It’s the hardest time of the year.
Every morning I see the same 70-odd faces staring at me expectantly, sometimes with a suppressed giggles bubbling beneath the surface. They know that during my class I’m bound to do something ridiculous. I can’t help it. When I was a Canadian sixth grade student, I had a litany of French teachers who tried to teach me the language, but I was bound to resent it. They were overly strict, often impatient, and had that French-Canadian sense of humour; that is to say, dry sarcasm or nothing. As a result, I hated French class. I’ve now learned, after teaching the sixth grade, that it’s not a year when sarcasm should enter the equation. It can easily lead to resentment. At that age, sensitivity rules the psyche and isn’t received well.
Language is difficult to learn, but a bit of whimsy, a dash of absurdity and a tonne of patience seem to somehow make language classes bearable–even enjoyable–for kids. So I do my best to squeeze out every last bit of my energy keeping my students smiling. Give them every last bit of energy and they will give you their love and attention.
After teaching them since March, I have three days left with my students. Then the classes rotate and I get an entirely new set of fourth graders. Although it has only been a few months, I’ve grown attached to most of them very quickly. The fact that they smile when I enter the room, the ridiculous presents left on my desk (I have a growing collection of caricatures), the times where they just want a hug, the endless mornings where they ask me if I had gone to a night club the previous evening (the answer is always no, but they persist).
I’m going to miss teaching them terribly. I’ll still see them in the halls, but the connection will be somewhat severed. I’ll no longer know what happened in their daily lives, who has a crush on whom, what their homeroom teachers yelled at them for this time. I know that there’s a good chance that I’ll be attached to the next batch too, but in my two years in Korea, they’ve been my favorite group of kids. Truth be told, I love them. And that’s probably the hardest part of teaching. It’s not the noise, the chaos, or departmental politics. It’s saying goodbye to a bunch of tiny faces that you’ve grown to love. Not all my classes have been enjoyable in the past two years, but this group has been amazing every day since I’ve had them. Next to those caricatures, that’s the best present they could give me.