“All you need is love”, the Beatles sang out of a little tan speaker in the corner of the machine-shrieking, people-packed, closet-sized Tully’s. I was sitting there alone. The friend who once told me “You just gave birth!” after submitting my Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) application had just left for her JET interview, which was strangely (and thankfully) right before mine. I was alone in a coffee shop on Union Street in Seattle and as I stared out the window I hoped I wouldn’t cry like I had the last time I heard this song.
This summer, I had the immeasurable privilege to work with teachers and high school students from China, as well as students from Gachon University in Korea. This was my first experience EVER as a regular teacher (other than the practice rounds in front of your peers pretending to be an age they’re not– which everyone knows is not even close to the real thing). I had taught one fifty-minute English Language Learners (ELL) class before this experience. I wasn’t a teacher, I just observed. This summer was the first extended period of time leading a classroom.
I was able to share with them everything from how to write clear directions, to learning how to be okay with making mistakes in English. It was the time when I realized. Yes. This is what I want to do with my life. Not just ELL work, but teaching. I just want to be with people and learn with them for the rest of my life.
On the graduation day of the first group from Gachon, one of the student-leaders had all of us teachers stand on the stage and they proceeded to sing “All you need is love” for us. As a teacher, you are trained to keep your cool and I am generally pretty great at this. Nevertheless, after the song was over and the students came up to me, I cried so hard I had to leave the room. I’m not really a “cryer”. However, in that moment, I was sure that if I became a teacher I would have a reason to be happy for the rest of my life.
Now, I know teaching is really difficult. I know that the idea of living in Japan is really tough, let alone the reality of it. I understand some day I will be so frustrated with the work or the confusion that I will want to cry or run out of my classroom screaming. However, when I am with those kids, when I am with those students, I have a hard time believing there is anyone in the world happier than me at that moment. All I need is love, and I love teaching and I love people. Whether in Japan or here at home, I will be happy. “Love is all you need”.