Last week was my final “official” English class with my favorite 5th graders. We were just working on sports and playing various games. I felt a little sad because it was going to be the last time all of us would be in the same room learning English. Class went by just like any other day. The students surprised my JTE with a booklet of their thank you notes to her. Afterward, she demanded we have a picture together. Luckily, one of my 6th graders was walking by the classroom and we asked him to take it for us:
Top Row (from left): Me, Isa, Moe, Misato, Miho, Aiko-sensei (the HRT and my fave person to work with!), Kitaguchi-sensei (our occasional helper), Ryu
Bottom Row (from left): Yuki, Mimi, Momo, Nana, Question Man, Sei, Brazil, the younger BB
Very front (from left): My junior high’s JTE, the older BB, and Hiro. Of course he’d be making a silly face.
Right after we took the picture, the 6th grader suddenly gave me a package saying, “This is for you. Thanks for everything.” I was really surprised to get a personal thank you gift from him. He’s a really cool kid and good at English. We talked a few times about games and manga during class. I opened it alter only to find a thank you letter with some armband things. I’m not sure when one wears these but apparently he made them himself. It made me really happy:
I wandered down the halls to see my sixth graders cleaning up their room. Since they were leaving on Friday for the final time, they had to make sure the room was clean for the new 6th graders, aka my kids. I chatted with a few of them for a bit; I regret not doing it earlier. They offered to have lunch with them but I had already made plans with the fifth graders. It’s okay though, I’ll see most of them in April when they come to junior high. After teaching them for half a year, I can tell they’re a good group of kids so I’m looking forward to working with them.
When I found out that I’d be free on a Friday, I asked the vice principal if it was okay to come to the graduation ceremony. He seemed taken aback for a few seconds and then said “Of course you can!”
Meanwhile, things were pretty normal at my junior high school except towards the end of Thursday. For some reason, May and a few of her friends came back to school to drop something off. It was kind of weird to see my 3rd years again. We chatted very briefly and then I saw them off as they left school. They stopped and looked at me, giggling. Soon the girls were whispering to each other and May, slightly pushing her forward. She then approached me:
“Oh, are you forgetting something?”
“No, no, no.”
“Diego…I love you but, THE END!” She giggled like crazy and ran back to her friends where they erupted in laughter. I guess it was her version of a confession/breakup. I’m going to miss those silly girls.
Finally, Friday came around. I dressed up in a suit, as graduation ceremonies are very formal, even in elementary schools. I heard that one had to wear a white tie, but I didn’t have one. “Maybe they won’t be wearing one either,” I thought to myself. Wrong! Everyone was wearing one. They didn’t seem to mind though; I figured as long as I wasn’t wearing a black one, I’d be okay. FYI, you only wear a black tie to a funeral.
The graduation ceremony itself was very interesting. It’s nothing like it is back home. The vice principal stands on this podium and basically barks orders to the 6th graders like “Stand up! Face this way! Sit down.” The principal, PTA, and people from the BOE gave speeches to all of them. Afterwards, they all marched towards the front of the stage to receive their diploma. They then began to talk about their future dreams in English, like how we practiced before. They were nearly perfect, it was really great to see them pull it off. As each kid talked about their dream job, we could all see a baby picture of them and their written paragraph on a screen. It was heartwarming.
The students then began a call-and-response type of thing with my 5th graders. I could understand only a little, but it sounded like my kids were thanking them for everything they had done while the sixth graders were essentially passing the torch to them. Things got really emotional when the kids went to the side to perform their songs. I could see some of them breaking down and crying. I’ll admit, I choked up a little. The songs they decided to play was the Mission Impossible theme song as well as Pirates of the Caribbean theme. Kinda random, but I’m okay with it! Grades 4 and 5 played their own songs as well. Finally, it was time for them to depart. The school played them off as each one of them left the auditorium. It was definitely a memorable experience. I wish I could’ve taken pictures but it would’ve looked weird since no one else was doing it.
Afterward, the sixth graders took pictures in the field while the rest of us were cleaning up. Finally, it was time to go. The entire school made a line in front of the school entrance that each sixth grader walked through before they left the school with their things. We all congratulated them one by one. Our graduation ceremonies back home look like crap compared to the ones in Japan. If I’m still around when my fifth graders graduate (and I really hope that I will be), I’m probably going to lose it. After the kids left, I was off to go to my Tuesday school to drop off some papers.
Oddly enough, my Tuesday school was having their graduation ceremony that day as well! My Tuesday school probably quadruples my Wednesday school in size so you can imagine how packed it was on the school grounds. Luckily I didn’t look out of place (besides being a foreigner) as I was already suited up. It took me a good ten minutes to get into the school though, everyone was outside taking pictures. The sixth graders were in suits, which surprised me. I guess since it is a fancy school, the ceremony would have to be more grandiose. Whatever.
There was only one more week to go until school was over. Things will get bittersweet. I’ll talk about that soon.