One of the hardest things about leaving the JET Program is knowing that it is the end of some of the relationships you’ve formed. You can’t stay in touch with all of your students. Just think about how many elementary school teachers you remember vividly. It’s a bitter truth and something we all fight upon leaving our cities.
I’m lucky in that I have the Sister Cities program to keep me connected with old students. However, this past student visit had me thinking about how much I can do to stay involved. My family didn’t host this year, and thus I questioned how involved I ought to be. While I really wanted to accompany one of the host families during their weekend excursions, it felt intrusive. In the end, I wound up only helping my dad with the tour of city as a photographer and attending the farewell party.
The experience was fun, but my struggles had me wondering where the line is between being proactive and intruding. When I was a JET, I wasn’t involved with the students as much as I wanted to be so there’s a part of me that wants to make up for it. I’m the kind of person that wants to stay friends with everyone, but the catch is that I’m not their friend. I have to remind myself that I was their teacher now that one of my students (the one we hosted last year) friended me on facebook. Even though I’m friends with some of my old professors, the age difference does matter. I was a role model back then, and I’m still a role model. It’s extremely tempting to add some of my old students as friends, but I feel like that’s crossing a line.
There isn’t an easy way to stay connected with those whom you may have touched or not. I sometimes ask myself how many of my student actually remember me, especially the younger ones who may make their way to my hometown. There are other ways for me to form meaningful connections through cultural exchange. The Grassroots Summit was a perfect example. Even though I was stupid and didn’t get people’s contact info, I still have a lot of good memories to cherish.
I’m sure there are still ways for me to volunteer with our Sister Cities program without hosting a student (something that my parents say that they don’t really have the energy to do). I have to remind myself that to be able to see my former students recognize me at the airport is enough.
Listening to: “SUMMER PARADISE” by Simple Plan feat. Taka from ONE OK ROCK