I didn’t think I would do it. I was sure I wasn’t. I don’t do it, not because I don’t want to, it just doesn’t seem to happen. But today, a little, a tiny bit, I did.
Last classes today at one of my two schools, at the other, tomorrow. I had to give a speech to the teachers in the morning, well they like speeches here. And I had two classes. The first came and went, and then the second began. It started normally. Introduce the goal. Another teacher came into the conference room. I was using the conference room because I needed a screen to show a short video.
‘Oh no’, I thought, ‘could it be a double-booked room and chaos on my last class?’. But the teacher sat at the back. She was there to watch. And more came in, a vice-principle and the principle. Teachers came and went throughout the class. I was told later it’s a normal thing in Japan with a teacher’s last class.
The class finished. I was given a huge bouquet of flowers much to my surprise. Every last class I had needlessly in my opinion clapped. Still, I was ok. I said goodbye to the students, they left. Some other students came to me with a class-worth of thank you notes. The third class to do so, it was very kind.
As I cleaned up and packed up the projector and so on, I also read some of the notes. These notes were from 2D, containing students I had taught both of my years here. The lower-level class. I remembered some of them, two in particular who didn’t seem to know a word of English when I started. One boy seemed so shy and nervous I would never think to call on him. He didn’t know a ‘b’ from a ‘d’. When I started I would get empty worksheets back. When I tried to help, I felt like I couldn’t get through to him. Still, I persisted. What is worse than sitting in a class where you understand NOTHING? How bad must that be? And here I wasn’t even talking his own language.
But, this year, he improved. I saw signs, I got completed worksheets and he even came to me occasionally to hand things in. Terrified I should add – he would be shaking.
Today I read a thankyou note from him. He said, in far from perfect English, but in perfectly understandable English, that he enjoyed studying English with me. That he could understand me. That because of me, he tried hard.
The note is in front of me now.
I’m crying, just a little, again. Teaching is about realising you have a class full of students, and each one should take something from the lesson, regardless of their ability. Fellow teachers. Please. Don’t forget that ever.