March is a sad month in school. It’s always tough to say goodbye to my departing students. In elementary school though, it doesn’t feel as sad. I guess it’s because I know I will see the graduated students in one way or another the following year.
This year my Monday/Tuesday school turned out to be my favorite school. This is shocking as it used to be the school I dreaded going to. Thanks to the great teachers I had though, it was one of my favorite schools years in recent time.
I will miss my weird 5th graders. They had sass, but just enough so that they weren’t a pain in the ass. They also followed directions quite well. One of my favorite kids was Leo. Soccer fans should know that Leo is also the nickname for Lionel Messi, one of the most talented soccer players in this era. Leo is always on the border of being a kid always getting in trouble but he somehow always manages to balance it out by doing well in class. A huge fan of soccer, he would always call me Maradona. In exchange, I’d call him Messi. We would mess around in and out of class and it was a fun little friendship. I’m glad he didn’t turn out to be a dick like his older brother was last year.
I always liked the kids into video games in class as well. It was always funny where you would hear a game reference out of nowhere. For example, when I was teaching the word umbrella, sometimes a kid would spout out “Umbrella Corporation! Watch out for zombies! That or they would be asking me what my main for Smash Bros. is.
Once in awhile I’d watch them do their club activities. I even joined in a basketball game because they were down a man. It was pretty fun to watch me take on kids half my size. Of course, Nishikawa-sensei , the club coach, would be egging me on to do some crazy moves.
My teachers were a lot of fun to teach with. We always had a good rhythm together, regardless of who I was teaching with. Naoi-sensei, formerly known as Ponytail (she cut her hair short so said nickname is now useless) was badass yet friendly. My favorite memory was probably when she was trying to put on flashcards on the board they kept falling off while I was teaching the students. The students kept getting distracted and started laughing. “Diego-sensei, I swear I’m not doing this to mess with you!” Nao-sensei would whine as she kept picking up the fallen flashcards. She was cool enough to give me a ride home when it was downpouring. It shocked her to know that I was already 30 years old. Haha, thanks Nao-sensei
Tanaka-sensei always had her kids in line and they always over excelled in the classes. We had plenty of funny moments too where she would make fun of her students playfully. Masu-sensei was great to team teach with because he was always supporting me. Sugi-sensei and I had trouble teaching together at first, but once we got into the rhythm, she ended up being a great teacher. I’m bummed that she’s going into maternity leave next year but I know she’ll be a great mom. Finally, Tsuji-sensei always had amusing anecdotes during class and we would mess with each other to the student’s delight. It reminded me of my days teaching with Nishikawa-sensei. It was a great year.
We wrapped up the school year with an end of the year party. The beginning was amusing because as soon as I sat down, Nao-sensei ran to my table like a messenger and asked “Diego, you know when I gave you a ride to the station? You said you were 30, right?”
“Okay, thanks.” As fast as she came, Nao-sensei scurried off back to the 5th grade table where she reported her findings to her coworkers. What the hell was going on? I wish I was sitting there as it made the most sense, seeing that I worked with them the entire year.
Instead, I sort of got screwed over by getting placed in a table where it was me and the lunch ladies (who never spoke a single word to me) so it made the first half of the night a struggle. I had the lovely music teacher Kishi-sensei and the secret otaku school nurse with me as well but we just couldn’t keep a good conversation going. I was starting to think the party was a bust.
Suddenly my 5th grade teachers save the day by walking with a bottle of booze and pouring it into my glass, thanking me for my work last year. We started chatting about the year overall, and why the hell they wanted to know about my age so badly. “You don’t look 30!” is the response I got from that.
“I should’ve been more respectful to you, sorry!” Nao-sensei replied.
“Oh whatever,” I shrugged it off.
“So Diego, you’re coming next year too, right?” Tsuji-sensei asked.
“Yeah, probably. Why?”
“What grade would you want to teach if you had the choice? 5th or 6th?”
Looking back I wonder if they had inside information of what they were going to teach next year if they weren’t transferring. I gave a generic reply of “Oh you know, either grade is fine! I’m most talented with 5th but I do want to teach with the 6th graders again.” They seemed unsatisfied with the answer but let it go. Later I would find out 90% of them would be 6th grade teachers and Tanaka-sensei and I were left behind to teach 5th grade again. In the end, my reply wouldn’t have mattered as the BOE chose me to stick with 5th grade regardless. It bums me out a bit but I still got a good group of teachers with me this new year(more on that another time).
As the night concluded, I was invited to go sing karaoke with some of the school staff. I had never done karaoke with this school and Tsuji-sensei was in so I just knew this was going to be fun. It ended up being one of my most favorite karaoke sessions. We all got drunk, Tsuji-sensei and I started singing classic rock songs together, everyone was going all out, and the old school clerk was channeling his younger days by drinking tons of booze and teasing me to catch up.
The pinnacle of the night was when the school nurse stood up and said, “This one’s for you, Diego!” and proceeded to sing “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” from Evangelion. We both have our Eva history together. The crowd went nuts.
“Well, I just can’t back down from this. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one!” I chose Eva’s other popular song, “Soul’s Refrain”. Personally, it’s my new favorite.
“No way, are you going for it?” Tsuji-sensei said. The crowd started going crazy. As I started belting out the song, teachers started clapping along, the old school clerk got up and started dancing like an 18 year old. Tsuji-sensei started recording me as I was singing like there was no tomorrow. That night will definitely go as one of my more memorable karaoke sessions. It ended with a “We are the World” rendition with nobody knowing the words but we had our impersonations down.
We wrapped the night quite late and I missed my train. I assumed someone was going to give rides like my other school does but it ended up being a favor from a 2nd grade teacher. I felt really bad and Tsuji-sensei (who was also mooching off a ride) was teasing saying “Diego! You have to repay her with an American joke!”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I countered. The entire ride ended up being us talking about Disney songs, Tsuji-sensei’s weird metal-covered anime songs with English voices. It was definitely a bizarre way to conclude the evening.
How did I have such a turnaround from my Monday/Tuesday school? It still fascinates me. Your coworkers really make or break the job, I feel. My former favorite school, my Wednesday one, is a good example. I used to love going there but as the years went on, more of my favorite people got transferred or went on maternity leave. While I still have a couple of good teachers there and the staff are friendly enough, it’s just not the same.
At least the kids are friendly though. They aren’t the amusing bunch that I was fortunate to have the past 4 years but nothing lasts forever. I happened to attend the graduation ceremony and saw my 6th graders graduate. It’s not really sad though since I will see 95% of them in junior high. Still, it was a nice little day.
It’s now June. School is back in full swing here. This will be my final full year of teaching in Japan so I hope to go out with a bang.