Teacher Presence

by Helene J. Uchida

Believe it or not one of our former Little America teachers is starring in the movie The Matrix. His name is Jeremy Ball; he hails from Australia and has a small scene in the movie.

I learned “presence” from Jeremy. About ten years ago, when my husband decided to run for public office, he held his first campaign kick-off party. About 400 people were invited, and our Little America staff was there to show our support. After the initial speeches, I had to introduce our staff to the audience. I was somewhat nervous and spoke Japanese as best as I could. No one really paid any attention to me since it appeared they were more interested in the food than in what I had to say. I then introduced my staff, and there was polite applause as each teacher said a few words. When Jeremy’s turn came, he stood tall at the mic with his feet apart, his hands clasped behind his back and his chest stuck out. He then breathed in slowly and made a hissing sound as if he were going to say something great. There was a hushed silence as everyone (all 400 people) waited to see what he was going to say and what he was going to do. He had the complete hall in the palm of his hand. All he said was his name, where he was from and a friendly “yoroshiku.” But the audience was enthralled with him. After he finished, everyone went back to chattering and eating. But that incident made a terrific impression on me. How did he do that? He did it with “presence.” He looked at his audience, assessed it, addressed it and won it over.

It doesn’t surprise me that Jeremy was able to land himself a part in a major motion picture. He always captivated his audience here in Fukuoka when he was teaching. All the students adored him. When he walked into a classroom, there was a pause and then silence; and as if he were a conductor about to lift his baton to alert the musicians, he looked at the class and then began. He could always hold everyone’s interest, even if he hadn’t been prepared for class.

May I urge you to think about and develop your own sense of presence and use it to your advantage to captivate and win over your students. And please see The Matrix and look for Jeremy Ball!