I have been very unlucky over the past month. I have been riddled with various illnesses one after another as well as other non-health things occurring. The worst one for me by far though was when my final classes with my third years in junior high were cancelled. Classes were cancelled for three days already due to the flu when I came in but were supposed to start again. However, only seven of the 21 students managed to arrive in school that day which prompted the principal to cancel class again. I was really depressed because I had a nice, closing class of everyone doing their reflection speeches then concluding it with me giving a speech to everyone.
I didn’t give up though and asked Mrs. Morita if I could manage to sneak in my speech sometime during the final week of classes. While English was over, there was still a couple days left where I would still see them. She happily agreed and told me I could do it after their final lunch. It was better than nothing. It also gave me time to touch up on my speech.
Finally, the last day of classes for them rolled around. After lunch, I snuck upstairs and saw everyone sitting in a circle. All the kids were happy to see me. I finally told them “Because I made you guys come up to the front and do your English speeches all the time, I thought I would do the same. This time though, I’ll do it in Japanese!” The crowd erupted. “Everyone, congrat-“ The students were wooing and cheering for me. The girls were all yelling out “Yabai! Yabai!” which means “awesome!”
“Guys, I haven’t even started the speech!” I put my hands up, trying to quiet them down. This repeated itself at least four times throughout the speech. I got a lot of laughs, awes and claps throughout the whole thing. Finally, after saying “Truly, thank you for these three years!” everyone applauded for a very long time. I really wanted to make sure they heard this speech because I essentially told them how special they were to me, because they were my first class I had when I first came to Japan. I was really nervous at first but after seeing how friendly they were and how full of character they are, I quickly felt at ease with them and looked forward to every Thursday. They were always my favorite class. I think my message got through to them.
The following day was the fated day I had not been looking forward to ever since they became third years: graduation. I really didn’t want to part from them, I loved them to death, but all things come to an end eventually. The day started out really nostalgic; I got off the bus and started walking to the school. I ran into Maido, Ina and Reno on the slope before the school gates. This happened when I first started working there and I would run into them often over the next three years and just make small chit-chat with them before we hit the school gates. This last year I rarely came across them, probably because they had gotten busy and had been getting to school earlier. It felt like everything was coming to a complete circle when I ran into them one final time.
“Diego! Thanks so much for the speech yesterday! You’re so cool! I was very moved!” Ina grinned at me. “I love every Tuesday with Diego!”
“I think you mean every Thursday, Ina.”
“Oh! Thursday! That’s right. Thursday!”
“Diego, daisuki! I don’t want to leave!” Maido yelled out.
“I don’t want you guys to leave either! But it’s time.”
“I’m happy it’s over!” Reno smiled.
“Well, that’s a new one.” I chuckled. We made a quick chat before we parted ways one final time before the ceremony. I was in my suit, looking all snazzy. I ran to the bathroom before the ceremony started and ran into Katsu, a second year.
“Oh hello, Diego! How are you?”
“Hey Katsu. I’m…sad.” I smiled.
“Ah. Sad, huh? Yeah, sad…” he trailed off. He nailed how I was feeling about everything.
The graduation ceremony itself was pretty rough. As the speakers came by and everyone was getting their diploma, I was just thinking I was going to be saying goodbye really soon. Everyone was frowning, trying to hold back tears. The waterworks finally began when the third years started singing their departing song to the enrolled students. The boys were fine but the girls were basically sobbing their way through it. I couldn’t help but choke up as well. I think Mao was the only girl that managed to sing her way through it without breaking down; it sure shows how much perseverance she has. Once the students started marching away from the gym and everyone started clapping, everyone started to cry. It was a great graduation ceremony.
As the third years were getting their final message in their classroom, we quickly cleaned up the gym and prepared a little walkway with flowers for when the students finally left the school. They were all touched. And then it was finally time to take pictures and say our final goodbyes. I did my damn best to take a photo of everyone as well as talk to everyone one last time.
Maido really surprised me though when I saw her. She was busy talking with everyone and when she finished, she spotted me from afar. I heard her yell out one final time, “Diego!” and started running towards me. I thought she was going to stop right in front of me like she usually does but instead she clung onto me, hugging me tightly. This might be okay back home but in Japan, a student hugging a teacher of the opposite sex is extremely rare. I was taken aback but I hugged her back right away. “I’m going to miss you. Thank you for everything. Daisuki! I love you!”
I couldn’t help but smile and said “I love you too Maido. Good luck with everything.” The thing I love about Maido is that she is always full of life and happy everyday. I have never seen her down. And when things are getting rough, she just pushes through it with her energy and positivity. I inspire to be like that too, which is why she is my favorite student. I’m glad we both feel the same way about each other. We took a photo right after that touching goodbye.
Of course, I took photos of others as well!
I’m happy she finally got that iPhone she always wanted, haha.
Thanks for making the first English summer camp a fun one, Nao! I sure learned more about you back then.
My biggest regret was not being able to get a group photo of the whole class and me. There was one opportunity and I gave my camera to a parent. She didn’t manage to take the photo though so I was really bummed to realize it long after the ceremony was over. Oh well, maybe I’ll get one from someone who had taken it on another camera. And I did manage to take group photos of the whole class with Mrs. Morita 🙂
Finally it was time to part ways. “I don’t want to go home!” Maido yelled. She eventually got dragged off by her parents to the car. She waved us off and yelled “Thank you!” to Mrs. Morita and I as her parents drove her off. Before I left, I had some parting words with my teachers, Mrs. Morita and Mrs. Kitada. Mrs. Morita was convinced that she was going to transfer next year as she had been teaching here for ten years, an extremely rare situation for a teacher. Mrs. Morita has been an excellent teacher to work with; she helped me out when I first started but also pushed me to start planning the lessons more as I got used to the job. Never forgetful and always full of ideas, she was the perfect person to start the job with. Whoever she works with next will definitely appreciate her.
While Mrs. Kitada isn’t as good as a teacher as Mrs. Morita, she’s always happy to let me do anything in class and is really lenient when I may do silly stuff during class. One thing she has over Mrs. Morita is how open she is when we talk. Mrs. Morita and I have mainly a professional relationship but Mrs. Kitada and I are more friendly with each other, open with our complaints and feelings towards certain students and situations. I feel at ease whenever I talk to her and she isn’t afraid to voice her real opinion towards things. I like that. She told me she’ll probably stay next year which is a good thing. I don’t know who the new JTE will be, but after hearing the experiences my coworkers have had with others, I’m a little worried. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as I think it will be.
And thus, ends another school year. Next school year will probably be my final full school year in Japan so I’m going to do my best to enjoy it to the fullest. I’ll admit, the third years leaving is going to leave a huge hole in my heart but I just think about this quote from Dr. Seuss when I’m down:
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”