TOKYO DRIFT – Class apart: Teaching from a wheelchair
Tokyo: BORN WITHOUT arms or legs, Hirotada Ototake inspired Japan a decade ago with a best–selling book about his unflagging determination to lead a fulfilling life.
Now he is taking on a new challenge by becoming a school teacher in a bid to teach the next generation to accept differences in a society that has traditionally frowned on individuality .
"My dream is to create a peaceful world," Ototake said after his first days in the classroom.
"If my competence could bring me even one little step closer to this goal, I would be very happy and find meaning in having been born into this world," he said, smiling.
Author of international bestseller No One's Perfect published nine years ago, the 31–year–old took a job teaching students from first to sixth grades at a Tokyo school when the academic year began earlier this month.
"This is a big day for me," Ototake announced from his electric wheelchair at the opening ceremony of the Suginami Dai–Yon Elementary School.
"Some of you have asked me: but how are you going to teach? Well, you will have to help me in class, like writing on the blackboard. Or else I'll write putting chalk between my cheek and my shoulder," he explained.
As children dispersed after the official ceremony, a handful encircled Ototake, touching at his shoulders and legs, trying to see where they began and where they ended.
Their new teacher, wearing a light grey suit and a pink tie, did not object. Instead he grinned.
Ototake was born with a rare genetic disorder called tetra–amelia which is characterised by an absence of the upper and lower limbs.
is accompanied by his aide Shinichi Ono, who helps him with everything from changing into his gym clothes to driving him to and from home.
But his disability did not prevent him from doing the unthinkable playing basketball and baseball after years of practice adapting the bats and balls to his body .
His passion drove him to become a sports journalist before he finally decided two years ago to study to become a teacher. He will be teaching sixth grade social science and fifth grade science classes, as also "morality" classes from the first to sixth grades.
"There are things that only I, because of my situation, can teach children, unlike other teachers," he said, adding that those things, such as respect and acceptance, won't come from any textbook.
He said having someone with disabilities in the classroom like himself as a child due to his parents' decision to send him to a normal school ? would help create an atmosphere of solidarity .
"Instead of logically and conceptually teaching children by words that discrimination is a bad thing, it is better to have them learn naturally through experience to coexist with a disabled child," he said.
"By only looking at my body you would think it impossible to dribble and throw a ball. But if children could watch me and think, 'Wow, he must have worked hard to do that' they too may feel they can challenge themselves to do something without giving up."
Source: Hindustan Times, 25 April, Delhi Edition