Special Prize (for Elementary and Junior High School Students) (Japan)
Different Me
Ayaka Yazawa (12, 6th grade, Elementary School Division, Nagano Prefectural School for the Blind, female)

I found a way to show my true self after I attended the school for the blind.

I didn't want to go to a nursery school, to tell you the truth. Everybody seemed to be having fun when they played outside, but I was in the classroom alone with a teacher. I heard the joyful roar of the children, but I pretended not to be hearing it. But I couldn't just stop hearing it, and couldn't stop wanting to play with them. My twin sister Suzuka had many friends, and they came to our house to see her. But I thought I didn't have friends.

I attended an elementary school, but I didn't make friends with anybody either. I wanted to take lessons with the classmates, but after the morning meeting, I had to go to an amblyopia class alone. That was not pleasant at all. During the breaks between classes, no friends talked to me. I was only taking a break with a teacher alone. When I became a third-grade, I finally make friends with some of the classmates, and they came to my house to see me. They were not Suzuka's friends; they were mine. When Maho and Tsubasa came to my house for the first time, I was happy because I had no friends until then.

None of my friends were sighted. I had a blind friend since the first grade of elementary school.

She was classmates of the amblyopic class. Her name was Yuki. She was one year older than me. She is as blind as I, so she understands how I really feel. I spent enjoyable time having chats with her while reading books in the self-study class. But Yuki studied more often in the regular class than with me. I was lonely when she left. It was these days when I started to want to go to the school for the blind. Sighted people can do things quicker, and I wanted to study more slowly.

I changed to a school for the blind when I became a fifth grade. In the early days after I enrolled in the school for the blind, I felt lonely because I had no family around me to talk to; I wanted to go home. But around the end of the first term, I came to make friends with some classmates in the school and was gradually able to enjoy the time with them. I think I changed since I started attending the school for the blind. I realized I changed quite a lot when the school festival was held. I was the oldest in the elementary school division and assigned to work together with Kotoko, second grade of elementary school, to prepare for a presentation for the elementary school division. At first we didn't know how to proceed with the preparation work and therefore could not make any improvement. But as we continued practice, we became better at orchestrating the classmates and proceeding with the preparation. I thought I would never be able to take the leader's role when I attended regular school. I even didn't think I would like to do it. But when I was assigned to make a presentation as the representative of the elementary school division at the school festival and watched my seniors lead other students, I came to think I would want to do it and feel like I would be able to do it even though I can't see. I never lead other people, but I think I can do it now and want to do it.

This year I am going to go on a school trip with the students of Asahi-machi Elementary School next to our school for the blind. When my teacher told me about the school trip, I remembered my nursery school days and lower grade elementary school days and didn't like the idea of going on a school excursion with the students of the regular school. I was very worried because I had no friends in Asahi-machi Elementary School. But I went on field trips together with them, and some of them visited our dormitory to see me. And the number of my friends gradually increased. But we were not yet so friendly that I could talk about my personal feelings like I did with my blind friends. Sometimes I wanted to say, "That I can do myself." But I couldn't because I was afraid I would destroy the relationship with them if I did. I can't say that yet, but I wish I could in the future. I believe I can change more in the future.

To that end, I want to actively talk to many people. I want to make the trip a pleasant one on my own.

I didn't have my own dream until recently. But I came to be friends with sighted students of the Asahi-machi School, and that gave me an opportunity to look back on my past and then to look toward my future. I hope I will be able to work with sighted people in the future and connect blind people to sighted people. What can I do for work? What job do I want to do? I want to take time finding answers to these questions. Once they are answered, I will do my best to work on them.

Thank you all the people I have met and the students of Class 1 of the 6th grade of Asahi-machi Elementary School.


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