Like Ships Passing Through the Night


It’s the last week of classes for this school year, which means we are in the midst of a company-wide schedule shuffle. In many cases, this means we will no longer be teaching at certain schools, which, in turn, means that farewells are in order for both staff and students. Teaching three days a week instead of five means that I will no longer be teaching at 2 of my current schools, which a lot of my favorite students happen to attend. At the 3 schools I will continue to frequent, many of my students are leveling up or switching to days that will better accommodate their 2008-2009 school year schedules. There are an awful lot of goodbyes to go around and, despite my fervent yearning to begin my part-time contract, it has been a bittersweet week.

Pictures are snapped. Chocolates are handed out. Sayonara parties are thrown. Drunken speeches at said parties are recorded on digicam and cell phones. Many tears are shed, but very few hugs are given – o bei ka???*

*What are you – a Westerner???

It’s a lot of glorious hoopla for what are, in truth, fleeting acquaintances. It is the young ones who tend to make lifelong friends in a school setting; the same rarely holds true for adults. And even if such pairs click, given our unique situation, these relationships will eventually become long distance, adding another element of difficulty. Time will really tell if we have made any sort of impression at all.

Sometimes I was the kind of teacher who wore sparkly purple eyeshadow, just to have something purple to point to when eliciting the names of colors. Sometimes I was the kind of teacher who tried her hand at juggling just to distract the boys from fighting. Sometimes I was the kind of teacher who was able to make students understand when to use “a” and when to use “the.” Often, I was the kind of teacher who made the difference all the more confusing. Once I stop teaching them, my students will be treated to a whole new crop of pale, funny-looking, big-nosed English speakers from unpronounceable cities; we will all meld into each other. My older students might remember my face and possibly some strange things I said to them. I doubt they’ll remember my name; for some reason, their response has always been an accusatory, “Eba?” or flabbergasted “Ehhhhhh?” when I first introduce myself and I can count the times on one hand that an adult student has addressed me by name. My school-age students likewise call me “teach-aa” or “sensei” and I’m sure it’s for the same reason. And my teeny, adorable students are so young, so very young, that, even though I made them shriek with laughter at my animal impressions, they won’t possibly remember any aspect of me in years to come.

My mother sometimes asks me, “Do you remember Deana?”

“No.”

“Deana. She was your babysitter back in Boston, when you were two. Don’t you remember?”

“No.”

“Well, do you remember Mrs. O’Brien? She was your teacher in nursery school, when you were three.”

“No.”

“You really liked her.”

“Did I?”

Of course the teeny ones will completely forget me: they’re 3, they don’t know whether it’s day or night. On our last day of class, they were completely oblivious to the fact, greedily accepting my stickers and chocolates as though treats had always been bestowed upon them at the end of every lesson.

However, so far, unlike the school-age children and teenagers, the teeny ones are the only ones who call me by my name.

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