Another school that I recently had to bid farewell to was Kaminishi Elementary. At seven students, this was by far the smallest school in my weekly rotation though the kindness emanating from these children was second to none. Anger, frustration and fights were seemingly unknown at this school. When I first arrived here though I was worried about how my lessons would go over, since games and activities prepped for a larger class would generally not work with in a class with three. The kids were all kind and eager and the teaching staff excellent, and it quickly became my favorite school. Yasuhara Elementary caught up by the end of my three years, but this place was always excellent.
It was also in the most beautiful location
In addition to the relationship I was able to develop with the students and teachers, small numbers allowed for all sorts of school activities that I too was able to take part in. It was never intentional that such events would fall on Wednesdays, but just the sheer number of them made it an inevitability. These activities exposed me to the local community and would often break up my work week a bit as well.
This school set up a sayonara party, where all I had to supply was a game for everyone to play in the gym. We gathered there and they opened the ceremony with a couple of words before playing dodge ball. This was fun, and we played by the Asian rules which are a whole lot more strategic and interesting than just chucking balls across a line as we do in America. This lasted a few minutes, and then we played a game of sharks and minnows. After our gymnasium fun fun, it was up to the lunch room where we continued on with the rest of the ceremony.
The first thing we did here was to take in some goodies that the students had prepared. There was tea, udon and also a loquat jello made with fruit harvested from the school’s tree. The students were all excited to share with me what went into make each thing and asked several times how I thought it tasted. (GREAT!)
A feast fit for a king
Next up on the schedule was singing a song called Furusato. This title means hometown in Japanese and the idea was to say that not only was Kaminishi their home, but also mine. I asked a teacher to record it for me, so you can enjoy that video below.
I was then given the chance to say some words of thanks to everyone and also give a bit of advice. This was followed up with some more kind words from the principal. In it he thanked me for all the work I did at this school and also hoped that I did indeed consider this my second home. I do. Finally, the students gave me a few things. I got a bouquet of paper flowers, with each one featuring the face of one of my students. They also gave me a large paper book filled with pictures of the various activities we have shared in over the last three years.
Everything finished with a group picture. I have huge knees.
Oddly, once this goodbye ceremony concluded, I still had to teach another class before I could go home. For this I just did a couple of games and again said my thanks for all of their hard work and kindness.
When I look back at my time teaching with the JET Programme, this school in particular will be the one that sticks with me. The small size epitomizes my shrinking town and also the absurdity of how Japan functions at times. Obviously such small schools are in no way feasible to operate which makes me particularly appreciative to have had such an opportunity here. This school too will be closing in the next year or so and I’m really glad to have slipped in before that happens. Without my separate, smaller schools this teaching experience would have been drastically different. Thank you Kaminishi Elementary for everything, you’ve done so much to define my experience here in Shionoe.