Last week was among the most bittersweet of my life. I don't think I can put into words the emotions I am currently feeling, but I will attempt to. I am feeling a bit sad after saying my final goodbyes to my final group of students of my final contract during the conclusion of four years as a teacher in Korea. But it's more than just that. I am feeling a combination of sadness, excitement, happiness, and gratitude.
I am a teacher who puts everything into my craft, emotionally and intellectually. I am a teacher who demands that my students learn. I am also a teacher who resolves to love my students, and show them that somebody cares for them, especially if they aren't cared for at home. I don't know how effective I was at it, but I did my best.
Being that I am a person who is guided by intuition and emotion, I didn't know what exactly I would feel on my last day of school, but I resolved to allow myself to feel freely, without suppression. I went into my final week thinking I wouldn't be emotional, because I've done this teaching thing for a long time, and I've taught a lot of students, so maybe what triggers me has hardened and grown numb.
In my school, the younger kids have class first, and the older and upper level students come later in the day.
When my last class with my little kids was concluded in the morning, I was fine, until after the children walked out of the door of my classroom, and two of the little girls were looking back waving and softly saying "Good-bye!" over and over again as if they knew what was happening, until they turned the corner, and they were no longer visible. That was difficult.
The classes in between were pretty much the same, until my last with the sixth graders.
Sixth graders are the most difficult students to teach. They are at an age when they first realize that adults aren't perfect, so they have a tendency to be rebellious. They also have the exuberance of children, coupled with fact that they are no longer cute and small, so that can sometimes make them rather difficult. And many times, I handled situations with them in an impatient, or an unfair manner.
In the final lesson with them, I exhorted them to chase their dreams, and I gave them some final advice. As it came time for that final class to dismiss, I commanded the attention of every single student in the class, and I proceeded to apologize. I apologized, and told them sorry, if I was ever unfair, or if I ever said or did anything hurtful to them, especially to the boys. In the middle of my apology, I again became emotional.
With the other classes, I did so after the kids were gone, so none of my children saw it. But I couldn't hold it in this instance.
Probably my biggest motivation as a teacher is not that my kids learn as much as possible, although it is a wonderful one, and a significant one for me. My biggest motivation is to be remembered favorably when they look back on their time as my students.
This past year was one of victory. I make no bones of being a spiritual person, and I prayed very hard over my students, my school, my coteachers, and myself as a teacher. This was a year where I saw so much improvement in my students of all levels. This was a year where I grew so much as a teacher. And this was the best group of students that I've taught.
Today is the first Monday where I didn't make that daily one-hour commute south to my school, and I feel sort of an emptiness that is almost similar to breaking up with a girl friend. As I've stated earlier, I put so much into my teaching, and my philosophy as a teacher is to first love my students to the best of my ability, because when a teacher uses love as a motivation, he/she will certainly have their highest welfare possible in mind, whether or not they, or people around them, understand it. There is not a higher, nor a stronger motivation than that. So when there is no longer an avenue that you've once had to channel all of that, I guess that emptiness can be natural.
This is now a time of transition as I move on from teaching to the next calling that is upon my life. And pretty soon, I will say goodbye to South Korea in the teaching realm.
As a high school student at Slidell High School who was once "too cool for school," when it came time to graduate, and move on to our new lives, I heard my principal, Mr. Joseph P. Buccaran, say sincerely to us graduating seniors, "Good-bye, meaning farewell..."
When it was time to leave my last school here in Korea on my last day of teaching, upon the conclusion of erasing everything in my computer, upon packing up all my personal belongings that were in my classroom, and upon locking the door for the last time, I was able to make the connection to my old high school days, and it was then when I truly realized what "farewell" really means.
To my students, I may never see you again, but I wish nothing but the best for all of you in Incheon, Anyang, Gwangju, and Seoul. I pray that blessings will be poured out on all of you. I pray that all of you achieve every single dream that is upon each of your respective hearts, and are truly successful, prosperous, fulfilled, and happy in all that you do. I wish you strength and determination when things become difficult, especially during your upcoming middle school and high school days. I pray that you will truly feel loved unconditionally, and that you will love unconditionally also in all the days of your lives. God bless all of you. Thank you for being blessings to me. I will always think of you as fondly as the word is able to express, and I will never forget you. Truly ay to all of you, good-bye, meaning farewell.