A few days ago I went back to the Christmas party in the secondary school where I taught. Very joyful atmosphere swarmed with candid laughter of kids. Students who might be unruly and mischievous on normal school days always become more innocent on such a day. Unlike previous years when I would be staying with my own class, this year I went around the school to different classrooms finding faces I know (and getting different food).
To my surprise, the kids were actually exhilarated when I appeared, and people kept asking me for photos – of course, they did this too on previous Christmas party days when I was still a teacher at the school. I was also surprised by the realisation of how many students I’ve actually taught in the past three years. I was very happy to see them again too (especially without having to undergo the toil of chasing after them for homework and marking their terribly ungrammatical compositions anymore).
Christmas party day is definitely one of the happiest school days, and I will soon miss it. Celebrating Christmas in school is always different from any other Christmas gatherings. But as one cohort of students leave the school after another, I will soon be a stranger when I visit the school again. No more innocent kids surrounding Mr Chan sharing food and taking selfies with me.
Or will I miss it? Will I become so old already that I no longer find joy in such occasions? Even if I stayed and continued to teach, would I enjoy the occasion less as I grew older and older, with a wider and wider generation gap with my students? This is something I probably won’t be able to find out. This is the road not taken.
But I’m glad that I’ve been a teacher. I feel blessed to know there are kids who miss me. (Irony: They never do until you have left!)
And I met a boy whom I taught for two years in S2 and S3. Having left our school after S4, he’s now studying in Canada. He reminded me of the episode in the last S2 English lesson, when I half-jokingly asked him to copy a Japanese phrase (なに) for 100 times as extra summer homework because he shouted the word when I was giving out the English summer assignments. He was unlucky enough to fall into my hands again after the holiday so I did chase after him for that. Now he is telling me that in the process of copying he actually felt that the Japanese characters are beautiful and this made him want to learn the langauge.
Really couldn’t have imagined that. You could never imagine how you may influence your students. Things that cannot be encapsulated in the ‘learning outcomes’ we designate in our teaching.
He also thanked me and another English colleague for encouraging him throughout the years (though I think I teased him more often) and helping him with his English. Didn’t exepct this either, as he didn’t appear to care much back then. Boy. Perhaps too good at hiding emotions.
I will probably miss this kind of satisfaction.