Wednesday, 17 March 2010
My first graduation.. since mine!
1st and 2nd years await the arrival of the graduating 3rd years..
Today my school held joint ceremonies for the graduation of the third year students and for the teachers who are leaving for other schools. Yesterday all students and teachers prepared the gym for the event, with banners, flowers, flags and potted plants everywhere. The ceremonies were also drilled to make sure timings were correct.
Today the ceremony started at a prompt 8.40am, with everyone ready and waiting in silence for the third year students to make their entrance. When the first ones entered the audience (teachers, parents, and second and first year students) erupted in applause, and didn't stop until the last third year students had seated themselves. Speeches ensued, interspersed with songs – absolutely none of which I understood – before the graduating students filed out again through the exit, which itself was lined with potted flowers.
It's an odd thing being a teacher. When I was a student I'm certain every single teacher in my school was happy to be rid of another motley year of unruly kids. But being a teacher you quickly realise that isn't the case at all. Infact, it's very easy to become quite attached to your students, especially knowing that your efforts are helping to shape their futures. As the third years filed out of the ceremony I found myself wondering how many of those faces I will see again in passing.. and how many I won't. I've shared many a joke with my third years, and although shy to begin with, they really opened up when I got to know them. There was the girl who always smiled shyly at me, the guy who was perpetually hungry and always told me so, the girl who loved my joke about the thirteenth months we have in England (.. September, October, November, December, Cucumber..), the guy who always ate what no one else wanted.. all these memorable students helped me settle into my first year here, and just like that, they're now gone.
A 20 minute break gave everyone time to compose themselves, and we then reconvened to say fairwell to the teachers who are leaving. Although it was supposed to be a secret (in my village “secret” = “tell everyone”) I knew one of my JTE's were leaving for a district just to the north and I'll be sad to see her go; she is a very animated and friendly woman who has helped me greatly with settling into my job here, not to mention helping me with my Japanese studying.
I was also very saddened to find out the music teacher is leaving too. Through my burbling Japanese and his limited English we have had many conversations about music, (his) fishing, and technology. During my time here I've watched him conduct the school choir and orchestra, and have enjoyed it immensely every time. I also like him because he has a cheeky rebellious streak in him, which is somewhat unusual, especially out here in the inaka. I'll miss his loud laughter and flamboyant gestures. It was also immediately obvious that he will be sorely missed by the music students he taught - as he emerged onstage with the other departing teachers, dozens of students burst into tears. It was really sad to see.
The other two teachers who are leaving are a PE teacher who, although I've never really had a conversation with him, always says hello and good morning to me; and the school caretaker, a sweet little old lady with kind eyes who reminds me of my nan. Again, although she doesn't speak English, she always greeted me with a warm smile and hello or good morning. I understood very little of her goodbye speech, but I understood she's been working at the school for 16 years and is looking forward to retirement. I hope she enjoys it.
At the end of the ceremony all teachers and students helped pack away the chairs and banners, etc, and after that I headed back to the locker room to wriggle out of my suit and tie.