Monday, March 7, 2011

Bittersweet joys of teaching

Graduation is looming.

I had my final classes at one elementary school on February 18. After lunch all the students lined up in the hallway and three of the boys stood in front of me. They did a sports festival-like cheer: "Hurray, hurray, M~sensei..." and ended it with a "Thank you very much" from all the students.

Then I received a present from each class as I walked down the hall--high-fiving the students as I went--and headed towards the staircase (to leave). The last class even made an arch (with their arms) for me to walk under/through.

A group of students even followed me down the stairs and all the way to the teacher's office! I was walking backwards for a while so I could shake hands with them. ^_^

I was completely surprised and very nearly moved to tears. Then when I got home and looked at the presents--an album with a class photo on the front and messages from each student. It was humbling to realize that I've been so very blessed as to be able to teach such appreciative students and to work with such thoughtful teachers.

Then today was my final 給食 (kyuushoku = school lunch) with the graduating students at Kirita. Everything felt perfectly normal as we were eating, but as I was leaving, I could feel the beginning of tears welling in my eyes as I turned to give my habitual "See you!"

At least this year watching the students practice for the graduation ceremony hasn't made me teary-eyed. (Last year seeing them practicing their entrance was enough to get the waterworks started...) Still, I'm definitely expecting to need tissues and a handkerchief for the actual ceremony, to say nothing of the party afterward.

If last year was the group I was most emotionally involved with (because I worried so much about them and whether or not they'd be able to pass the exams for their first choice high schools), this year's class is probably the group I've spent the most time talking with. In class, outside of class, during extra English, they asked me random questions and talked to me (in both English and Japanese) more than any other class in my memories of Kirita.

One of my best and most recent memories is playing with them in the gym during lunch break. All the other students were on a trip to go ice skating in Misawa (the third years couldn't go because they needed to study for their entrance exams, plus if someone got injured before the test it'd be bad), so they had the gym to themselves. Most other grades would play basketball or something, but not this group: they played tag! I usually do work in the teachers' office during lunch, but I'm really glad I decided to go see what they were up to that day.

Even though I say this every year, I always truly mean it: I love my students and I'm really going to miss them once they've graduated. Still, there's no greater happiness for a teacher than to see students grow and continue on their life journeys...

Oh, and on a side note, after a weekend (from Friday night right through to Sunday) where I only left the house twice--to buy groceries on Saturday and to eat dinner on Sunday--I've finally finished this year's graduation sock monkeys! (I started working on them at the beginning of February, but until Friday I only had six done...)

+ 30hours
= 14 sock monkeys!!

Completed with two days to spare before the graduation ceremony!!

q(^-^q)(p^-^)p q(^-^q)(p^-^)p q(^-^q)(p^-^)p
(This is my happy dance!)