On Names, and the importance thereof...

I remember how it felt when I first came to Saga. I was enthused, ready and lost all at the same time. This eagerness and lack of understanding tumbled me into many a situation but one in which I remember most clearly was my first English class. It was a demonstration class put on by Mr. Nakamura and the first year Junior High kids to display what a model English class would be like. I remember leaving the class beyond distressed, shocked and speechless at the high level of Japanese used, the vast majority of it far beyond my comprehension level. But, this was only the start...

The students were asked to line up, and one by one introduce themselves to me by name and say how nice and pleasant it certainly must have been to meet me. Now, being the person I am, I place the upmost importance on names. Granted, they're arbitrary, loved, hated, here, and there but it's what our mothers' and fathers' choose for us, and well, it's what we go by. So, to try and show my appreciation for the value, the uniqueness and importance that a name has I attempted to repeat the names back to my students after I heard them. Wow... yeah... I failed miserably. I listened and they repeated... well, at least the first fifteen of forty repeated a couple (or a few times) until I discarded my policy and just nodded my head politely and said, "nice to meet you." I couldn't grasp the names. I simply could not. They were too foreign to me... The kids repeated, sometimes quietly, sometimes not, and I just listened, amused and bewildered by our lack of continuity. It was certainly a lesson in communication, for me, more than them.

So, now a year down the line I've grown accustomed to the sounds of Japanese and find myself calling my students by their names, even when it's not necessary. I find myself in the ever so rare position of being at the same Junior High day in, day out. So, I think this has allowed me to be on a name to name basis with my students which I think, unfortunately so, many ALTs do not have the opportunity to do so. I simply think this is a huge fault of the JET program. For who is a teacher who doesn't know their students, who can't address them by their given names? What does it mean when a teacher is not even given the opportunity to learn their students' names? I dunno... really, I don't.

Being at one school though, I've also been able to memorize the names of my fellow staff members. But, like hell do I know their first names, and in the same regard I don't really mind or care if they don't know my last name. Afterall, Dustin is the name I was given and well the rest just came with the territory, so to speak. On another tip, I go to my elementary school twice a week and all of the 25 staff members or so know me by name, my first name. And I stumble around, teaching, playing, running around aimlessly, shaking hands, disciplining out of line children, encouraging the overly ambitious children, and constantly I forget and am reminded of the names of the teachers whose classes I teach every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon.... Damn, I try, but names, man, they're difficult... and ever so necessary... So, I understand our names have to be taken seriously, but don't we have to take the names of others just as seriously?
From left : Um, don't know, Yukino, Miho Shimizu, and me
(waiting for the emperor to drive by).