Friday, March 17, 2006

The never ending day… packing, school, graduation, teaching, and fatigue.

(Warning: I'm too sleepy to be bothered to edit this, so there's probably plenty of bad grammar and spelling. Sorry.)

It’s been a busy day today.

This morning was the graduation ceremony for all three of the Elementary schools I teach at. I attended the ceremony in town, seeing as I was teaching at the Junior High today. My JTE was nice enough to organize the teaching schedule so that I could go.

The elementary school graduation is a more relaxed than the Junior High graduation, by virtue of all the elementary school students. However, this ceremony was much more touching for me. I have gotten to know this class pretty well, more than the Junior high graduating class.

I arrived early, as I was asked to. I hadn’t been sure I was able to come, so I managed to surprise the teachers and some of the parents I had told I wouldn’t be able to attend. I also gave the teachers something to worry about: where to seat the ALT. I ended up on the side with some of the teachers and support staff.

Before the ceremony began, I had some time to go and chat with some of the parents I knew, and ran into the local eikaiwa (English conversation) teacher. Turns out her youngest son was “graduating”. I still have a difficult time thinking of anything other than high school as having a graduation ceremony, but in Japan there is a ceremony for every beginning and ending.

I left the parents, and made my way to the gym, where the younger students were already waiting. In the hallway, dressed in their new Junior High uniforms, were the Grade 6 students. Their teacher looked incredible in a fancy kimono, decorated with sakura blossoms. The students were formally dressed too, in new uniforms. They looked so much different in their dark suits. A little bit older, but not too much. Their mothers all seemed to have been careful to buy the new uniforms on the big side. I wonder if for some students, this uniform will have to last for the remainder of their Junior High school career. It made this ceremony much more striking than the Junior High graduation. These students are entering the world of serious things. How they do in Junior High will determine much of their future.

The ceremony itself played out in much the same manner as the Junior High graduation ceremony I attended last week. The students were all called by name to the front to accept their diplomas. Once on stage, they all gave a short speech, wishing their peers and the younger students good luck in the following year. I was happy to hear that many of them were excited to study English, but I’m sure that is on the strength of their homeroom teacher’s enthusiasm. I hope they will maintain that enthusiasm next year – I have high hopes for entering these students in ECC.

The most touching part of the ceremony was the message from the younger students to the graduates. The graduating class stood up and turned to face the remaining students. Then, shouting at the top of their lungs, the younger students began to talk about how much fun they had during the past year with the Grade 6 class, how they wished them well in their new school, and other good wishes. It's not something I can adequately describe, but it was overwhelming to listen to the often rowdy elementary students I teach come together to make this spoken tribute to the graduating class.

After the ceremony ended, we again saw off the graduating class. Students, parents, teachers and myself gathered outside on the driveway of the school. The teachers had large flower garlands which formed arches through which the now Grade 7 students would pass on their way out of the elementary school. The students who weren't holding flowers made arches with their arms for the graduates to scramble through. I helped some of the 1st Graders form the arch and wish the graduates well on their way out of the school. It was a beautiful day, and I would much rather have been able to leave school with the rest of the students.

Instead, I went back to the Junior High for lunch, and to teach the worst class I have ever taught before heading back to the office to wait until I officially ended work at 4:30.

I was anxious to get out of there, not only because I was exhausted, but I also had a long drive to Muroran ahead of me (I believe it ended up being seven hours on the road at the end of the night, but that included several stops to pick up other musical-ers). And I still had to get all of my crap packed for the weekend. Thankfully, I only drove as far as Pippu, and Jessie took us the rest of the way. And we decided to shell out the big bucks to take the expressway. It takes about 2 hours more to get to Muroran without them.

More on Muroran rehearsal later.

Must go catch up on sleep.

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