I’ve spent time this week signing yearbooks. I haven’t done that in quite a while and all I could remember were the timeless phrases like “stay as sweet as you are” “don’t change” and “2Sweet 2Be 4Gotten”. I could be more creative with students I knew a little better, but all in all it was a fun thing to do! The yearbooks are fun memories and have wonderful shots of students throughout the year. It will be one of my favorite souvenirs.

The 6th graders will graduate next Wednesday. They will go from the fun, protective elementary school environment to an regimented, test driven junior high. I’m speaking from a classroom perspective. It is quite possible that the students do manage to find time to have fun as they get into the upper grades. Why just yesterday I saw a young man at breakfast with a pink rose in his backpack that he obviously intended for a special girl. But, the classroom changes from one where teachers pretty much let the kids play and be children. The textbooks are so extremely easy and lacking in content while the middle school books feed information faster than many college level books. Jr. high and high school students spend the evenings and weekends in cram schools or in groups at restaurant tables where they work furiously to finish homework assignments. Students are often seen even on the weekends in school uniforms because they are attending classes.

I can be walking the streets on any given evening and have a group of young people approaching me. You know in the US when a crowd of teenagers approach, many may decide to cross the street or duck into a store. Here, there is absolutely no reason to fear! The most memorable thing that may happen is some shy boy turning around–after they have passed– and saying “Hello! How are you today?”!! It is comically cute! Little children are a bit different. Too often, they are afraid of foreigners and will scream and run. Black, white, blonde, readhead it doesn’t matter, the reaction is the same. It saddens me that it still happens even in my school but that is so offset by the reaction I get from the students who know me that I don’t give it much of a second thought, other than to wish I could have spent time with them all. Yeah, I’m here to teach them English but so many people here have never ever seen westerners that just exposing them to a taste of my part of the world can be a greater lesson. We talk about this great flattening provided by the Internet, but if it stops us from getting up off our duffs and visiting people, the only thing that flattens in our perception of others. Unless of course we take the time to read someone’s blog!! LOL

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