I can’t believe it’s actually happened, but today was my last day teaching at my elementary school. Starting next week I have 3 weeks of summer camp (half days of work) followed by just under 2 weeks of fake vacation then I’m off to sunny San Francisco and then hopefully sunny Toronto.
I can remember so clearly walking to my first days of work here filled with dread. I was pretty miserable at first. It was always raining (pretty much like it is now) so I was always wet. I felt alone and unsure of myself. I really was regretting my decision to come here. Almost 11 months later I have to say I’m proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished. No, the work wasn’t really that hard (most of the time), but the experience itself was demanding, as any English teacher here will tell you. I’m proud to say I taught 30 crazy grade threes alone, and calmed down the worst of the grade 5 and 6 classes without the help of my co-teacher. Proud that I created lesson plans and materials (mostly) from scratch. I’m proud that I finished out a year of teaching, even though sometimes I really wanted to pack it all in and go home. Coming here I knew that I’d be working every day, teaching, and I kept thinking about how this was affecting me and how I felt. I didn’t really think about the students I was teaching. How were they affected by me and my teaching, if at all?
As the school year drew to a close, my students seemed unaware or completely unfazed by the fact that I was going to be leaving them forever. My ego and I were both irritated by this. “I taught these kids every day! Some of them for a year, some of them for just 6 months, but come on! Don’t I matter?” I appealed to them in class. “Today is our LAST LESSON. FOREVER. I’m LEAVING! FOR. CANADA.” The advanced students understood. Some made sad or shocked faces. They really didn’t understand why I was leaving, or if I was really leaving at all. Maybe I was just going on vacation. The Korean school system goes from March-July and then August-February. I came and am leaving in the middle of the school year.
I tried to put this into perspective for myself. They’re just kids. Would I really care if some strange foreign person came and then left again if I was only 10 years old? Probably not. But wouldn’t I care a little?
I’m happy to say that yes, they really DO care that I am leaving! Although it is pretty much up to my co-teachers to tell the students I’m going and for them to decide what to do about that, I got some touching cards and letters from many kids. My grade 5 co-teacher got all of our classes to write me messages that the students had prepared in advance. My grade 6 co-teacher had every student write me page long letters. Sure, these are forced letters, but I’d like to think that the majority of the sentiment is real. I even had some students, who weren’t forced to do anything by someone else, give me gifts and come to visit me in my office.
Some of these messages are amusing, heartfelt or a bit strange. So, without further ado, here’s some excerpts from the best of them. Also, I’d like to point out that my students met Jacob two times. TWO. And he was mentioned in about 10 letters.
“Erika, now sinking to the US. Thank you. I heard you died in Canada Did. Happily ever after.” -Jeon Seunggi
(I actually received more than one of these sorts of messages. I assume something is off with the internet translating.)
“Teacher. How much is the airplane ticket? What time do you go to the airport?”- Kim Sun-he
“Sir, I hear you’re leaving back to Canada…Also, you left is really not disturbed. Sage is the world wish you had no. And it was good.” – Sim Hee-Ra
“I’m so sad that you’re going back to Canada…I hope you marry with Jcob…And your boyfriend Jcob is look so handsome. I’m proud that I’m your student.” -Cheon Ho-Bae
(This request for me to marry “Jcob” (whoever that is) was common.)
“You have a perfect English accent.”-Yuna
“I think you are very good teacher, because you’re very kind and pretty ^_^”- Jung Min Lee
“I will never forget you. Love ya!” -Ikjun Chang (this was written in cursive!)
“If I go to Canada I want to go to your house.” -Tony
“You go back Canada. Am Why go to Canada? You stay here!!” -Minho-Lee
“My name is Joo-Harry. Also, my nickname is “Harry Potter!” -Harry
“Keep our love forever.” -Yu-bin
“I like baseball.” -Tang Woon
“I can’t stop thinking about the funny games we played.” -Paul
“Hello Erika. My name is Erika (in Korean it says Oh Song Jin). Do you know me? I am superman! Ha ha ha. Fighting!” – Oh Song Jin
“I want to meet you next time in your house. I want to see your husband and children (baby).” -So- Yeon
“Teacher is very kind pretty. ^^ teacher have boyfriend.”- Bek Gyu-Hyun
“Don’t lose your happy smile.” -Yu-Gin
“You are going to Canada? Don’t do that please.” -Won Ho-hyun
“I saw you boyfriend…he is very veryx100 handsome!”- Joo Hee
“Big eye, short hair, tall.” -Han Byul
“Teacher. I’m sad. But I think you! I think your face. We go camping. Are you ok? You can do it! I love you.” -Ji-yu
“I think you have smile power that is make people happy.” -Ye Eun
“I liked your teaching style.”
“I have shared good memories with you and your boyfriend. (wow~!! 🙂 -Hwey-Seung
“When I came back from Russia I was desperate to find an English teacher, because I could forget some words, but with your help, I managed to remember nearly all.” Lee Kang-Han
“Ammm..first, you’re very kind. Your go to the Canada? Oh, I cry. Second, you’re funny.” -Hyun Jun Kim
“I saw you in the subway. Is he your boyfriend?” -Da Yon
“Sorry I dont have some (?) gift. But my letter is very expensive letter. Hahahahahahha.”- Hee Jin
One student actually wrote me his own booklet of letters, so he gets a lot of excerpts. He lived in Dubai for awhile, so has very advanced English.
“You’re like the best teacher of all…Maybe you can teach a lot of poors in Africa or Canada. I will have you in my heart. Of course, you will sometimes forget us, and sometime you will remember us. I wish you love us the best more than the Canada kids. If you can’t be a teacher, don’t give up. You can find work even if you can’t be a teacher. As I know Canada is very cold. I very high percent (%) the you will get a cold. So wear thick clothes and warm gloves. And there is my friend called Emily. She’s a girl. She is very kind. Well, every girls is kind…If Canada is cold, go to Dubai and it will be very hot, like you will be melted…Maybe now you will be my first best teacher. I had the best memories in Dubai.” -Sung Hun
The letters from my students were so lovely and kind. I’m so lucky to have them and I told them I’d keep them forever so I guess I’d better do that.
That’s all for now! Enjoy.