Before I knew it, it was the last week of classes. At this point, I only had classes with my Monday, Wednesday and Thursday school. The rest of the days I was off. My last day with my Monday kids was pretty anticlimactic. I only had to teach my 5-1 kids and I was only there for half of the period. After that, I essentially did nothing. Oh well, what can you do? At least the 4th graders were being friendly to me. Seeing that they are going to be my new kids next school year, it’s good to be somewhat familiar with them. Hopefully they’re not assholes like the majority of my 5th graders at that school.
My Wednesday school was definitely the highlight of the week. When I came in to the office, my vice principal tells me “So, today is the last day huh?” I nodded sadly. I knew I was going to be going back to this school in April, but it still felt sad. All the kids would be changing classes and the environment would be a bit different. However, we were going to make the most of it on the last day. I was told that I wasn’t going to be teaching anything at all. However, unlike in my other schools (in which I did nothing), I was scheduled to see my entire school throughout the day and play games with them. This meant I was seeing grades 1-5. Essentially, I was going to be running around for around 4 hours. It was definitely going to be a great way to end the school year but I had a feeling it was going to wear me out.
First up was hanging out with my favorite 5th graders. Because we had so much fun together this year, I was having two classes with them in one day. The first period with them involved playing games elementary school kids would play in the U.S. I picked out “Duck, Duck, Goose” and “Red Light, Green Light”. We first begun class with a Q&A with my kids. Hiro and Question Man asked me super complicated questions and before I could try to answer them, Aiko-sensei would say “No, no, that’s way too complex for you Diego. Next question!” She was definitely right. The kids got a kick out me writing kanji characters on the blackboard though. Yuki then followed with an amusing question:
“What school do you like the best?”
“Oh. Well this one, of course!” Applause followed.
Hiro countered with “Well then, what school do you like the least?”
“Oh…that would be my Monday school.” As soon as they knew the name of the school, they and Aiko-sensei nodded in agreement. I guess it’s not known to be the greatest school, haha. After answering a few more questions, we played the games. “Duck, Duck, Goose” ended up being more dangerous than I remembered since I tripped pretty hard while chasing after a kid. Oh well. At the end of the class, Hiro gave me a collage of thank you notes from al the 5th graders. It was touching.
Next period was a combined class with the 3rd and 4th graders. We went to the gym and played various English games we learned throughout the year. We also played some Japanese games that I wasn’t aware of. Since I was a rookie, I got my ass kicked pretty fast. We finally played a massive dodgeball game; it was between the 3rd and 4th graders. I got out pretty fast since everyone was gunning for me. I took a picture of the fray while I got a chance:
Like my 5th graders, I also received a collection of thank yous from my 3rd graders. After class, the 3rd graders demanded I have lunch with them. I had been shunning them the entire year so I felt kinda bad. It didn’t help that they were getting on their knees screaming “Pleaaase!” I hesitantly decided to eat with them. My school staff was making fun of me because they know how popular I am. Picking which grade to eat lunch with has become a difficult task because now everyone asks me to go eat with them. I didn’t want to make it look like I exclusively ate with my 5th graders, so I switched it up a bit. My 3rd graders had a lot of fun during lunch, so I was happy. Since it was the final day though, I kinda wish I was eating with my 5th graders.
During cleaning time, I wandered into my 5th grade classroom. As expected, I got an interesting reaction from my absence. Aiko-sensei looked shocked:
“Diego! Where were you during lunch?”
“Ahh…about that…the 3rd graders really wanted me to eat with them today.”
“Oh? I was just so surprised since you always eat with us. Hiro was shocked the most though!”
Hiro: “Nonononono, don’t tell him that!”
It was funny; it felt like I had cheated on my girlfriend or something. To make up for it, I helped them clean the classroom along with the math teacher. When we’re paired up, we usually act really dorky, much to Aiko-sensei’s amusement.
The next class was with my 1st and 2nd graders. Once again, we went to the gym to play various English games. We played Fruits Basket, Touch This Color, and Evolution Janken. I took a picture while everyone was distracted:
At the end of class, a few kids made personal thanks to me in front of the class. Honestly, the whole day was full of things like this, it was so bittersweet! I got yet another batch of thank you letters from them.
At this point, I was getting pretty tired. I only had one more class to go and that was with my 5th graders again. This time, we were going to play soccer outside for P.E. class. The kids were split up into 3 teams and I would rotate between teams every match. So while each team was able to take a break every other match, I had to play in every single one. It was pretty intense. Aiko-sensei really got a kick of me trying to wear their jerseys. Of course, my 2nd years from junior high happen to be walking by and notice this as well. Once again, I took a picture while no one was looking!:
The day was finally over. Or was it? True recess begun as soon as my “class” with my 5th graders was over. Naturally, they wanted to play with me again. We played soccer again but I was struggling. I tried to head the ball at one point and it hit me in the nose. Mimi got really worried for some reason, until I realized I was bleeding slightly. I shook it off but everyone was still a bit concerned. It wasn’t anything major but I did get a bruise on my nose. One week later, it’s still there :\. My principal was kind enough to serve me some iced tea afterward. When it was time to go, I gave my thanks and goodbyes to everyone, just like any other day. After all, I was going to see them again next year.
I had made a mistake with that assumption. During our monthly ALT meeting, my boss announced that various teachers would be transferring to different schools next year. I had already received word from one of my fellow ALTs that one of her favorite teachers would be transferring to my Wednesday school. If we were getting one more staff, that meant we were probably going to lose someone. I had a bad feeling on who it was going to be. Before I could really think about it, my boss announced my name.
“Diego. About your Wednesday school, it looks like Aiko-sesnei will be transferring out.” My heart sank. Aiko-sensei was the teacher I was talking about waay back in September. She was excellent at team teaching compared to my other HRTs and we had a good chemistry in class. Since she was also young, we were able to have a lot of fun with the kids in our class. I’m really going to miss her but I had a feeling she was going to leave that school soon.
In Japan, teachers move around a lot. Every 4-5 years, a teacher is transferred to another school somewhere in the city. This also applies to principals and vice principals. Younger teachers tend to get transferred more often than usual.
Aiko-sensei had already been there for 6 years so if someone was going to be leaving, I knew it was going to be her. I guess the thing that really bummed me out was that I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye and thanks for everything. I’m glad she was the first teacher I interacted with because I learned a lot from her. She’ll be going to one of my friend’s school so I’ll try to keep in touch! Honestly, that ALT meeting was the most depressing one because it seemed like everyone lost a teacher or staff member they liked. By the end of the meeting, we were all depressed.
My last day was with my junior high kids. I only taught my 1st years. I did redeem myself by playing the Mario Kart game and they actually had a lot of fun with it, unlike with my 3rd years. After that, we spent the rest of the day cleaning the entire school. Since I had nothing to do, I helped them out.
And thus, concludes my first school year in Japan. I wonder how next year is going to play out; in my big schools I will be teaching with new HRTs and kids. It’s like starting all over again. At least my small schools would still feel the same, sans my favorite teacher. I can’t help but think what craziness April will bring me. I’ll always remember this year though, especially the kindness from my Wednesday school. I leave you with a picture of all the thank yous I received from them on the final day: