A day of lasts

Before the entry, some surprising searches of note lately that have brought people here…

“tokushima burn’s supper”
“pinocchio tokushima”
“keitai is a way of life in japan”
“loose fundoshi boy” (ew…)
“people in japan who run half naked at a festival” (hah!)

There are also some more disgusting ones that I’ll refrain from spelling out.

Today was surprisingly emotional. I didn’t have much chance to dwell on what today would hold until I was thrown into it. I team-taught my last classes with this year’s third-years, who I’ve really grown fond of as a whole. The nerds, the popular kids, the jocks, the quiet ones, the loud ones–I love them all. This year has made me really aware of how full-circle I’ve come; when I was in junior high/middle school, I was the nerd, the one kid that was almost universally teased, made fun of, and looked down upon for being brainy and awkward by nearly everyone else in my grade. Now, I’m the cool, friendly one that all the kids generally seem to like. I can see myself in so many of these kids–there’s one girl in particular who I would simultaneously label as a clone of Mizuno Ami (she even has the short hair!) and as who I was when I was a middle school student.

After the first of the two classes ended, my speech contest girl gave a short speech (in Japanese when addressing my JTE and in English when addressing me) thanking us, and she specifically thanked me for coaching her when my JTE was in England this summer, and said that I always have a smile on my face and am friendly to everyone. I was trying so hard not to cry openly, and I knew that the kids could see it–their saigo no aisatsu was a lot warmer than the usual unenthusiastic monotone/blurted rush, and most of them were smiling.

After the second class, the boy speaking on behalf of the class got up and said, “Mister Smitha, thank you!” I mean, I know I’m taller than my JTE and that she always and without fail casts me as the male in any male-female example dialogue or roleplay we do, but…

I know I’m going to be bawling at their graduation ceremony next Tuesday. I didn’t shed a tear last year, but I’m going to miss these kids so much.

The other “last” was my last Double-Length Class of Doom. This is the school that I have to give up because of my huge schedule change in April/May, and because it makes more sense for Chalice to teach it since these kids will go to her junior high and not mine. As it always is with this sort of thing, I never realized how fond I really was of this school until the last few weeks, once I realized that I’d have to give it up. The teachers were truly regretful to see me go, and I nearly teared up as I left that school as well. I have a photo of me with the entire student body–all nine students, though I only teach six, but I’ve met all nine, since they had me teach all of them how to sing John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads” (a song which is really popular/heartfelt here).

By far the sweetest and most touching encounter I had at this school was with one of the three students I don’t teach–a girl, I think a first-grader. The teachers took the photo of me with the student body in the break between the two periods I teach, and it was that time when the first- and second-graders leave for the day. I was walking back from the staffroom to the classroom as the young ones were standing by the door near the staffroom, ready to head out, and I smiled and waved at them.

The girl stopped and asked me politely (in Japanese), “Is today your last day coming to this school?” I nodded and told her regretfully that it was, and she bowed and told me goodbye. She then paused, still gazing at me, and then said, her tone surprisingly serious but her face still warm, “Genki de.” Her tone combined with her expression made her seem as if she were fifteen years older and speaking to a close friend she was saying a long-term goodbye to. I was really surprised and touched, and immediately thanked her and wished her the same. Really, the only way I can describe how I felt at that moment, and in the moment afterwards as I walked the rest of the way down the hall, is kokoro ga ippai. I couldn’t stop smiling, and tears did come to my eyes–I don’t even know her name, but I definitely won’t forget her or that moment.

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