Last day at junior high school

Yesterday I finished at my junior high school here in Japan. Although part of me was glad, part of me was very sad too. Let me just point out that this was mainly in relation to the students – i felt vastly unappreciated by the teachers. (i think if their appreciation showed at all it was in encouraging the kids to talk to me, that’s all).

But let me describe the day to do – it was quite something!

So I got to school my usual time – around 8am and on my chair i found some chocolates from one of the 3rd year teachers who is always so sweet – she’s about 24 and i think she regrets not being able to communicate with me (the feeling’s mutual) – and with the chocolates was a note written in English. I was touched.
I went outside to greet the students, not a requirement of my job but something i enjoy doing and the students have said they’ll remember me by. I was called back inside by the kyotosensei (vice principal) and I had to give a speech to the staff room – something i’d prepared in Japanese and i said i with bad pronunciation (in hindsight).
Then I had to give a speech to all the students in a morning assembly. The way these work is that all the studnets sit in a line in their classes and there is complete silence with the teachers inspecting their behaviour, then several bows to the kochosensei (prinicpal) and anyone else who has to say something. Therefore I was given a bow too – it’s weird when 750 people do that for yoU! I started my speech with good morning – and i got several back from the students too – that was funny. When i finished my short but sweet speech, one of the English teachers translated it. A student then came up and gave me these beautiful pink flowers. When it was finished the students parted, like the red sea would’ve done for moses in the stories, and they clapped as the kochosensei and I walked passed. Now that was just embarrasing! I hate that kind of spotlight (esp as i was walking with this huge bunch of flowers).

Classes started as normal. I did the usual last classes, which involved playing shiritori for the last 15 minutes (game: ate -> egg -> guitar etc) which has never failed in any class, and a picture with the class. My schedule was pretty packed as I was asked (and gladly accepted) to go to the special needs class in my free period, which I have occassionally done in the past. They are so cute, they did 2 dances for me! I love going to that class. All i know is that there’s a girl with down’s syndrome and 3 with autism, but maybe asperger’s as it’s not very obvious.

Working back to back until lunch and at lunch I ate with my 2nd year students in the lunchroom (no pictures of this but there’s only space for 4 classes in the lunchroom, so they rotate who can eat hot lunch and the rest eat a cold lunch in their classrooms). Luckily it was a yummy beef curry lunch. After lunch i went to my last real class: 107 (class 7 of the first years) and they are so great to teach. They always clap when i do something exciting and they’re studious but really fun! I will miss them the most, maybe. At the end, one of the girls asked for a hug, and she started crying. I gave her like 5 more, and took some a photo with her but i felt so bad!

I had been asked earlier if i was teaching in my 6th period, because a 3rd year class wanted me to come to their class for picture shiritori (like shiritori above but you draw out the words instead of writing them) which was really fun. But i also wanted to say goodbye to most of the students i could. I left and went to the teachers room to finish some paperwork. When the students started leaving i went to say goodbye and I got more responses than usual. some 1st years asked me for a message in their notebooks, some gave me little notes, and one, who had given me a gift, also started crying! The most bizarre though was when some 3rd year boys came and saw me with this heat pack (signed by a 3rd year girl) so they wanted to give me something. One gave me his heat pack and a band-aid (anything he could) and another gave me his lunch ticket for monday! It was so random.

I put the photos on a memory stick for whoever wanted the pictures i took of their class, and when i finally finished i packed up (luckily a teacher offered to drive some stuff over) i was ready to go and everyone around in the staff room came and waved me out. I thought that was very sweet. And then as I walked away and got some last “ester! byebye!” from the students, i didn’t really feel any different. Is that a bad thing? In my mind, i was relieved, and touched.

I know I’m coming back though – many 3rd year students asked me to see their graduation ceremony on the 9th of march, and also i’ve agreed to play with the brass band at a concert. Now that is something I did not see happening here in Japan!I was asked by one of my English teachers to play for the students, and the music teacher (as well as some students!) asked me to be the special guest. How could i say no?

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