Kayla Johnston-Mitchell '17: Three Steps to Becoming an "Osshare Sensei"

Kayla Johnston-Mitchell is one of the 2017-2019 Fellows at J.F. Oberlin University. This is her first year narrative.

1. Every Class Day is a Runway:

  • If you look good, you feel good. As a new teacher I definitely get nervous, especially during the first few weeks of class. Students are still figuring out how comfortable they can be in class, and how close they can be with their teachers. I have a pretty kooky teaching style. I gesture a lot, make finger guns, use silly voices, and am constantly walking around. I also try to reflect my teaching style in the way I dress; bright colors, fun patterns, while also remaining sleek and work appropriate. I notice a difference, both in myself and my students, when I “dress down.” My students are more subdued, and my enthusiasm plateaus. My goal is when I walk into the room, my students should go “Wow, she’s so osshare.”

  • I also found that students are far more likely to speak to me in and out of class if my clothes match my personality. Recently, some of my students have felt comfortable enough with the atmosphere of class that they have invited friends over before class or during break. We, of course, speak English, but it’s always lovely to see how excited my students are to introduce me, and how their friends react to our kooky classroom dynamic.



         Osshare in Japanese means to be stylish or appealing. Depending on how you said it could have an undercurrent of awe, jealously, or #goals. Women on the street will stop and stare at a woman who is osshare, who embodies a certain joshi ryoku or “girl power.” Unlike in English, Japanese “girl power” can be a no nonsense female C.E.O, or a stay at home mom; both embody different versions of their own form of “girl power.” One of my goals while in Japan is to become That Teacher. The teacher who looks good, whose students are comfortable and excited for class, and who’s name is somehow known by all the students in the department. Below are my 3 steps to becoming an Osshare Sensei.


First day of class spring semester. I tried to dress as bright and happy as the day outside.

​2. Get an Osshare Hobby:

  • Now that I understand my duties as a teacher at JFO, I am freer to budget my time accordingly. Since January I have started aerial tissue and pole dance at a studio in Tokyo. I have never and will never mention my hobby in class, seeing as it is a risqué hobby, but it is a great way to get exercise and make other osshare friends. My teacher is a stunning redheaded Moldovan woman, who is as no nonsense as a Russian ballet instructor, but is lovely and funny and makes class breeze by. My classmates are supportive, fun and just as kooky as I am. Although I don’t mention my hobby, it impacts how I interact with the people in my life. I have more confidence, I’m more outgoing and having a packed schedule during the week makes me feel like I’m making and achieving my goals. If my students ever ask though, “pole and aerial” will become “yoga and aerobics.”

  • My hobby has also gotten me in touch with other POC in Japan. For the past few months I can admit it has been a little hard being one of two non-Japanese, non-white people in the entire English department. Being able to go into the city and dance with some of the Black, African and Latina girls in my class has really helped me cope. It can be a little lonely not being able to talk to someone who has the same experiences, but being able to dance and make friends has really helped me feel more grounded.

Office of International Studies sponsored trip to Mt. Fuji

3. Compliment Others, Gas up Your Students:

  • Students are little flames, and sometimes all they need is a little gas to get them willing and able to learn. Nothing makes my students perk up in class more than a well-timed, well-meaning compliment. A simple “Your hair looks nice today” or “You did well on your homework” can make all the difference in a classroom dynamic. I’m also a “sticker teacher.” If my student does well on a test, sticker. If their notebook for that week is full of classwork, sticker. If they ask a good question in class, or willing to help another student, sticker. Considering how small they are, a shiny sticker can make all the difference in a student’s day. If the sticker I give is unique in any way (I have crystals, ducks and pandas, oh my) that’s even more incentive to do well. Even the smallest compliment or recognition of hard work can give students that little push to keep working hard.

Those are the three steps I am following to become an Osshare Sensei. So far, I think I have succeeded and achieved my goal! My students are eager and happy to interact, I feel confident and happy in and out of class, and I look good while doing it.

My extensive collection of plants. I cannot have pets while in Japan, but I can have as many plants as I want. Most of them are lovely little succulents and at my last count I have 13 plants in total~

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