Monday, March 17, 2008

Grad Messages 2008

Messages from my graduated students--romanized Japanese (with katakana English translated to English) first, followed by my English translation (only of the Japanese parts):

From the boys:

- Hello! How are you? I'm very happy! I like your lesson. Melissa wa, itsumo akarui hito deshita. Dakara, bokutachi ga kurai toki meccha akarui Melissa no okagede, bokutachi mo dondon tension UP!! shitekite suggoku tanoshikatta desu. Melisa no okagede eigo no toki ga meccha tanoshikatta desu. Arigatou ne, Melissa-sensei.

(Melissa was always a cheerful person. When we were gloomy, thanks to Melissa's cheerfulness we were able to become more and more energetic and to have a lot of fun. Thanks to Melissa, English was very fun. Thank you, Melissa-sensei.)

- ...Melissa to wa hantoshi kurai issho ni manabete totemo tanoshikatta desu. Sore wa, Melissa no tension ga itsumo takakatta kara desu. Thank you very much. Tokoro de, mada ni Melissa no nihongo no nouryoku ga ki ni natterun desu. Hontou wa pera pera shabererun desuka? Moshi yokattara Melissa no nihongo wo kikitaidesu. Sonouchi.

(The half year I/we learned English together with Melissa was very fun. That's because Melissa was always psyched up (for class). Thank you very much. By the way, I'm still bothered about Melissa's Japanese ability. Can you really speak fluenty? If so, I want to hear Melissa's Japanese. Someday.) <- LOL My JTE gave the class the impression that I'm really good at Japanese, but you'd think that after listening to my horrible mix of English and Japanese during jishu gakushu (extra English, taught by me) they'd KNOW my Japanese is still pretty bad. =P

- Hontou ni ichinenkan arigatou gozaimashita. Melissa no English no jugyou wa, totemo interesting de totemo benkyou ni narimashita. Kore kara mo ganbatte kudasai. Never give up! Thank you very much.

(Thank you so very much for the past year. Melissa's English classes were very interesting and educational. Please continue to do your best.)

- Thank you for taught us English. I could learn many things from you. Because I want to say "Thank you" for you, but I can't do it. So, I write "Thank you" for you. (No translation required! ^_^ )

- Thank you teach us English. Melissa-sensei wa teinei ni bokutachi ni eigo wo oshiete kuremashita. Jugyou ya jishu gakushu no jikan ni oshiete kite kureta game wa totemo tanoshikatta desu. Mata hiruyasumi de atta toki no genkina "Hello" to iu aisatsu wa totemo boku wo genki ni shitekuremashita. Mata, eigo wo machigatteiru toki wa, shinsetsuni oshietkuremashita. Hontou ni arigatou gozaimasu.

(Melissa-sensei conscientiously taught us English. The games you taught us in class and extra English were very fun. Also, your cheerful "Hello" when we met during lunch break made me very happy. Also, you kindly taught me when I was mistaken in English. Really, thank you very much.

From the girls:

- Watashi wa Melissa to sugoshite, sugoku tanoshikatta desu. (Nihongo de gomennasai) Watashi wa Melissa wo miteiru uchi ni, "Watashi mo Melissa mitai ni naritai" to omou youni narimashita. Watashi wa mada eigo no chikara mo hikui, komyunikeishon (communication) no chikara mo tsuiteimasen. Demo kore kara koukou ni itte, takusan benkyoushitei to omoimasu. Melissa mo, itsumo egao de ganbatte kudasai.

(The time I spent with Melissa with very fun. (Sorry for using Japanese.) When I see Melissa, I think "I also want to be like Melissa." My English level is still weak so my communication is also poor, but from now on, as I enter high school, I will study very hard. Melissa too, please keep on smiling.)

- Hi!! Konnichiwa. Attoiumani, chuugakkou sanjikan ga sugimashita. Sensei to wa, kekkou takusan ohanashi dekita to omoimasu. Speech contest no toki mo arigatou gozaimashita. Tanoshi game mo takusan shite moratte, saikou deshita yo. Demo, motto motto sensei to kaiwa shitakatta desu. Koukou ni itte mo, watashi nari ni eigo de oshaberiirunna hito to shitai to omoimasu. Ato, Valentine no cookie hontou ni oishikatta desho yo. Kore kara mo, karada ni kiotsukete ganbatte kudasai. Hontou ni arigatou gozaimashita.

(Good afternoon. In less than no time, three years of junior high have passed. I think I can say many good things about you, sensei. Thank you for (your help with) the speech contest. You made many fun games for us--it was crazy. But, I wanted to have more conversations with you. I think that in high school I want to become a person who can make conversation in English. Also, the Valentine's Day cookies were delicious. From now on, please take care! Really, thank you very much.

- Hello Melissa. I LOVE you. <3>_< (Warau <3 ) Kore kara mo genki de ganbatte kudasai... (I can't quite figure out what she wrote at the end ^^;; )

(Thank you very much for (your kind help in) English time. Thank you. Warm ups (i.e. games) were always very very fun. (laugh) From now on, please take care...)

- I love you. <3 Ima made, irunna koto wo oshiete kure de arigatou gozaimashita. Melissa wa itsumo akarukute, omoshirokatta desu. Kore kara mo akaruku genki ni ganbatte kudasai. Watashi mo akaruku ganbarimasu. Ima made arigatou gozaimashita. I love you. Thank you. <3

(Thank you for the various things you've taught us up to now. Melissa was always bright (cheerful) and interesting. From now on, please continue to be bright and cheerful. I will also do my best to stay cheerful. Thank you for everything up to now.)

- Hi! Genki desuka? Melissa wa, eigo no jugyou de, game wo shitari shite kurete, totemo tanoshikatta desu. Melissa no okagede, iru iru to eigo ni tsuite shiru koto ga deki yokatta desu. Thank you!

(How are you? The games you made for us were very fun. Thanks to Melissa, I could learn many things in English.) <- This is a very bad translation!! m( _ _ ) m (bows in shame) Sorry!

- Melissa wa, waratta kao ga kawaii naa to omotte imashita. Mata, wakaranai eigo wo isshoukenmei oshiete kurete arigatou gozaimashita. Watashi ga mou sukoshi eigo wo hanasetara takusan hanashi, shitakatta kedo anmari hanashi dekinakute zanen deshita. Melissa wa, itsumademo kawairashi arinomama no ALT deite kudasai.

(I thought that Melissa's laughing face was cute. Also, thank you very much for doing your best to teach us what we didn't understand in English. I still can only speak a little English and I know it's too bad that I can't speak very much. Please stay an adorable (hard to translate this word!), straightforward (this one too!) ALT forever.)

- Ima made, yaku ichinenkan watashitachi no tameni English wo oshiete kudasatte, arigatou gozaimashita. Melissa ga itsumo wakariyasuku, yashiku oshiete kudasaru node, totemo tanoshiku jugyou ga dekimasu! Watashi mo haru kara wa koukousei nanode, kiri chuu de gakun dekita koto wo mune ni ganbarimasu! Melissa mo okarada ni okiotsukete kudasai! See you!

(Thank you for teaching us English for almost one year up to now. We could have very fun classes because Melissa always taught us kindly in a way that was easy to understand. Since I will be a high school student in the spring, I will do my best with what I could learn at Kirita. Melissa, please take care of yourself too!)

Why I'm Here

As a teacher there is nothing more rewarding than seeing your students graduating and moving forward on the path of their choice knowing that you have touched their lives in some way, large or small.

Wednesday (March 5) was graduation day for the sannensei at Kirita. It was a very formal, organized affair, so in preparation we spent the first half of Tuesday in rehearsals. But somehow, even though we practiced the entire ceremony two and a half times on Tuesday, when it came to the real thing, it was still very moving.

The ceremony began with the entrance of the sannensei, led by their teacher, Ito-sensei. It was interesting because in Canada everyone rises during a processional (like at weddings) but here everyone remained seated and there was no clapping, so it was very solemn. (Well, it should have been solemn but I couldn't help being amused at the awkward way most of them were walking--with slightly exaggerated arm and leg movements, like toy soldiers.)

After the introductory greetings and singing of the Japanese national anthem, they went straight into giving out the diplomas. Again, this was all very formal and solemn with no clapping. Then we went into various speeches--from the principal, the Board of Education, the PTA, the class valedictorian, etc. This was a little tiring because for different people we had to do different things in terms of bowing. Sometimes we had to stand up to bow to them, and other times we could stay seated.

Following all the speeches, the ichi- and ninensei sang a song for the grads. It was very cute, particularly since some of the girls had already started crying but were doing their best to sing and not sniffle/wipe away their tears. Then the sannensei joined them and they all sang together. Finally, the ichi- and ninensei returned to their seats and the sannensei sang by themselves. Again, it was touching because many of the girls were crying but still doing their best to sing--this was particularly important since they weren't miked and there was only twelve of them altogether. Since I have sympathetic tear ducts (i.e. when I see people crying it makes me start tearing up as well) I had to look at the boys during the song to maintain my composure.

Once the ceremony was over, there was an organized photo time with the grads. Then they went upstairs to get all of their stuff while the ichi- and ninensei and teachers lined up downstairs to congratulate the grads as they left. I stood in the little alcove where first came down the stairs so I could hand them their presents right away. (The previous day, the vice-principal and some of the other teachers had discussed the best time for me to give them their presents and it was decided that it would look good for them to be holding the gift bags as they walked through the "reception line.")

After that there was a short post-mortem meeting for all the teachers. We also had a small lunch: sandwiches of the type that could be purchased from any local convenience store ("konbini")--tuna and mayo, pizza, gratin croquette, etc.--and sakura mochi. Then it was off to the "after party".

At the party, all the grads were sitting at the front (closest to the stage) tables, separated by gender, and the teachers were seated with the parents, in an alternating arrangement. There was a heck load of food--nabe, sushi, sashimi, fried onigiri, salad, fruit, etc. and there were many presentations by different groups as well.

The male grads (5) did "sushi Russian roulette": they put strange toppings in some of the sushi--a lot of wasabi, jam, etc.--and we all watched their reactions as they ate. There was about three rounds and then they got some of the teachers and parents to try their luck as well.

The girls (7) had three different performances. Three girls sang one song and three girls sang another with one girl accompanying them on the violin (she's going to a Tokyo high school for violin). Then all of them sang a song together.

After that, all of us teachers performed a graduation version (written by Ikeda-sensei) of "Sen no Kaze ni Natte". ("Sen no Kaze ni Natte" is a Japanese song based on the poem "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep.") It's a very well-known song, plus we had already performed it at the Kirita graduation party the previous week, so when we invited everyone to sing along, many of the (female) students (along with some parents) joined in.

Once we had finished, the students gave each of the teachers a bouquet of flowers and an envelope with messages from them. (It worked out perfectly with twelve teachers and twelve students) and we took a couple of group photos. After that Ito-sensei and Ikeda-sensei, i.e. the teachers in charge of the sannensei, gave short speeches.

Next the mothers performed a dance routine. It was hilarious! They were wearing brightly coloured wigs and (homemade) flapper-style fringe dresses. When the call for an encore came, all of the students plus a couple of teachers (but not me!) joined in. It was a lot of fun!

In between the various acts there was a slide show of the sannensei from the time they were ichinensei up to the present. It even had a video of their Kirita entrance ceremony. They were so small and cute back then!

The final presentation was messages from each of the graduating students. It was really cute. The guy I would peg as the "coolest" guy in the class started crying during his speech. And he wasn't just teary-eyed, he was nearly sobbing--but he manfully kept on going . (I don't know why, but I find it really cute when boys cry in public, like in the hockey World Junior Championships.) Almost all of the girls were teary-eyed/crying during their messages as well. It was very moving to see each of them sincerely thanking their teachers and family.

One student moved me to tears as well (and not just because I have sympathetic tear ducts). She started off her speech by saying, in English: "First I want to give a message to Melissa. I will study English very hard in high school. I want to be like Melissa."

By itself I guess that doesn't sound so meaningful, but you have to realize that this is the student I worked with for hours on preparing for an extra-curricular speech contest (held in a high school?). We practiced during her lunch breaks and after school, plus she went to see another English tutor afterwards from 8pm-10pm (or something like that) for 3-4 days a week. We also spent several lunch hours together practicing interview questions for the interview for a special English program at a Hachinohe high school.

Moreover, in the program for the graduation ceremony, in the section where the grads wrote about their future aspirations, she wrote this:

Watashi no akogare wa, ALT no Melissa-sensei desu. Jibun no kuni wo hanarete, shitteiru hito ga daremo inaku, bunka mo kotoba mo chigau tokoro de, tsurai koto bakari no hazunano ni, itsumo egao de iru koto wa totemo sugoi koto to omou kara desu.

(I admire Melissa-sensei because I think it is amazing that, although she is away from her own country and facing difficulties alone in a place where she doesn't know anybody and the culture and language is different, she is always smiling.)

So when she said her message at the graduation party, I knew that she sincerely meant every word. And they were exactly the words I'd always wished to hear--right from the time I decided to become a teacher--from a student, but didn't think I ever would (because I was such a poor teacher in Canada).

It wasn't just that student, either. I was moved by the message I received from each student (even as I was amused by some of them). (But I'm posting those messages in a separate post.)

But yeah, after the students gave their individual messages, all the parents and teachers lined up and formed a human arch (with our arms) that the students went through to leave. Then they all got onto a bus and (presumably) went home while the teachers and parents got to stick around and drink (alcohol, of course) and talk.

It was fun. Some of the parents told me that their son/daughter always looked forward to classes with me, and/or that they were always bringing home things "from Melissa." One mother told me how her son would come into the car and immediately eat all of the cookies (or whatever else I'd given them) by himself, without even offering to share them with his three younger siblings. =P

After about an hour and a half to two hours, we closed the party. There was a nijikai (second party) but both my JTE (whom I'd gotten a ride from) and I were pretty tired, so we went home. I was happy to have received my first invitation to a (Kirita) nijikai, though.

That night, as I reflected on the day, there were two dominant thoughts running through my head: "This is why I'm in Japan," and "I can totally see why people end up staying for three, four, or even five years!"

I mean, I was only with the sannensei for half a year and I already miss them now that they've graduated. I don't know how I'm going to be able to leave my students after being with them for two years!

But that's something to think about at a later date.