I rarely talk about my classes and such, but I have a quick little story that I thought I should share.
I have one class with a pair of late middle school age girls, I think both are 13 or so. One has been in the class for 11 weeks now, and has of course gotten used to the hairy scary gaijin. She is also pretty sharp, and has a background in English study. The other girl just transferred to our school from Sapporo a couple weeks back. She is really shy anyway, and the move probably hasn't helped much.
Anyway, last week I had them write a short paragraph about their best friend for homework. The girl I've had for a while turned a perfectly fine paragraph, a few minor mistakes, but only 3 sentences. The new girl turned in a page. We are talking a mini-essay here. It was shot through with errors, but that didn't matter. She wrote this long piece on her friend that she left up in Sapporo, and how great her friend was, and how happy she was that her friend came to visit over vacation. I have to say it really touched me. I felt bad marking the hell out of it in my red pen, so I made sure to write a big smiley face and "great job!!!!" on it too. I was really impressed with the effort she went to, and it made me feel like a real teacher.