Correspondence from Terry

Dear Members of Gunma JALT,

As I write this letter from Wisconsin, America, the maple trees are turning yellow and red. Whenever October arrives, I think back to the time I somehow, impossibly, got sunburned at Tsukasawa Chugakko’s sports festival in Takasaki. This carries me to thoughts of Gunma and my life as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT).

I joined JALT in 2012, eager to develop a broader understanding of foreign language education systems in Japan. Sessions on cooperative learning strategies and peace education in language teaching kept drawing me back to our monthly JALT sessions. Despite holding an Adolescent English Language Arts teaching certification from the state of Wisconsin, it was truly my time exploring ELL teaching with JALT that developed my confidence. Before I knew it, I was moving beyond the typical role of an ALT.

In 2013, I joined Barry and Harry in managing the Speakeasy. As the Web & Design Editor, I flung the Journal into cyberspace where archived editions can now be found. I also drafted proofs and spearheaded negotiation to establish style norms, resulting in the succinct, modern format you now see. We exchanged many emails to determine sequencing, copy placement, formatting, column usage, and color integration, among other details. Writing author bios was the easy part of editing the Speakeasy!

After the release of Volume 26 of the Speakeasy in 2014, I returned to the States and began working as a high school College Writing teacher at a school for Hmong students. I might have retained, even built my writing skills while editing the Speakeasy and participating in Nanowrimo, but my ability to communicate at a quick pace in a culture where the speaker bears the burden of creating clarity had definitely waned. Struggling to explain classical rhetoric to kids, I realized I needed to retire from editing. I’m glad to see the Speakeasy continuing on strong.

Recently, I have moved into the field of copy editing. It is a bit of a surprise to me that my one-year stint as Web & Design Editor turned into something much larger. As it turns out, learning Japanese was much more fun and considerably tougher than memorizing the style and formatting rules I now use in my new position. Hyphens still trip me up, though.

I’m grateful to Gunma JALT for supporting my growth. I’d like to send a warm osewa ni narimashita to John Larson, Barry Keith, and Harry Meyer. May the Speakeasy continue on, creating connection and bringing vibrancy to the English Language Educator community in and around Gunma.

terry

Terry Dassow
Copy Editing Consultant
America

Clippings of Kanji

by Terry Dassow

In hallways stacked like blocks
Japanese teens
trade wordless half-thoughts beneath the words mo iiyo.

—freedom—
whistles in window cracks
from Akagi and Myogi,
cracking the white noise

A chime.
Youth salute teachers, stand, sit,
open textbooks, break pencil lead
in neat rows of close-quartered desks.

Weightless characters drift upwards.
Chunks of words
get caught in oscillating fans
positioned above pencil cases, name tags,
pericura, clear files, and barrettes.

Clippings of kanji fall from the static.
Someone takes apart a pen.
Students exchange glances.

Letters appear along dark strands of hair.
—three years—
attempts a futile escape to
mountain ranges beyond the glass.

The teacher jerks around.

Beads of salt drag across
foreheads, arms, backs.
Teens crouch over notebooks,
pull silence over themselves,
take apart another pen.

A chime.
Bits of fallen sentences
drift across the floor.
Haruna winds stretch palms
pick up static, split letters, and punctuation
to offer to the children.

Terry Dassow teaches English at Tsukasawa Junior High School in Takasaki. Her poetry has appeared in AJET Connect Magazine and she is a co-founder of Gunma Poets Guild. She recently became the web and design editor of Speakeasy Journal and manages the teaching site ALT+ALT Scene at http://altscene.wordpress.com.