Goodbye to another elementary school, and a source of my local celebrity.
Shionoe Elementary is my medium sized school with about 45 students. For my first year and a half or so, I did not particularly enjoy coming here. There was one teacher in particular that I found difficult to work with, but after she transferred things began improving gradually. I never felt that close with the teachers here for some reason, but over time I grew more confident both with leading a class and also in my Japanese ability which helped a lot to build my rapport with the teachers. By the end of my three years, I’d say I was pretty well loved by the students and could teach effectively with all the teachers.
The gym in the back is also where I play volleyball on Tuesday nights
After lunch, the students all gathered in the gym where they waited for me to make my appearance. I wasn’t allowed to enter until they were ready though, since they were forming a surprise tunnel for me to walk, crouch, and eventually crawl though. I took my camera with me and was able to capture this part of the ceremony, though anything more would have been a bit awkward.
Once everyone had returned to their seats, we had a number of different activities to enjoy. First of all, we played a variation of tag all together. I started as the oni, and anyone I tagged then joined hands with me until we were one big chain. We had to use our rope shape to trap and capture more people. The students struggled with the strategy element of this which caused it carry on a bit too long. Still, good times were had by all.
We all resumed our sitting positions and then the principal said a few nice words and then led me line by line through a couple of songs. I didn’t know the tunes, though I the meanings were simple. They were classic elementary school songs, one about looking forward to the day we meet again, and the other about following my dreams. By the end each of the students would join in to sing along with me. The songs had been written out and put into a really well made photo album filled with different pictures and memories from my time there.
A poorly framed page from said book.
Each of the other grades presented me with a little something as well. I got some large cards with scribbly self portraits from the youngest class, and some more cards that included messages and pictures from the middle grades, and then from the eldest class I got a photo album that included a picture of me with each student aside their personalized note. The event concluded with a few words of thanks and appreciation from me, and finally a group photo. Then just as with my entrance, I crawled, crouched and walked through the tunnel giving high fives the whole way out.
For the final period of the day, I was free to do anything but rather then rotting away in the staff room, I instead accepted an invite to join the 5th and 6th graders in the pool for a bit of swimming. It was an easy decision really; basking in the refreshing water sure beats bombing out my shirt.
Today though, rather than the usual swimming of laps, we all played a modified version of water polo! In conceiving this game, they added a basket ball hoop in place of a goal and then removed every technical element of water polo to create an activity with no strategy or application of ability. Of course it was still a great time though.
At least include off sides…
There was no real emotion at all during this final day, but the week before I taught the 3rd and 4th grade class for the last time. I don’t know why it hit me then, but I choked up a bit when they sang a song to me at the end of my lessons. It wasn’t the song’s meaning that got me, but something about 15 kids signing their hearts can mean a lot. I think I realized that this was was the beginning of the end of a life I have known and rejoiced in for the entirety of my ‘professional’ life. There are some great kids here, but I wasn’t able to fully appreciate my Shionoe Elementary until later in my three year tenure. The quality of my English lessons improved steadily over time, and I had definitely hit my stride by the time of my departure.