A Japanese teacher I’ve worked with over the past year told me about this phrase and explained this is a principle a lot of Japanese live by as many of them are ready to be assigned anywhere, including abroad or in a different city.
I thought it encapsulates one of the ways I’ve employed to survive living in two different countries or in other cities.
As our world gets smaller and smaller due to opportunities opening up to anyone wherever he is in the world, it has become even more important to find a stabilizing force in your life – something that you consider “home.” In my case, I carry home everywhere I go.
What does home mean, anyway, and how do you carry it with you? Home for me is finding people I can be myself with without fear of being judged or lied to. It’s also being in an environment that gives you the proper tools and allows you to practice your creativity and problem-solving skills in order to come up with the best solutions for problems. Home is the atmosphere that reassures you that when something is right, as long as you are sincere and open-minded, you can speak up and suggest ways to improve things. Most importantly, home is where there’s peace, joy, and contentment that doesn’t depend on your circumstances. It’s the sort of thing that you bring with you wherever you go, and one that attracts people you interact with. I’m blessed beyond belief to have found this, thanks to Christ. It’s hard for me to imagine how to live in worry, fear, jealousy, and all of those negative emotions. Unfortunately, no amount of renovation or no distance could ever fix that.
Over the past year, the ability to carry home with me was proven more useful and my ability to do so was tested to the max. During the first half of the year, I was assigned to a junior high school and two elementary schools. Normally, assignments are given for a whole year but since a teacher quit on short notice, they were obliged to have someone take over quickly. My original assignment was to make rounds on preschools all over Ise City.
I was assigned to a pilot project where English will be taught to preschoolers. I started doing it on the second half of the year. In such a short period, I have visited 22 preschools and have taught two elementary schools every week. One of them is the biggest elementary school in the city.
Imagine the stress of making a good impression on new co-workers and bosses and multiply that by 25 – the total number of schools I visited this year. Wait, make that 26 because I stay at the city’s Board of Education (BOE) office to prepare for preschool lessons.
If you think there’s extra pressure when you’re starting a new work anywhere, you’re right. But the Japanese take it to a different level. There’s a Vice Principal who followed me wherever I go for the first few weeks, and another one who would regularly asked me to enumerate what classes I’m having – what level and what period, even though the schedule is posted on the bulletin where everyone can see.
I had to introduce myself to 26 sets of people and learn about the hierarchy at the BOE by asking questions. No one introduced me and explained who is who. I had to find someone to explain so that I would be able to give the proper respect and deference to whomever I owe it to and to know who to go to for different things. As a rule, though, I think it’s important to give everyone, no matter what the position, the respect due to him.
When it seems like everyday, you’re meeting a lot of new people and trying to impress them, it’s crucial to find something constant. No matter where I go, I try to identify at least one good thing about the teachers or school staff I meet. For example, one Principal is so good at cleaning and organizing that her office deserves to be featured in an interior design or Housekeeping magazine. One preschool teacher is able to discipline her big class so much that I smile to myself thinking how in the world can 30 preschoolers sit quietly and intently.
Of course, I encounter some teachers and staff who may not be as friendly or as helpful but that happens everywhere.
With the physical nature of the job as well as the pressure to make a good impression, there were times when I had to visit the doctor’s office. I’m just thankful to have a boss who genuinely cares for her subordinates and who provides the right tools so I could do my job well.
Another thing I’m grateful to have experienced last year is when our friends – a team from the US visited Japan and participated in some classes I previously handled in the junior high school, as well as observed and met the students, teachers, and school officials at Obata Elementary School, the biggest one in our city.
Looking back, I wonder how I could have managed to organize and participate in all those activities on top of going to 24 new places. But the answer is not very far from home. It’s actually home.
I found home in this team as well, and so did the people that met them. In an environment where a lot of teachers are trying to outdo each other and comparing themselves to one another and killing themselves by working so much, it was a breath of fresh air to have people who came to connect and make friends. No, they didn’t want to sell anything or force you to do or believe anything. They gave their precious time and resources because they believe that they have received so much love and grace that it’s but natural to give back.
I am far from from where I want to be and this year, I felt frustrated about myself so many times. I wish I were more patient, nicer even when tired and hungry, and slow to react to things that could be upsetting. I learned that life can throw you so many curve balls and that there are enough things, hurtful words, and people that hurt people that I don’t need to add to that.
No matter how far I stray, though, or how I mess up, I am comforted by the fact that the moment I feel lost, home is within reach.