This week, I said goodbye to some students who I have taught for the past three years. Those who I did not teach, were in my homeroom class.
One of the things I like the most about working at my school is that, for better or for worse, we teachers are very, very involved in the lives of our students. Our school even has an often quoted motto about how it is a second home for our students, something that feels quite true when you consider that from 7:00am until 3:00pm, the students dwell in our school’s high rise, filling the halls with their joys and their sorrows, their accomplishments and their failures.
For the past two years, I have been the homeroom teacher for these students, and their lockers were placed directly outside my room. That meant that I go to listen to them before school, during school, and after school. Pre-homeroom, while I was still in my pre-coffee daze, they would come in and sleep on desks. After school, while I was planning or the next day, they would come say high after football practice.
I have spent a lot of hours with these kids, and some of those best times weren’t in school. Almost two years ago now, we all flew to Bali together. I made them all scrub the squatty potties at the orphanage every day. I made them dust every corner. We ate seafood and Jimbaran Beach and swam in the ocean early one morning.
In October, I went on a Biology Trip as a supervisor. I ended up holding the hand of one of my favourite students, cracking jokes as she got her knee stitched up by the resident doctor of the island. I laughed as we all jumped off the pier together, when one of my students fell off the back of the boat on our way to go snorkel, as they all fed fish guts to a group of sea turtles.
We spent a long nine hours together during their senior photo shoot one Jakarta morning/afternoon. They complained the whole time, because that’s who they are, and I love-hated it because they are hilarious and so entitled and so known to me.
And this past weekend, I said goodbye to them. Many of them, I may never see again. This is perhaps something that all teachers have to come to realize—students come and go. But for some reason, it’s particularly had to say goodbye to these kids. Perhaps because it is also because I am about to go back to the States, and there will be no returning-to-Jakarta-for-the-Summer visits or back-for-Christmas drop-ins. Maybe it’s because these kids are the first kids of my career (since I started my teaching career three years ago, with them). It’s not that they were perfect students—I mean, I had to convince my English class (which was 14 boys and 3 girls) that yes, it is normal and expected that, even if they are done with an assignment, they don’t get up and walk around. And, of course, they had all the normal teenager issues, plus a few extra that come from being part of the Indonesian 5%.
So I don’t know what it is about this particular batch that makes me so sad to say goodbye, but I truly hope that for me and these kids, it’s “see you later.”