Just finished writing my final set of progress reports.
It started out as relief (I’ve ranted more than once about the futility of that whole rigmarole), but by the time I got to my final class, the older ones, now in their fourth year in my class…
Saying goodbye to those children will be how I imagine it would feel to walk away from my sister or my best friends or my parents in the knowledge that we’d never see each other again. I’ve been watching these kids grow up, and it has been the most incredible experience. There are still few feelings that compare to that little kick of delight and pride I get when I walk past them in the corridor or say hello to them as I enter the classroom, and they respond casually, unthinkingly, and fluently. Over the years, the blocks and toys they once played with before class have been replaced by smartphones and handheld video games and earphones blasting Kpop, but they look up from them when I greet them, and they always smile. Hey, guys, how’s it going?
Hi, Hayley Teacher!
Not bad, how are you?
I had a terrible weekend. I was sick, and I had too much homework, and…
I had a great day! At school, we…
Is that a new necklace, Teacher? Where did you get it? It’s cute!
They are full of stories, chatter, questions, and laughter. I instantly relax when I walk into that final class of the day, because I can speak English at a relatively normal speed, I can use slang, I can be sarcastic and trade playful insults with them, and at times it feels more like hanging out with a group of friends than teaching a class. I love the genuine laughter that I’m rewarded with when I roll my eyes and say something sarcastic or cheeky, and I love when they make a joke of their own in response and fling it back at me. They are smart cookies, and they are also the most astoundingly polite, respectful, funny, kind-hearted, mature-minded children I have ever encountered.
So, by the time I got to the last report, I was decidedly emotional. I felt like I was writing goodbye letters to my own children. And the last report was Daisy’s.
I’ve written about Daisy before. She is my star. If I had a daughter, and she turned out like Daisy, I would be the proudest mother in the world.
When I walked into my very first class, in October 2009, nervous and frightened, Daisy was there. She looked wide-eyed at her departing teacher as he introduced me to them, and the first words I ever heard her say were “Shaun Teacher, no!!” as he hugged her goodbye and left the room. I turned to face the class. “So, what are your names?” I asked. Daisy looked at me as if I’d just asked her to wrestle with a hungry lion, and promptly burst into tears.
It only took her a few days to adjust, and I quickly became fond of her. When I look back now at this video I posted way back then, I can’t believe how babyish she was, nor how little English she could understand. The confused “huh?” and tilted head were all I got out of her most of the time.
Now she’s nearly the same height as me, and she can speak better English than the Korean English teacher who shared the class with me in my first year.
I took a screenshot of the final report that I wrote for her, because I think it’ll be nice to look back at in years to come. Among all the disgruntled posts about Thursdays and art classes and brats yelling about erasers, there will be posts like this one, to remind me of why I loved this job in spite of all that. For every scream of “Teacherrrrrrrrrrr!”, there’s been an “I love you!” or a “Thank you!”. For every argument and fight, there’s been a hug or a joke. For every “This is whaaaaaaaat?!”, there’s been a little moment of success or a little hint of progress. And for all those moments I’ve clenched my fists or pounded the board or lost my temper, there’s the reminder that it wasn’t like that all the time. And there were children like Daisy.
By the time I finished writing her report, I was in tears. I have cried at least twice every day this week. I don’t normally cry this much in a whole year! How lucky am I to have had a job that is this painful and sad to leave?