Friday, March 31, 2006
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Just when I thought it was over...
Just when I thought I had been treated to the highest honor a teacher could receive, my other school, which I'll be leaving this month, surprised me beyond words.
As my class ended, the students, whom I had just given last minute interview tests to, rushed to the back of the room and assembled. A student in front went to the piano while another student up front stood on two chairs pushed together.
The Japanese teacher whose homeroom it was, told me her students wanted to say goodbye to me with a song. It's called Sakura, and it's a very old Japanese song.
There is no way I could be prepared for what I heard next. As the piano started, and the 'conductor' student began to move her hands the girls all sung out in tones that could only be described as angelic. They were beautiful sounds. Amazingly beautiful singing voices, which reminded me of the Harlem Boys Choir, used in so many movies, such as Glory and others.
They sang, and I felt it hard to keep my composure. What made it even harder was seeing students I had taught for 3 years crying as they sung. With the conductor herself quickly rubbing her eyes against her upper arm without missing a beat in her movements, trying to wipe the tears away, which were now running down her face. This was too much. I used everything in me, to prevent myself from losing it, though my eyes did tear up clearly.
As they finished, a student came forward with a very large card, which all the students had written a message in English. With sentiments like "Never forget me! You're my best teacher forever", "I love English and I owe it all to you. And I love you!", how could one not be moved?
In all my years of teaching, these were the best students I had ever taught, and this day was one of the most moving ever for me.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
To Students with Love
I was shocked today after my final class finished. Lunch was next period, but the bell hadn't rung yet. So, I wondered why other students from my other classes were entering my classroom before the bell. Granted, I'm sure they were hungry, but it isn't usually allowed for students to have left their own classrooms, let alone enter another teacher's, before the bell rings. I assumed it must be because exams are coming, and it's the last few days of the term. Perhaps they were getting more bold, more defiant toward the end. It wouldn't be the first time. Well, I ignored the slight disruption as I began to hurry to grab my papers, my brief case, the cassette CD player, which I had used to play the music from the movie To Sir With Love by Lulu as background music for our last class, ( along with other pieces with a closing theme).
I was feeling a little down that it was all ending. But, I told myself, 'why get sad?' No need for emotional moments here. I had things to do. I had to catch my train and get on with my day. Errands to run, etc. Don't dwell on the silly stuff. Class is over. So what. There'll be more.
But as the other students filed into the classroom, and more and more came in, and making more than the usual amount of noise doing so, I noticed something even more peculiar: they were all facing me. The entire room, overflowing with bright young souls, was facing me as I stood up at the podium at the head of the class. I just began to lean over to turn down the volume to the theme from Harry Potter when I looked up from what I was doing. I did so because the room had suddenly become church quiet. A silent room yet stuffed with smiling faces, all looking at me.
What is this?, I thought. Do I have chalk on my face?
Then I saw her.
A student entered from the back and came through the mass of navy and white uniforms, the sea of black hair and beaming white complexions, of pony tails, and braces, and she walked foward to me. This girl, one of my more robust and rebellious students walked slowly to the podium, and in her hands and in the hands of her friends were flowers. Beautiful bouquets of red tulips. They reached out and held this present to me, as they did so, they added cards they had written entirely in English. Piling them on top of one another's as my arms gave way to the suddenly flowering mass of objects.
I couldn't believe my eyes. Was this for real? As I fumbled for words, the room erupted in applause shouting, "arigato gozaimashita, Robaato sensei!! We will miss you!! We love you!! Thank you!!"
At that moment I felt exactly as I had felt watching Sidney Poitier in that great film as he came face to face with his own student's gratitude and affection in those wonderful final moments. Only now, for me, I couldn't hide in the darkness watching an actor in a scene. I couldn't resist the swell of emotion, consoling myself that it was a clever bit of writing, coupled with the skills of storytelling. For this time, this moment, I was that teacher, and, unlike the movie set, this was a real-life classroom. And those were real life students doing this. And the tears I felt well up were mine, entirely and unequivocably.