Following my goodbye festivities at the kindergarten, I had to head over to Yasuhara Elementary to continue the string of sayonaras. This is a great school and is the largest of my three. I hadn’t really talked with the teachers about having any special event, but just figured that I would make the classes more about fun then education. My first class there is the worst-behaved group of kids that I interact with, and today was no different. The only thing that made this lesson different was that at the end I could at last say goodbye for real, and experience a bit of joy for not having to endure another session of that teacher’s ineptitude.
From there, I had class with the fourth graders which I knew would be a good class. I prepped a couple things for the lessons, but when I showed up, it was clear that they already had some plans. This teacher in particular was really involved in the school’s English education, so it was unsurprising that she would want to concoct a special event for me.
After some opening words from the MCs, we played a game where I had to feel the contents of a box and guess what was inside. They were almost all things commonly found in the classroom, so this was pretty easy for me. I erred a few time to make them feel better though. The last item in the box was a letter that one of the students had written. Following that, any students who had written note brought those to me. I didn’t read them until later, but several of the notes contained many niceties.
Following that, they presented me with a present, a small box covered in their notes and filled with origami goods. There was also a sort of paper crown and necklace that they made for me. I felt like royalty indeed. They then formed their desks in a circle around me where they were invited to ask me questions while eating our freezepops. Most of these were rather mundane questions, such as asking what my favorite (fill in the blank with a food item, or sport) was, but a few were worthwhile. One of the better questions was a kid asking what aspect of Japan I enjoyed the most. I answered by saying the genuine kindness of the people, quite unlike anywhere else I’ve been (America included). Finally, we gathered up for a group shot before we took off for lunch.
Lunch was the same as always. Afterwards though, during the noon recess, the whole school stayed in the lunch room for my leaving ceremony. For this they asked me a few more questions, sang me a song, issued me some presents and also asked me to say a few words. I hadn’t prepped much for this, but these seemed pleased at my shining praise of Shionoe and this school in broken Japanese. Following these things, I was asked to shake the hands of each student. A couple of the kids had some tears, which while perhaps a bit sadistic this had me feeling pretty good about the impact I’ve had on these kids.
Making my rounds, in an awesome hat
The last bit of special treatment came from my final class of the day, the 6th graders. This is without a doubt my favorite group of kids in any of my schools and I largely attribute this to their teacher, Mrs. Fujino. For this lesson, they had prepared a small surprise for me. I was led up to the cooking room where they were making shaved ice, and not just a little bit. Every student had seemingly brought a shaved ice maker from home to keep these things flying out. I was exceptionally hot, and could not have been more pleased with this as a finish to the day.
Once we were done, we used the final 5 minutes or so to return the classroom and take a group photo. I also had the chance to deliver a few words of advice and appreciation of three excellent years. Before I could leave, I spent about ten minutes signing everything: hats, backpacks, pencil cases, folders, etc. I felt pretty cool.
These kids and the teacher are the best!
I closed our the day by saying goodbye to all of the teachers and then walked on out, for the last time. Before I left, the vice principal handed me a letter on behalf of all the teachers. Despite the fantastic penmanship, there were few grammatical errors (including my name…) but these are the notes most endearing and meaningful. I’ll always have fond memories of this school and am grateful to have had the chance to come every week.