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Kids World

Topics of interest to teachers of English as a second or foreign language to young learners.

November 15, 2002

He Kissed Me!

KidsWhenever I conduct teaching seminars for teachers of young children, I always tell the participants that our role in the English classroom is that of teacher, not parent. We, as educators, hopefully can choreograph activities that build English confidence in young learners in a friendly yet firm atmosphere. Even though it is tempting to let younger children hold my hand or clutch my skirt when we do various activities, I do not encourage such gestures because less demonstrative or affectionate children may be jealous or feel left out.

But last month a five-year-old boy named Masayuki changed all that.

I must admit I had had my eye on him for two years prior to joining our class. As is the habit of younger siblings waiting for their older brothers or sisters attending our school, he had been playing in the preschool play area since the age of three. Often with a smile I asked him when he was going to start coming to my class, and the reply was always the same, in the negative. When he turned four, I asked his mother when he was going to start, and she said since he was unruly, they wanted to wait a bit.

So I was delighted when I was told he would finally observe the preschool group in August. As he played in the play area, I told him that I was looking forward to his coming to class that day. With a sparkle in his eye he replied, "Only for today," as if to warn me that I should not get my hopes up.

He participated in the observation lesson to the degree that I knew we had a future "kokusaijin" (international person) within our grasp. At the end of class he came over to me to personally tell me, with a wide smile on his face, "Tanoshikatta" (It was fun.) and then ran out of the classroom. I was genuinely pleased when his mother said he would join the next month.

In September he and his friend, Ryo, became students at my school. The preschool class they joined was a typical one: fast-paced, student-focused, task-oriented and fun in a friendly yet firm way. As a newcomer Masayuki was able to succeed in all the activites orchestrated in his first class with five other preschoolers. I was pleased with his enthusiasm, outgoing personality, vitality and ability to adapt to the challenging activities in a completely English speaking atmosphere.

At the end of class, I always play our preschool theme song, and the students line up to shake hands with me as they say farewell. One by one the girls lined up first, shook my hand and said, "Goodbye". Before I knew it, Masayuki was standing there before me with this wide, winning smile on his face. There was a sparkle in his eyes and excitement in the air. I extended my hand to him, which he took and shook. And then before I knew what happened, he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek before running off. Then his friend Ryo did the same thing, and then Ooji, the last boy on line kissed me, too. (Ooji, the last one out the door, for some reason, came back for a second kiss.)

As the closing measures of our class theme song filled the empty room, the scent and merriment of the children lingered; I found myself transfixed on my chair. My eyes were filled with water and my heart bursting with happiness. For the first time in my twenty-three years of teaching English to these quiet, shy, reticient, wonderfully interesting Japanese children, I had been kissed by a student. For the first time, it was I who had been caught off-guard by this innocent, spontaneous gesture.

It was a marvelous, delicious and touching experience. I sat there on the chair cherishing and savoring the moment, dazed, afraid to stand up; as if to stand up might break the spell of human affection that bound me to my seat. Six-year-old Masayuki kissed me and nothing, outside or in the classroom, will ever be the same.



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