Yesterday I ate lunch with the 3rd graders at my smaller school. When I came in, the students were particularly excited to see me, and a representative from each group joined in a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors to determine which group I would sit with. Once that was decided, it turned out that I actually ended up sitting with another group because a kid from there was absent that day, thus leaving a desk open.
Somewhere along the way, one of the boys whom I think was part of the winning group got left out when they turned their desks to make a cluster. To make matters worse, it also happened to be his birthday, and the girl in charge of leading the pre-meal blessing (“Itadakimasu!”) forgot to tell everyone to do a cheers with their milk cartons and wish him a happy birthday, which we ended up doing only after the teacher reminded her.
So this boy was pretty upset. He faced the back of the classroom, away from his lunch, and wouldn’t talk or respond to anyone. Everyone started eating, having given up on him, so about a 1/3 of the way through my lunch, I got up and walked over to him, and started asking what was wrong, how old he turned today, and telling him that his food would get cold if he didn’t eat it. Then his teacher asked something to the class (I couldn’t hear what she said) and some of the kids started raising their hands, which at least made him turn around. I told him one last time to eat, and then went back to my seat.
But instead of sitting back down, I stood up in front of everyone and said, “Hey, let’s sing ‘Happy Birthday’. You know that song, right? One, two, three!” and then we all started singing “Happy Birthday” to him, which made him smile as he finally started eating.
As I sat down, the teacher thanked me and the boy I was sitting next to patted me on the shoulder and said (in Japanese), “That was really nice.”
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of what I did. Normally I don’t do too much when a kid is mad or crying, because I don’t want to baby them. But seeing that it was his birthday, there was no way I could’ve left him alone. It made me realize that ALTs shouldn’t be afraid to step in when they see something going on. I’ll think about that if a similar situation ever happens again.