Continuing on from last time...
(And I think the 'rambunctious reunions' bit will have to wait until Part 3.. this one got a bit long too!)
After we got the explosion incident under control, Coworker L and I worked to get all the kids ready to go, which is a chore under normal circumstances. However, since it was the last day we had to also make sure all of the kids had their drawers and cubbies completely emptied and bagged up to be taken home. But we got them all packed up with jackets on and in their seats with a few minutes to spare, because we're pro like that.
I knelt down at the head of the table to say a few last words to them. Told them how glad I was to meet them and to be their teacher and watch them grow over the past (almost) year. Told them I was proud of them- "When you started last year you didn't know any English, right? But now you know a lot! You guys have learned so much and done so well this year." I know my words were lost on the younger ones who started mid-year, and on Yuri-chan (the little imp) who was rambling on or goofing off like always. But my two sweet boys Ei-kun and Haru-kun were listening intently and nodding.
Coworker L said her last few words, then I said to them, "I want a hug from all of you before you leave, okay?"
I didn't get a chance to see if any of the kids noticed because I had to turn to Yuri-chan who was talking really loud to CL and I about something completely irrelevant, but the next thing I knew Haru-kun had run up behind me and threw his arms around me a in a big hug.
And the tears I was doing so well at keeping in broke free.
I turned and hugged him back, that wonderful little kid. Ei-kun was behind him, looking a little worried at the sudden waterworks, but I pulled him in for a hug too. There were many more hugs that went around, and then it was time to go.
Most of their parents came and left as they always had- Ai-chan, R-chan, To-kun..
Ei-kun's mum had invited all the teachers over for lunch this coming Wednesday, so it was not so hard to see him go. His family is very friendly so I know they'll keep in touch. I wrote letters to all of the others with my email address and a note saying that Japanese was okay too, since I believe most of them know very little (or are at least very uncomfortable with) English. But I'll be surprised if I hear from any of them again..
Kei-kun's mum gave us all a little note and a bag of sweets.
Kao-chan, Yuri-chan, and Haru-kun had to stay until later when their parents could pick them up. Haru-kun followed me around a bit while I got ready to go. Usually I'd tell him off and make him go back to the "Stay Room" to play, though I didn't have the heart to then. Instead I led him back to the classroom to give him the book I had bought over Christmas break in the US- Going On A Bear Hunt. All the kids loved that one and would listen intently when I read it, or would even read along with me once they got the words down, and would ask for it to be read again as soon as it was finished.
But it was Haru-kun who would request it every day. "Read Mei's book, please!" (The kids don't really call me Mei, just FYI)
"Your birthday is soon, right? So this is a birthday present for you," I told him, and slipped it into his bag. He took his bag back to the Stay Room.
He caught up with me again as I was clocking out for the last time.
"I'll miss you!" he said.
"I'll miss you too!" I said back and knelt down to give him another hug. "You're going to make me cry again!"
"For Mei's birthday, I want to give you a birthday present."
My heart broke a little more.
I realized I had forgotten to get a picture of the whole class and was kicking myself for it then. But Coworker L and I decided to get the Stay kids together for a picture instead- most of them from the older classes. Yuri and Kao-chan were off playing and couldn't be bothered.
We said our final goodbyes, and then...
The freedom I had been looking forward to for months. I knew it would be bittersweet, but I don't think I was expecting the bitter to be so overpowering.
All I can do is hope that these kids go on and do well in school and have happy successful lives, and that they'll remember me from time to time.
Throughout it all, I tried so hard to make an impression on these kids and have a positive effect on their lives. I just didn't realize, though, that it would be the other way around.
|A picture of me, by Ei-kun|
|Thank you card from Haru-kun|
|Some of the most amazing kiddos|