Through a Community Activity – My Transformation
Through a Community Activity – My TransformationBy Ms. Yukari Mitsunaga, Employment support officer, Japan
Part１: How I was transformed by two years of community activity at an elementary school
I currently work at an employment support office that focuses on expanding a model called “Local & Global” to the whole world. This model is based on the concept of creating a town where there’s “happiness for all people” through a new way of living.
For the class, the children were divided into groups and the teachers and staff joined them for discussions. When I heard that they are going to do this, I didn’t want to participate. When I was in elementary school and we had to form groups, I used to think, “No one will want me, no one will accept me.” As a result, whenever we split into groups, I couldn’t join any of them and was forced to be in whichever group the teacher chose for me. That was really hard.
So I went to the first class at my job with a sense of resistance. When I entered a classroom, I could sense that most of the children knew each other very well and knew that everyone there understood them.
One activity asked the children to think about the feelings of someone who says something to another person and of the person who listens to what is said and feels bad. One thing that happened made an impression on me. The boy I asked first answered, “I’ve never had a bad experience.” So I went on to ask the other children. But I was somewhat curious about the child who had answered first, so I asked him, “What did you think after listening to everyone else’s stories? Do you have any thoughts?” He replied, “I don’t talk about myself because I might not be accepted. That’s why I’ve never had a bad experience.” When I heard that, I thought that he was just like my elementary school self, who thought that if I expressed what I wanted to, others wouldn’t accept or listen to me. Upon hearing his words, the principal said, “A child who won’t talk about himself! This creates a problem!” He spoke with emotion.
The principal saw the matter as a problem, and thought he should do something about it! That coincided with my own thoughts.
The people who were only listening and the principal who saw the problem were just expressing themselves differently. “It’s okay to put your feelings into words.” And when I was able to tell the student that we all understood him, my painful feelings were gone, and the way of thinking that made me see things as problems was gone too.
Another incident happened before the final class. A school nurse told us that she’d reprimanded a boy who said something unpleasant to a girl. The homeroom teacher made the girl and the boy shake hands to make up. Then a student laughed, and the homeroom teacher, thinking he was making fun of what was happening, reprimanded him. This made some of the girls cry, which made everyone feel subdued and tense.
One boy was surprised to learn that the girl didn’t like what the boy told her. Some students regretted not noticing how she was feeling at that moment. Some started crying, saying they couldn’t do anything for her. The other students and the teacher said they had noticed it and thought they should do something about it.
Throughout the class, I was able to see everyone’s various feelings. Learning about these feelings made me realize that I had built a wall around myself and avoided looking at the world, thinking that there were only enemies around me and that the teachers wouldn’t do anything to help me.
As a result, I could go back to my elementary school days and say to myself at that time, “Hey, it’s okay. You are loved.” It wasn’t what I thought it was. These children were having all kinds of thoughts and feelings. The teachers wanted to help and do something about it too. I just hadn’t seen that! Back in my school days, I turned my back on everyone because of my own false beliefs! When I realized this, I burst into tears. My heart melted, and I felt at ease.
The inferiority complex that grew from my school life ended through these activities at the elementary school. That I am sure of.
Part２: My experience with sixth-grade students at the elementary school community activity
This time, I was assigned to the fifth- and sixth-grade classes. What impressed me most about the sixth graders was a conversation between a quiet girl and a boy, who were talking about what they liked about everyone and what they thought would make them even better.
The boy said to the girl, “Your voice is too quiet, you should speak a little louder.” She seemed to sigh softly. When I asked the boy why he wanted her to speak louder, he replied, “Because I want to listen to her better.”
The girl was very surprised to hear that. She had told me that she was not well thought of by the people around her, so when the boy told her that she had a quiet voice, she thought he was pointing out her shortcomings. I felt that she realized in that moment that her self-image was false. I thought, “Just like me.”
In my school days, I was convinced that the other students wouldn’t think well of me. Around the same time as this community activity, a university student intern visited the office where I work. It turned out that the teacher in charge of this student was one of my classmates from junior high school!
I didn’t remember him, but while I was talking with him, I thought he must be thinking something about me along the lines of, “She was that hateful person.” In fact, he said that he didn’t remember me at all.
I was surprised to hear that he didn’t remember me, because I believed that I was the most hated person at school back then.
I could see myself and the girl in the classroom overlapping. After the first session, she was freed from her false self-image. She was able to speak her thoughts more clearly beginning in the second session.
I had broken the spell of my own horrible school experience after the first community support class the year before, so I was able to join the session this time without any resistance to the school or the teachers. I was able to experience this girl who had my same wound loosening up completely by matching what I was seeing in front of me with my inner world.
As I continued to talk with the children, I found out that they were able to be true to themselves at home, and they realized that they were trying a little too hard to make something of themselves at school. I thought it was amazing that elementary school students could already see that they were working hard to show a different side of themselves.
I felt that this school, with teachers and instructors who are living in Miross in constant contact with the children, is creating the foundation for children to learn to think without getting hurt.
The teacher for the group always looked cheerful, friendly, and energetic, but by the last class she began to look more natural and didn’t force herself to act a certain way. It’s amazing how people can be released just by matching the recognition of the person who’s seeing them.
Part3: My experience with fifth-grade students at the elementary school community activity
The fifth-grade class began with bickering between a girl from the mainstream class and a boy from the special needs class telling each other, “Are you making a fool of me?”
It seemed to me that the girl was the serious one, and the boy was the one who always fooled around and made fun of things. The boy would often make jokes and not answer seriously when I asked him a question. Sometimes he’d answer properly, but when I tried to go deeper he’d go back to goofing around.
In the third session, we performed a skit with the teachers in which the children play-act telling their parents that they want to quit the after-school-activity lessons. The children acted out the rest of the story and played a game to see how they could win over their parents and get them to say “yes.” In my group, two of the three kids had told their parents that they wanted to quit their lessons, so they were able to imagine the rest of the play easily.
But when the boy who was always joking around didn’t answer the other kids’ questions properly, they went on with the story without seeming to care much. Then the boy suddenly turned serious and said, “I want to join too!
The other two said, “Okay, what role do you want to play?” They accepted him very naturally and easily. When the boy had decided on his role, he told the others, “Tell me my lines.”
He worked on it very seriously. As they were deciding on the play’s final scene, I asked them, “Don’t you ever bow your head to show respect to your parents?” （※In Japan, bowing one’s head is an important cultural manner to show respect to others.）One girl replied, “No! I won’t bow my head!” The performance didn’t go as they’d planned, and it was difficult for them to get a good response from the teachers who were playing the parents. Then the girl started to improvise! The boy who always joked around said his lines and went on with the play. His lines matched hers. Everyone’s thoughts and feelings were united. Things began to move naturally.
At that point the girl naturally bowed her head, and in the end everyone bowed their heads together. As a result, the group was able to persuade the parents to say yes to the proposal.
It seemed like the boy and the girl had always looked at each other as enemies. The boy was able to express his feelings by saying, “I want to join you,” and the girl was able to change her mind and attitude. They showed me how they pretended to be uninterested in joining the others, and how they were unable to let go of their obsession. Seeing the two of them and the reaction of the people around them, I was able to let go of my obsession and false self-image.
In the past, I couldn’t say what I felt because I mistakenly believed that people wouldn’t accept me as I am. But now I know that’s over.
At the end of the whole program, the children said things like “That was super fun!” and “I wish I could talk to everyone like this all the time!” I was so happy to hear that everyone felt the same way. I will continue to work with my Miross friends on this model of a new way of living.
I never had a chance to meet Mr. Rossco in person while he was alive, but I would like to thank him from the bottom of my heart for building a system that allows us to enjoy living every day knowing ourselves. I’m most grateful to take part in the activities of the Miross Communication Laboratory as well as my daily work. Above all, I truly appreciate having been born as I am now.