Today was “Ree’s” goodbye event. We both did not know there was going to be anything until 30 minutes beforehand when our students told us. So we finished about an hour or so early and headed downstairs.
Only the older student were here. I’ve mentioned it before in older posts, but as you may know we have two rounds of three classes. And then we have three more classes with older kids so those older kids came. Some high school and college students came too. Ree has been teaching for 11 years so her oldest students are already in college! So weird right?
So we headed downstairs, Ree of course being the last one to appear. Yoo-teacher introduced the event. Everything was in Korean so I was the only one who could not understand things entirely, but it was not hard to comprehend what was happening.
First a few students read some letters they wrote to Ree in English. Very touching. And then Ree said her parting words. So many people were crying. Even though I have only known Ree for exactly 1 month, I also felt sad that she was leaving. And imagining myself in her shoes, saying goodbye after more than a decade, this being the first and only school she’s ever taught at, I was also feeling my eyes well up. Even during my first few weeks here when I wanted to quit and run away, my first thought was how bad I would feel to just leave the new faces I had met. And then of course I imagined the kids’ feeling. Some have known her since kindergarten and are now teenagers. How could saying goodbye be easy? I had to try my best not to look around at everyone crying lest I start crying myself.
Our boss presented Ree with a plaque and a gift. And then the other students and teachers handed their gifts to her as well. She could barely hold all of them haha!
Then the students all sang to her and students I did not expect to cry were crying. I tried to focus on the teenage boys who were more happy about not having class than actually saying goodbye haha.
Next was picture taking time. And our boss, Mrs. K passes out cookies that Ree makes every year for the students for Thanksgiving. It was like there were getting one last taste from her.
Finally hugs were given before the students had to leave to go home.
I was off to the side trying not to get in the way the whole time. Mrs. K and her daughter said I could go home which felt like maybe they didn’t want me around, but hey I’ve only been around a month so that was fine with me. Ree told me that they told me I could go because they thought I felt awkward being there. Well I didn’t until they shooed me away haha! But no big deal. I understand.
I had mixed feelings about the goodbye event. I felt guilty to be taking Ree’s role. I know it’s silly, but I felt like I’m not worthy enough to teach after her and maybe the kids wouldn’t want to ever warm up to me fully because I’m not and will never be the same as Ree who was so much better.
I felt sad because I do like Ree. She has helped me so much. She was just supposed to be a fellow teacher and trainer to me, but we have more in common than I imagined. And to be honest she is the kind of adult I want to be in the future haha. I’ve enjoyed our long talks and I’m so lucky that I got to know her. I don’t know how she feels, but I would call her a friend. I’m sad that she won’t be at the apartment, telling me stories, teaching me about Korean culture, chatting with me for hours about all kinds of things. She will only be 30 minutes away, but we both have busy schedules and her weekends are usually busy too. And she will be gone (back home) for over a month for vacation. I’ll see her at church when she gets back though so it’s not officially goodbye for me.
I felt inspired. I only hope I can have some impact on my students the way Ree did on hers. I can only hope my students will remember me as a good teacher and I can create at least one special memory for them. I don’t think I’ll ever be near as impactful as Ree, but I hope when I leave, I can feel that I’ve done something right by the way my students say goodbye to me.
But I also felt scared. I know it’s a selfish thing to think about myself and my own feelings during this goodbye, but the whole time I couldn’t help thinking how will I feel these big shoes before me. I already felt that before I came knowing Ree had been here so long, but I felt it even more tonight. I am probably being hard on myself. I know I have been hard on myself especially the past 2 weeks, but it’s understandable right? I can’t help thinking of that common phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well it wasn’t broke. Everything was fine with Ree. More than fine. So why am I here?
Well I won’t ponder on that question for too long because there is no answer. God has things planned for Ree and he must also have things planned for me too. That’s the only conclusion I can come to as to how I landed here with this seemingly impossible position to step into. I will try my best and work hard and see what happens for me.