SO LONG

A paper flower and handwritten note made by a student.

My 6th graders graduated today. I made it all the way through the ceremony without tears. Then they sang the school song for the last time together, and I wept in the corner of the gym by myself. Why do I cry so often in Korea? I never used to be this emotional.

I look forward to school events. They're some of the only chances I get to meet families, as well as catch up with former students. Today I got to see several kids I hadn’t seen since graduation last year. They’ve grown so much. One boy is now as tall as me!

Integration into a new culture and/or community is of utmost importance to be a successful teacher. Something I really enjoy doing, no matter where I live, is taking on an active role in my surroundings. Even though some days the last thing I want to do is run into my students at the grocery store, I know outside interactions matter just as much, if not more, than in the classroom.

Do you like dark chocolate? I like dark chocolate. It’s a little bitter, but still sweet. That’s what today tasted like—bittersweet. I said goodbye to some of my favorite students (yes, I have favorites), as well as some of my least favored. However, one of my most misbehaved students ran up to me after commencement to say, “So long, 'Chase Teacher'! Goodbye."

I was a proud teacher at that moment. He used some of the expressions we learned during our last lesson together. It meant so much to me.

Just before graduation began, Julia, one of the students I’ll miss the most, came into my office to give me a paper flower and handwritten note. It was one of the sweetest letters I’ve ever received, very heartfelt and personal. In it she wrote, “I think graduate is not an eternal so long. Graduate is just say ‘See you soon!’”

So long, sixth graders! The year and a half I got to be your teacher was filled with some of the most challenging; yet rewarding experiences of my life. See you soon, Julia. I know we’ll never lose track of each other. I’m friends with her mom on Facebook, and she always invites me to join them on weekend excursions.

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