Staying alive in the Classroom: Ponderings about life, Cowboy Bebop, and building bridges with my students

Image Source: Max Pixel
Listen to the Podcast version of this blogpost here.

“I’m not going there to die. I’m going to find out if I’m really alive”–Spike Spiegel says to Faye Valentine, before marching out into an open-ended scene in the anime series, Cowboy Bebop.

A couple of weeks ago, I finished watching the anime series Cowboy Bebop, and its newly released live action version on Netflix. I wasn’t too into the show after the first episode of the anime, but I gave it a chance since my husband really liked it, and so I pushed onto the next episode. As each episode progressed, I became more enraptured in the story and the complexities of the characters’ back stories and philosophy of life.

Cowboy Bebop’s Ending Theme

Each character seems to be living their day to day life, just surviving one day to the next, almost without purpose. None of the characters are “likeable” at the start. They are all deeply flawed, emotionally distanced, or extremely eccentric, which makes me wonder how such characters with vastly different personalities can come together to become a sort of “family.” But slowly, their backstories are revealed, and I start to feel for them. Sometimes, this is how I feel in the classroom: teaching in listless survival mode, in a room of different personalities, a cacophony of lives unwillingly meshed together.

Sadly, the live action does not capture this essence. Everything seems forced. Spike Spiegel holds an undying love for Julia–this is portrayed in perfect intensity with a dose of mystery in the anime. In the live action, it looks like cheap love. A shattered fantasy. By putting so much focus on the relationship between these two, the live action version drags out the story unnecessarily, and cannot measure up to the intensity of the same relationship in the anime, which is shown and referenced in maybe only 1 to 2 episodes, but hitting you hard.

It is always a little tricky when adapting anything in its original form to another medium–to bridge that gap of excellence. There are so many great anime series out there, but I have not watched much anime. Many of my students are into other anime series like Naruto or Attack on Titan. They would ask me, “Ms, have you watched them?” Other times, they would ask if I watch soccer, the NBA All Stars tournament, or go on TikTok. And I would say, sorry, I have not (or maybe only a part of it). And they would sigh in frustration, and think that I lead a “boring” life. There seems to be to huge gap between us in times like this.

Building a bridge with my students is one of the toughest challenges as a teacher. I tend to hide myself, and not share too much personal information with my students. At times, I wonder how much am I really alive in the classroom. I worry a lot about staying on schedule and making sure my students complete my carefully planned lesson activities. I brush away personal questions like bullets, and set up a shield of seriousness, almost like a machine, that gets constantly bombarded. It’s almost as if my students are trying to break through my barriers, to get to know me, and at the same time, purposely pulling me away from my planned lessons.

It has been said over and over again: relationships, relationships, relationships. Build up your relationship with your students. Get to know them. It is the key to unlocking and creating a great learning environment. This seems easy to say, but hard to do. I do enjoy building relationships, but trying to build relationships with 100+ kids every day is very daunting and exhausting, draining me of life.

But I will keep marching on.

And I pray to God every day to help me stay alive in the classroom.


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