The 3rd year students graduated on Monday. The ceremony was three hours of continuous sitting, standing, and bowing. There were long speeches by some supposedly important people whom I have never seen before in my life, and one very emotional speech by one of my favorite graduates. I shed quite a few tears, especially when the 1st/2nd years and the 3rd years sang a goodbye song to each other. And then again as all of us teachers lined up on either side of the aisle to applaud as the students made their final exit from the gym.
Afterwards, the graduates have one last homeroom session, during which I retreated to the warmth of the teacher’s room to enjoy a cup of celebratory sakura tea. The cherry blossoms are preserved in salt, so it tastes less like what you imagine of “tea” and more like…well, salty flowers. But it wasn’t bad at all. The flavor is actually quite comforting, especially when you’re all broken up about your favorite students leaving you for the great wide world of high school.
As if I wasn’t already emotional enough, we all filed outside to applaud the graduates as they made their way from the school into the parking lot, where about an hour of mingling and photo-taking ensued. I lost count of how many selfies with various bunny, bear, and cat filters were taken that day.
Finally, I hugged the crap out of my self-dubbed “Crazy People”, wished them luck, and said my last goodbyes. Exhausted and emotional, I returned once again to the teacher’s room to eat my special graduation day bento, which wasn’t that great (it was cold), but it was nice to have something different from the daily kyushoku.
Mercifully, I was released after lunch and promptly returned home, where I collapsed on my sofa with a glass of wine and flipped through the yearbook before reuniting with my old friend, Netflix.
This was the second class that I’ve sent off from this school, but the first with whom I had developed a close bond. They were so much fun to teach, and always tried their best. It was quite fulfilling to see them learn and grow, and become comfortable enough to speak with me both in class and casually around school regardless of their English level. I will miss their smiles and shouts of “Happy Friday” echoing through these halls. I’ll always look back on the year(s) I’ve spent with them fondly, and hope that they can do the same.