Originally I wasn’t supposed to have a class with my third years before graduation but my JTE and they insisted that we would have one final class. So, on their final day of classes, I had the honor of teaching them what would be their absolute last class in their junior high school life.
The final class was basically a look-back of our four years together. I showed them various pictures throughout the years and my best memories with them. Then they all surprised me with individual speeches on how they enjoyed my classes and how much they were going to miss me. It was the class that I never got last year due to class cancellations. It felt so heartwarming. Rie was even tearing up during her speech and I felt really moved. I’m glad some of them felt the same way I felt about my time with them. The funniest one was Aya’s as she said “Thank you for everything Diego. I’ll never forget you. Let’s meet again at [my station’s name]!” I couldn’t help but laugh. It was the worst kept secret in the world and once a high school student that used to go here saw me, the news of me living in that area spread like wildfire. Once in awhile Aya or someone else would just yell my station’s name. She’ll be going to the same school that high school girl is going, which happens to be by my station. Odds are we will meet there but I don’t mind at all.
We took one final picture together and then the kids surprised us again by giving us individual notes of gratitude. I was so special that I got two sets! We played a quick game of Pictionary before classes ended for the final time. It was a great way to send them off into high school.
The next day was graduation. This year really was the first time that it felt more of a happy event over a sad one. Sure we had some students crying but a lot of them were laughing over small screwups they made during the ceremony or when they had to face their underclassmen while they were singing their song of departure. Finally, when we sent them off with their flowers, they all proudly walked out of the gym with their heads up high. I knew they were going to be alright, and I was too.
The third years and I took many pictures together afterward. It was a lot of fun as usual. A lot of my now former students came up to me and thanked me for everything. Ami gave me confident handshake and words of gratitude in English. Katsu and Shingo did the same and even called their parents in English so we could take a picture together. Yuki and I joked around that he was famous in English because he kept getting pulled around for photos. We all started to take silly selfies of everyone. Junya and I gave our last heartful “SEE YOU NEXT TIME!” with a thumbs up. It was a great way to send them off one final time.
For some reason, I noticed the senpai-kouhai relationship more than usual this year. For those unaware, the senpai-kouhai relationship is essentially the mentor/protégé relationship that is prevalent throughout one’s entire life in Japan. From elementary school you see these roles come into play with the older students showing the younger kids the ropes. This especially comes into play during club activities when students first enter clubs, it’s the senpais that show them how to do everything.
Anyways, I saw a lot of the first years and second years come up to the graduated students, giving them an emotional speech of gratitude with some notes and pictures of them. It was really nice. The third years did the same with the teachers that coached them throughout the years. It made me realize why that system is so important to them and how much it means to everyone, especially when you have to part.
For the first time I had to be dragged back into the office because apparently it was time for everyone to part ways. I was sad yes, but for the first time there was just this feeling of calmness. I knew everything was going to be okay and it was time to part ways. Was I getting used to this? Maybe. Maybe I’m starting to learn that I can’t have the same students with me forever, no matter how great they are. Because eventually, it’ll be time for them to move on into a new stage of life, one that is exciting and will lead to more paths they will take. Teachers are just here to guide them and help them out when they need it. I know great things await these kids because they were some of the best students I have had throughout my life here. I’ll miss them a lot but I’m looking forward to the new adventures they’ll be having. Just like them, I’ll have to do my best too!