I wonder what I would have done had I been Ai Fukuhara’s homeroom teacher in her junior high school.
She would frequently be absent from school due to her tours and camps. What kind of classroom environment would I create to receive her? How should I treat her? Like a superstar as she is outside the school, or as a “regular” junior high school student? Should the class make a big deal to welcome her back, or should they behave as if nothing different from any school day? How would I interact with this super junior high schooler continuously fighting against the pressure of the world while attending to other thirty some 14-year-olds struggling in their own ways to make sense of their small worlds? What kind of a dialogue would I have with her, what would I tell other students, what, if anything, could I do for her as a “teacher”?
In recent years, there has been a widespread notion in Japan that a “good teacher” is someone capable of seeing the world and interacting with children from their vantage point.
The “teacher’s vantage point” changes all the time depending on who is in front of him. It is a mere stupidity to have a pre-determined vantage point.
In many cases, I think that a teacher would have to lead students from a very high vantage point with a parent’s affection.
This summer, Koseki-sensei said something interesting when we were talking about teacher’s vantage points.
Referring to what I have written about Hannah Arendt, he said there is something symbolic about the parent’s act of holding the child high up in the air. I understood the symbolism as the adult showing the child what the world may look like from the adult’s vantage point.
But that’s not the only case. There are certainly cases when the teacher needs to see things from the student’s vantage point.
More importantly, there is yet another case. Once in a while, the teacher finds in front of him a student who is “way beyond the teacher” as Koseki-sensei would put it, and whom the teacher is compelled to look up even from his vantage point as an adult.
It is this last case that is most difficult for the teacher.
Maru, the fourteen-year-old girl was, for me, the exemplar of this case.
(To be continued...)