About a year ago, I’d just about finished my teaching job, the one at the cram school in Tajimi. Francis, my replacement, had moved into my place as replacements are oft to do, and we’d begun this sort of month-long sleepover. It was fun! In the evenings, we’d walk over to Marukami Udon or the Kichizato, or sometimes even pull a sort of cooperative cooking mission and then watch a DVD–whatever movie one of us recommended to the other. Then the next day I’d give him tips on how to take over my life. We’d go through the classes together and I’d do my best to portray him in a positive light to the kids, which really couldn’t have been easier since we immediately hit it off.
All the same, there’s a certain awkwardness when kids and an adult meet for the first time, and it’s even more awkward when that adult is a foreigner. If I was a kid and had finally gotten used to my foreign language teacher, I wouldn’t want him being replaced either. So it wasn’t hard to sympathize with the kids when Francis’s questions were met with awkward silences.
I could tell by the end of his training, though, that everything would be fine, just as it’d been for me, and that, if my predecessor was to be taken as any indication ,my kids’ memories of me would soon be buried completely by their ever-expanding mass of experiences. I tried not to think about that, instead focusing on how precious I knew my own memories of these kid would always be. In many ways, it was my experiences with them that finally propelled me into “adulthood”, if it can in fact be said that I am there. Sometimes I’m not so sure now.
Whatever the case, the inevitable truth is that even these precious memories have since been buried under the incredible weight of the many new experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have since. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky, and I’ve felt my perceptions mutate so many times in such a short span, it’s all been extremely humbling. With life moving faster than ever before, I thought I’d better make a conscious attempt to meditate on how I was feeling this time last year.
To do this, I present the following, which is a translation of the farewell card I received from my assistant–the one about whom I frequently complained–and all the students she was able to have sign it (that is to say, all my Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday students). I thought to make this post private so as not to look boastful (many of the students’ comments were very flattering!), but decided ultimately that things this nice deserve to be shared, so think of it as a little slice of my life and have a look if you’re bored or whatever.
Thank you for teaching me all sorts of English. It was a lot of fun! -Miyu
Miyu’s sullen expression was near constant in class, but it belied the exclamation points deep within her soul. A very bright girl, I know she’ll go far. Hope she learns to smile a bit more though! Was happy to get a good one out of her on my last day.
Thank you very much for everything. This class was pretty gnarly.
-by GOD (K.W)
This message was from Kanato, who had just started his last year of junior high at this time (ninth grade). When I first started at Able, he was one of my worst students–a constant pain in the ass and not good at the material. By the end of my time there, he was one of my favorites–a bright kid who was refreshingly outspoken and hilarious. A true smart-ass to the very end, though.
Thanks for everything!! (Picture of a smile face with the word “SMILE!” above it) Every single thing you talked about with us was fun. (Hearts) Be well! -Yui
Greg–Thank you for everything. Do your best in America. (Teddy bear drawing) -Ayaka
Another reluctant-to-smile gal. But once you got one out of her, it was a true victory!
Thank you. -Ryouji
To be fair, he was only eight. Also very weird. Also I didn’t like him very much. But he had his charms.
This class was so fun that it made me always look forward to coming to Able. Thank you very much!! -Yuuka
Yuuka did a lot of snickering behind her hands, and was very proper all around for a sixth grader. Wish my the girls in MY sixth grade class had been that polite instead of the cackling hens they were.
(Drawings of Aiko, Ayumi, and me with a weird thing on my head) -Ayumi
Lol. One of my best students in one of my very favorite classes.
Thanks muchly for everything up until now! I’m sad that I won’t get to see you anymore, but I’ll keep doing my best! You do your best too, in America! -Chika
Couldn’t have gotten through Fridays without Chika, the greatest mood-maker ever to grace a classroom, and an amazing student to boot. I hope Japanese society never crushes her blazing girl power.
It was only a short while, but thank you. Thanks for worrying about me when I was sick. -Kousuke
One of my other best students, from the same class as Ayumi. He caught some weird illness that prevented him from peeing, and he was hospitalized for more than a month. When he finally came back, side effects of the medication he was on had caused his body and face to swell tremendously. I was glad to see him well again in the end, but it was shocking to see how he transformed so quickly. Hope his life is back on track now.
It was only a short time, but thanks very much. Take care of your health. -BY: Fumie
Bang on, Fumie.
Thank you for everything. It was very fun. -Yuka
Yuka was a troubled, troubled girl. Suffering from extreme social anxiety, most days she would barely speak at all. She would fidget with her hands and feign strange pains or sickness when put on the spot. If you got any English out of her, it was a good day for Yuka. I was delighted to discover she’d signed the card at all.
Thank you!! I looked forward to English class every day. You made me really like English. Really, thank you so much. -Ayane
Tee hee. One of my strongest students, she had this sort of calculated, crisp way of speaking that I hope I never forget.
It wasn’t very long, but thank you. I was actually able to enjoy English! Be well back in America(?) -Yurina
I had only been teaching her for about a month when it was time to go. She came to the school with a history of despising English, so there was a bit of pressure on me to present things in a way that she could enjoy. She actually did really well and proved to be sort of a natural. These are the students we cross our fingers for.
Thank you for teaching fun and easy-to-understand classes!! The events were really fun too!! -Risako
Another girl who kept her exclamation points hidden. Was touched to see this.
Thanks for everything. -Sena
Not a strong linguist in any language, Sena was also rather moody, but that kid had his moments.
Thanks for everything, take care. -Rui
A good student but also a big slowpoke, I’d be lying if I said he didn’t remind me a lot of myself when I was a tike. Also he was the big brother of Sawa, one of my favorite little nuggets in the nugget patch.
It was sooo much fun, every single time. You made things easy to understand, and I really got it. I love English even more now. I’m gonna do my best. You do your best too, wherever you end up. Your drawings were really good! [English] Thank you. -Minami
I used to draw weird pictures to illustrate my points in class, and my assistant would always make fun of them, even though they were totally awesome AND helpful. So this message was extra touching.
Thank you for being a kind teacher all this time. Take care. -Haruhito
Haru’s gonna grow up to be a ladykiller.
Thanks for teaching us all sorts of stuff in English. -Aiko
Aiko was Kousuke’s little sister. That was the best class ever. Six years old when she started, Aiko wore giant Coke bottle glasses that made her look like a frog.
Thanks for everything. It was fun. It was interesting. Take care. -Hayato
Weird kid, but a good student. I only had him for a couple months. He liked snakes a lot.
Thanks for making English so easy to understand! It was a lot of fun!! -Aki
Aki was, for her age, the best student I ever had, and knew more English than some students several years ahead of her. If she doesn’t use English in her future, it’ll be a crime.
Thanks for everything! I really like English now. It was so much fun, so I want to keep studying English! -Nanami
Yay~ Nanami was younger and smaller than the other five girls in her class, all of whom were excellent students, but she held her own, and surprised everyone more than a few times. Keep it goin’, Nanami!
Thanks for making English so fun all this time. I always looked forward to it. You were always such a nice teacher, I thought you were awesome! Thank you so much. Take care! -Tomomi
My Australian colleague used to teach Tomomi, and warned me when I got her that she “sucked”. It turned out she was just very shy and that, as suspected, my colleague was kind of a shithead. Go figure! As a former shy-guy myself, I guess I knew what worked!
Thanks for everything. -Ryo
Ryo was the most fairweather student of all. You’d think he was a shithead and then he’d give you a good day. Then you’d think he’s all right after all and he’d be a shithead. He’ll no doubt be very popular with the ladies.
Thanks for all the very fun English classes! -Izuho
Izuho was also in that six-girl all-star class, and she was the least confident. I would go over the lessons with her in private and she always did pretty well, but she would almost never raise her hand. Tragically, her father passed away suddenly during that year. Izuho also had a wonderful older sister, Ayano, who quit the class earlier because her grades weren’t improving. She was an awesome student though. Just not very studious.
Thanks for everything!! The classes and events were fun as fun can be!! Take care!! -Yumi
Lol, for more than two years, Yumi was my student, and for most of that time she was a gloomy Gloria. I thought she hated the class, but it turned out she was probably just intimidated by her classmates, who were always naturally better than her. Near the end of my time there, classes switched around and she was put in a class with a bunch of people worse than her, and suddenly she was my biggest fan. She still emails me sometimes, usually to tell me that she’s passed whatever English exam she’s taking.
Thanks for everything. Class was a lot of fun. -Shota
Shota was rad.
Thanks for everything. I learned to really love English. -Nao
Another surprise message. Nao was the tomboy to end all tomboys, and I literally thought she was a dude for my first month with her. She even used the masculine pronoun ore to refer to herself, which is pretty weird, in fact. Another one of those students who would make you feel like you’d scored a victory for the day if you ever got a smile out of her.
Thanks for everything. -Ran
Ran was a happy little nugget, but her mom was a gyaru mama, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but some of the outfits Ran showed up in were pretty questionable. Especially on Halloween. . . . Really now, seven is too young for a “sexy devil” costume.
[English] You’re a great teacher! Everybody likes you very much. I had fun assisting you for a year. Thank you so much! Please keep in touch! Best wishes, Chieko
Heh, kind of made me feel like a chump in the end, but then we were always on good terms outside the workplace.
They were small people in a small school in a small town in just a small window of my life, but my life is infinitely richer for having known them. Thanks, Able!