Okay so maybe the title is an exaggeration. But this post is actually about graduation. Ready for a bunch of parentheses?
At the beginning of the week, we had the last school lunch ever for our third-years (ninth graders)–in high school they’ll bring their own, I guess. One of my favorite third-years (I know I shouldn’t have favorites but I totally do) presented me with a card from his class, full of thank-you notes in Japanese. I may have smiled a little bit too much at his English presentation speech: “Thank you for teaching us for six months. We will never forget you, so you don’t forget us.” I won’t, my dear child! I won’t!
Friday was the graduation ceremony. The beginning was fairly innocuous, just diploma presentations and speeches–though the speaker from the PTA did have trouble keeping back her tears. I listened carefully to pick up as many new names as possible (it’s a little late now, I know) and smiled a little extra when the kids from the special-needs class got their turns. I was especially touched when the principal came down from the stage to present a diploma to a student who has difficulty walking. But it was very straightforward and easy to follow.
The end of the ceremony, on the other hand, I suspect was engineered for emotion. (Okay, maybe not. But the emotion certainly came out then.) When the speeches were done and we had sung the school song, the graduates lined up at the front, and the parents moved in with cameras. It was time for the graduates to sing their song of parting. Only a few of them were teary when they started, but after a few lines the melody started to falter. In between verses, with the piano still playing, the students called out the names of their teachers and thanked them, and of course the words of the song itself added to the effect. By the end, most of the students, parents, and teachers had succumbed.
Luckily that was the last event on the program. Everyone was given twenty minutes to compose themselves (I’m sure that’s not actually what the time was for), and then we all met outside to send them off.
We arranged ourselves into two lines for the graduates to walk between. Most of the girls and some of the boys held letters and presents, which they gave to their favorite departing students amid the applause and calls of “Omedetou!” I was even lucky enough to witness a second-year girl presenting a graduating boy with a letter, a scene that basically has trope status in the anime world. And then it was over and everyone dispersed.
So there you have it. The third-years who I taught fewer than ten times but liked a lot are gone.
Then again, we all live on an island. As long as they don’t leave for high school, there’s still a good chance of seeing them around town. But I won’t have a class with them again, or pass them in the halls. I’ll miss them.
I really want to write a post about enkais (work-related dinner/drinking parties) next, but we’ll see what happens. For now, in honor of the graduates who made the lunch announcements until recently, I shall close with the phrase they always used to end their presentations:
Soredewa, everyone, have a nice day.