Graduation 2017

I’m currently sitting in a train collecting my thoughts. This morning was the graduation and luncheon at the elementary school I work at.

Regular readers might know that this is my third school year working here, even though I started near the end of that first school year. On the whole this school has been a very good place to teach, and while a lot of the positivity comes from the quality of the staff room, I also need to give credit to this crop of students.

One of the things I have learned in my time as a teacher, is that not all years are the same. (This is the downside of teaching in Japan. I want to use the gakunen to refer to the year of students at a certain age level. I’m sure there is an English term for it, but it just isn’t coming to me.)  There are just some gakunen that are easier to teach.

From my first part of a year, and certainly that next full year, it was easy to see that the gakunen that just now graduated was special. It wasn’t necessarily the grades or study habits, but there was an attitude. This group of class has always been willing to listen and to try new things.

They have always been willing to meet a teacher half way. Somehow they have managed to ride the wave of class as it flows from silly play time to serious study time, and behave accordingly.

This past year, their classes were almost always legitimately fun to teach, even if it was just a standard lesson. Their enthusiasm as students and support for each other really pushed us as teachers to come up with new and exciting projects. We wanted to go that extra step to see if we could provide them with something better.

There were a few projects that we started this last school, like making English movies. Not only did we start these lessons because we thought the students would enjoy them, but because we knew we could trust these students to work with us as we tried something new.

Graduations in Japan are emotional events, even more so when the students are so highly regarded. During the luncheon as we watched a slideshow celebrating their six years at school, and then listened to teachers share their love for the gakunen, almost everyone had tears. Several students were sobbing.

They’ve only been graduates for a few hours, and already I miss them. They are truly that make teaching worthwhile.

Congratulations, young ladies. You are awesome.

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