I remember my leaving ceremony at my base junior high school like it was yesterday, despite it being almost exactly one year ago. (Has it really been a whole year already?! I’m in denial.)
My leaving ceremony was to be part of the end-of-term ceremony on Friday, July 24th – the students’ last day of school before summer vacation. I was asked to write a short farewell speech, which turned out to be pretty stressful – how do you sum up two years of wonderful experiences in only a few minutes using easy English?! I spent two weeks writing my speech, browsing multiple forums and JET blogs to get ideas along the way.
Knowing the level of English at my school, I made the decision to combine English and Japanese in my speech, using grammar points and vocabulary familiar to the students (and the equivalent Japanese grammar points that I had learned from team-teaching in English classes!). I wanted all of my students, including my Grade 7s who had only been studying English for three months at this point, to understand my speech. After weeks of re-writes and edits, the final version looked something like this:
(Brackets and grey text mark the rough English translations of the Japanese sentences. They were not included in the actual speech. If you need help with kanji readings, I recommend Jisho.org.)
Good morning, everyone! Two years ago, I came to [city]. I was so happy. Especially, I had a great time at [school]!
[city]で過ごした2年間、私はとても幸せでした。特に、[school]で優しい人たちにたくさん会いました。(I was very happy for the two years I spent in [city]. Especially, I met many kind people at [school].)
To Kocho-sensei, Kyoto-sensei, teachers, and staff, thank you so much!
一緒に仕事ができて良かったです。私にしてくれたことに心から感謝します。校長先生、教頭先生、いろいろお世話になりました。(I’m glad that we could work together. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the many things you did for me. Principal, Vice Principal, thank you for taking care of me.)
To the students, I enjoyed English class with you! We made many wonderful memories.
たくさんのすてきな思い出を作りました。毎日あなたたちの笑顔が私を幸せにしてくれました。(We made many wonderful memories. Your smiles made me happy every day.)
I am proud of you. Please do your best!
Now, I’m going to go back to Canada. But I will never forget [school].
これから私はカナダに帰ります。カナダにいても[school]のことを絶対に忘れません。この学校に来ることができて本当に幸せでした。またいつかどこかで会いましょう！(Now, I’m going back to Canada. Even though I will be in Canada, I will never forget [school]. I am really happy that I could come to this school. Someday, somewhere, let’s meet again!)
Finally, I hope you follow your dreams!
最後になりましたが、皆さんがそれぞれの将来の夢に向かって、頑張ることを期待しています。(Finally, I hope everyone follows their future dreams and does their best.)
You can do it! Thank you!
In the end, I was so proud of my speech and how I delivered it. I had wanted my speech to be true to my personality, and it was! I also surprised most of the students with my ability to speak Japanese; I had spoken to them only in English for two years, so to whip out my Japanese at my leaving ceremony was super satisfying. ;)
I even surprised my teachers – one of them approached me at my leaving party that night and commented on my Akita-ben (Akitan accent)! I think that was the biggest compliment I ever could have gotten. Arigatou gozaima’zu~ (*^_^*)
After I gave my speech, one of my Grade 9 students came up to my podium on the stage to deliver a speech to me – in English! – and gave me a lovely bouquet of flowers. That was the moment the tears started. I then exited the gym in true taijou fashion, between rows of my students facing me and clapping, while I waved and smiled and even gave two Grade 8 boys high-fives through teary eyes.
Saying goodbye to my amazing students was not easy, but I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect leaving ceremony. ♥