A little forewarning; I’m going to be talking about my schools a lot within the next few posts as the school year is wrapping up!
Last week I taught my third years in junior high school for the final time. Well, “taught” is not really the word I should be using. More like interacting I suppose! Since it was the final class, I decided that we should just play games. A couple of weeks ago, I had hesitantly introduced them “Sorry Revenge!”, a card game based on the Sorry! board game. I had a lot of fun with it when my friend introduced it to me so I figured it would be a good way to practice numbers with my students in Japan. It’s currently a hit with my 6th graders at my Wednesday school. When Miss Kitada, the homeroom teacher of my third years saw this, she suggested I bring it to my 3rd years class.
“Uh I dunno…they might just wreck it and not take it seriously.” I said. It was true, they would mostly ignore any game we threw at them and that’s why we generally didn’t play any games with the third years.
“Please! Let’s just try this one time!” Miss Kitada said. I didn’t want to be a dick so I gave in. Oddly enough, the third years adore this game. It took a awhile to explain it to them but afterwards, even the bad kids like Yuta and Kouki were psyched about playing it. Each time during class some of them would yell “Diego! When are we going to play Sorry again?!”
“We might be able to play if you guys can finish Miss Kitada’s lecture on time.”
“Okay, okay! Please Miss Kitada. Speed up! Speed up!”
Since Sorry Revenge was a hit, I decided to just play it the entire damn time on the final day. We all had fun and I thought it was a nice way to say goodbye to all of the students. I also got a chance to talk to them some more on a personal level. I’m surprised how close I have gotten to some of them. We hated each other’s guts when they were 2nd years but we now we are all friends. It’s funny how a year can change all of that.
Afterwards, I was requested by Miss Kitada to eat lunch with them. I knew I had to since it was their last lunch with me, but part of me was not looking forward to it. Eating with the 3rd years guaranteed getting messed with while you were eating your lunch. Today was no exception. While I was talking to Misa, Kouki came up to me and said “This time, I’m really taking you down Diego!” and grabbed my hoodie, pulling it down hard over my head. I eventually got a hold of his head and put him in a headlock, threatening him to do a wrestling move on him. During this time all of the students and Miss Kitada are cracking up. Yep, talk about lack of discipline here but at least I can do whatever the hell I want with them.
Afterwards, I was told to stand up in front of the class. Ash and Ben Johnson came up, saying a little speech in English: “Thank you for everything this year Diego! It was fun!” and presented me this little booklet of thank yous from the 3rd years and a bag of konbu chewing gum. The latter is a callback from a previous lesson; we were reading an article about konbu gum.
“Konbu gum? I’ve never heard of it.” I said.
“Oh really? It’s delicious! Diego, I’ll give it to you as a present!” Nari said.
“Oh, thanks!” I brushed it off as a joke. Apparently Nari was serious and bought me some konbu chewing gum. He wasn’t able to make it to class that day so he made sure Miss Kitada got it. What a nice guy.
Here’s a picture of the booklet and said konbu gum:
The messages themselves were in half-assed English but I wouldn’t expect anything less of them. It was a nice note to go out on. I’ll see them one more time for graduation this week.
Last month, the new librarian, Miss Harada asked if I could come to the library after school to see if there would be any interested students in talking to me in English. I had a feeling no one would show up but I said yes anyways. Oddly enough, we got 6 kids to come up, including Ash and his friend. Kouki surprisingly showed up as well and we all played Sorry Revenge. We didn’t really get a chance to talk that much in English but as long as everyone was having fun, I didn’t really care. It was nice.
When the library closed, I made my way down to the teacher’s office to pack my things up and call it a day. I ran into a girl that I didn’t recognize who said “Oh wow, Diego!”
She gave me a wave and ran past me. She looked familiar; my guess was that might have been a former 3rd year and now a high school student. My thoughts were confirmed when I got downstairs and saw two familiar girls chatting with the math teacher.
“Huh? Is that Diego??” I heard one say. I ran out to see who was talking.
It was USJ! I had never expected to see her again and yet here she was, chatting with her old homeroom teacher. She looked very different from a year ago; I guess a year can do a lot.
What really surprised me the most was how much her English had improved. We chatted for a good five minutes on her high school, how her life has been so far, and the reason she had come to visit us. She’s going to Australia for two weeks to study abroad. It’s crazy to think how serious she has gotten since her days of being silly with me during class.
It made me realize how much time has past since I had come to Japan. It had only been a year and a half but it still feels like forever ago. My former students are growing up and on their way to adulthood. Students like USJ were in the same exact shoes as my current third years; who knows what they’ll be up to in a year or two? It was really nice to see some old faces, I could tell the math teacher was deeply moved as she was crying when she came back to the staff office. Its moments like these that make me happy and sad that I’m a teacher. I get to know my students and we share a lot of fun memories but there will be a time where we will say goodbye. However, just maybe one day down the road, you’ll run into them again and you’ll see how much far they have come since their departure.
Ah, March. What a bittersweet month.