I was going through old pictures the other day when I found this set of pics that one teacher took on my last day teaching at a Japanese public school. Looking through the pictures jogged my memory about an old post that I had written but never published. Though it’s not very long, it shows how cool a Japanese teaching experience can be:
I’m a freakin’ crybaby, I swear. I went in for my last day of school today, knowing that I had to give a short speech, knowing that I was going to say goodbye to my students. In my head, I was all like, “I feel fine I’m going to miss these little guys and girls, but I’m not going to cry or anything.” At least that’s what I tried to tell myself.
First, they had me sit on stage, by myself, while the principal gave a short speech, thanking me for all of my hard work. No problem. Then another one of the staff members did the same, talking to the students about how much I would be missed. No problem. Before I had to give my speech, out of my peripheral vision, I saw three students walking up to stage (three of my REALLY good students) with this huge bouquet of flowers…(uh oh…is that a lump in my throat?) As soon as I saw the three students in front of me my eyes started watering. Luckily, I have amazing superpower called “sticky tears,” which allows my eyes to well up far longer than the average human before tears fall. This bought me critical “think happy thoughts” time. Unfortunately the happy thoughts weren’t the one that were coming. I was thinking of games I played with me kids, or those moments when the “got it.” Not good! To make matters worse the three students spoke to me in English. All I remember is “We enjoyed your English class,” “Thank you for teaching us,” and “We will miss you.” Jesus! Now why did you have go and say that? In English, too? Yep, that did it…cue the waterworks.
I really didn’t understand. I didn’t cry at my AEON farewell party. I just had a great time. What is so different about this? Why am I crying? Is it because I’m leaving before the end of the term? Have I let my kids down? Yeah, maybe a little. I don’t know exactly, but it was a touching ceremony to say the least. Wait a minute! I do remember something like this happening before. It was my last day teaching karate at United Martial Arts Systems (there’s a nice little plug for you, Sensei ). When I announced I was leaving, these little kids ran up to me and grabbed my legs saying “Please don’t go Mr. Ash!” That was an absolute tearjerker. The sticky tear power didn’t work then, and it for darn sure didn’t work today. After having taught public school in Georgia where hundreds upon hundreds of teachers give their all often times without so much as a thank you from their students, being at this school where the staff and students SINCERELY appreciate you can be extremely heartwarming. Kids came up to me asking to sign their notebooks rulers, some even wanted me to sign their bags! Leaving is a bittersweet. Sure the pay isn’t that great and there can be days where the kids are a handful. But walking out of this school, today, I know that I made a positive difference is these kids’ lives and it was worth it.