Fond Farewells, aka “To Sir with Love”

One of the few downsides to the teaching profession is the routine and inevitable conclusion of a term, usually an emotional and physical lump of dough filled with many too many things to do baked with too little sleep and frosted with an emotional melange of relief, joy, and wistfulness. This summer is no exception, and I find myself, as I often do at times like this, humming the theme song to the 1967 movie “To Sir with Love.”

I must have seen this flick at an impressionable moment in my life, because it has stayed with me and played in the background many times, usually during waning academic moments like this. Starring the amazingly hunky Sidney Poitier, the story chronicles a immigrant  teacher in a tough East End inner city school during the mid ’60s London. Since one of his students is ostensibly trying to start a singing career, it’s not too surprising that the touching scene I keep recalling, the end of term party and gift-giving bit, has the then famous Scottish singer “Lulu” crooning the title song:

“Those school girl days
of telling tales and biting nails are gone
But in my mind I know they will still live on and on
But how do you thank someone
who was taken you from crayons to perfume
It isn’t easy but I’ll try
If you wanted the sky
I would write across the sky in letters
That would soar a thousand feet high
To sir with love”

Here’s a clip if you would like to refresh (or fresh, for that matter) your mind on the moment in question:

So it’s been something like that this week for me. Here’s a shot of two of my favorite students, Thu and Dinara, after the final Zumba workout on Monday last:

Sweet peas

Sweet peas

…then the departure on Wednesday of the IMF students headed to programs at the University of Tokyo that start earlier than other universities:

So long, but not goodbye

So long, but not goodbye

Things really kicked into gear on Friday when the formalities of departure took on a life of their own. First was the multiple photo sessions of each and every class that was held during the term, plus many other combinations and permutations – all women, all men, all teachers, Zumba class, running club, student leaders, faculty members, etc. This is a shot of my amazing IMF students from Phase 1, minus the ones who had left already in the van above:

World savers

World savers

That evening was the official end-of-program bash, held at a local hotel and featuring a groaning buffet of local specialties.  As part of the fun, one of the full-time faculty wives shared some of her beautiful saris with the visiting female faculty members, and five of us headed off to the party looking like Bangladeshi princesses, complete with gold jewelry and even stick-on glitter and tattoos. Here I am in my regalia, again with Thu, near Rachel in the background:

Al gussied up.

All gussied up.

…a shot of the crowd as we begin the formal portion of the proceedings and and what’s left of the buffet:

The table was bare...

The table was bare…

…the bestowing of certificates…

Oku hams it up

Oku hams it up after receiving his from Richard

…and a shot of my colleague Rob, the other “newbie” in Text Skills, who was my reality check during the summer. He actually swapped out his red tennies for the occasion.

Wry Brit

Dislikes being photographed as much as I do

There was a second party AFTER this, which ran until 2:00 am or so (I chose not to go, although I heard it was fun), and then a party AFTER that, which is just how Japanese roll. Still some stalwarts were at the bus stop Saturday a.m. at 7:55, ready to catch the shuttle to the train to the subway to return to their lives or to grab a bit of vaca before graduate school begins in earnest in a couple weeks. The place is moribund at the moment, filled only with the drone of lawnmowers and industrious representatives of the fire department checking alarms across campus, all in preparation for the beginning of the fall term, just around the corner.

Here’s a shot of my Text Skills class for the final four weeks. Such a lovely group of folks:

No dangling modifiers in sight.

No dangling modifiers in sight.

One last poignant shot – my very own “To Sir with Love” gift (a lovely crane tablecloth) with a heartfelt note from every member of the class you see above:

Will be treasured

Will be treasured

“The time has come…
For closing books
And long last looks must end
And as I leave I know that I am leaving my best friend
A friend who taught me right from wrong
And weak from strong that’s a lot to learn
What can I give you in return?
If you wanted the moon
I would try to make a start but I
Would rather you let me give my heart
To sir with love.”

On that note, filled with memories and gratitude for an amazing experience in the rice paddies of Niigata, I bid farewell to a remarkable group of students and colleagues at IUJ.

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3 Responses to Fond Farewells, aka “To Sir with Love”

  1. Rachel says:

    I agreed that saying “see you later” is the hardest part. Look at this love all around!

  2. McKinze says:

    I’ve really enjoyed hearing about your time there this summer! Thanks so much for the detail and insight. Travel safe, wherever you are headed next!

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