kids. Enough said.
  • Especially teaching kids English games. Like pictionary. We are brilliant at pictionary.
  • The conversation…. Is hilarious. Like the 12-year-old-boy who proudly announced in the most confident English he could muster (and in a class full of J-pop loving girls I must add…) 'My favourite band in the world is…. Aerosmith!!!' Or the photoshoot English-class with my Japanese teaching colleagues where their dream jobs ranged from 'Cat Trainer (for evil cats)', to a 'Spy' to a member of 'Kiss.' I laugh a lot. An awful lot.
  • Meeting such a wide range of people. I love that. I love hearing their stories and motivations and passions. I just love it.

So I'm not just teaching English to pay my way, or as a stop-gap, or to enable me to do all the other stuff. I'm teaching English because for right now, in this season, it's the right place to be with the right people to be with. I want to work with all my heart and serve and bless. I want to learn and get better. I want to make an impact, no matter how small on every single student I am privileged to teach.

And to share just a small way that you can see God at work here, I want to finish with this cool little story. Our school has the most relaxing little lounge area, and between lessons on Friday afternoon I was chilling out and talking with one of my Muslim friends. We often talk about faith, and God, and prayer and what this whole deal looks like. So we are talking and bantering and all is well. When a newly interviewed part time teacher comes over to introduce himself, overhears our conversation and goes 'You know… I should probably say that I used to be a Muslim, and then I converted to Christianity….' I mean? Seriously? What. Are. The. Chances? It led to a really great conversation. The conversation continued whilst I went to teach my advanced class. Both inside and outside the classroom. Because my class was on 'debating' and two of the students had also overheard our discussion. And so they wanted to ask about what I believed and how you could talk about faith in a healthy way and, and, and….

So cool right?!

Awesome conversations. Awesome times. Pray for the peace of the city.

And also… Enjoy some photos of some of the people who are incredibly precious to me in said city. 🙂





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