First of all, thank you Rochelle for choosing my picture this week. The advantage of having your own picture as the prompt is that you know the complete context. Just as Thoreau says in the quote that Rochelle always includes, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see” and in this picture, I see the lines of Korean middle school students streaming up the long drive to the middle school just out of frame (you can see the lights of the soccer field in the background.)
In a departure from my normal fantastical imaginings, this story is almost 100% true in every detail. Dangerous stuff, since it almost brought me to tears several times while writing it. But such is life. (By the way, click on the picture to see where it was taken.)
So long, So-Yeon
I gave them hugs in the classroom but we hug again at the door.
“We’ll miss you, teacher.”
“I don’t want to,” I say, and mean it.
“I’ll write you every day.” I smile; it’s well meant, but won’t happen.
Last is So-yeon. She’s been that smiling, encouraging face in class ever since Grade 3. Now she’s in middle school and so grown up.
“I’ll never forget you,” she says. I wonder if it’s true, knowing it doesn’t matter.
Finally I wave and turn away, to another country and another school, leaving part of my heart in Wanju.
September 17th, 2015 at 7:46 pm
I wonder if I didn’t have So-Yeon in class at one time…XD
September 17th, 2015 at 7:55 pm
I’m sure you had some So-Yeon in your class, although I doubt the same one, unless she drove in from Bongdong.
September 17th, 2015 at 9:05 pm
I had some students who came in from Gunsan when I was at Av. It was…interesting.
September 17th, 2015 at 7:54 pm
Heartfelt and beautiful. Thanks for sharing your photo!
September 17th, 2015 at 7:56 pm
Thanks, Erin, and you’re most welcome. 🙂
September 17th, 2015 at 7:57 pm
September 17th, 2015 at 8:02 pm
It brought me to tears, David. Goodbyes are so hard.
September 17th, 2015 at 8:19 pm
This is touching, make me almost cry.. and I think ” click on the picture to see where it was taken” this part is another highlight, can I take photos by adding location as well ?
September 17th, 2015 at 9:28 pm
Thank you so much, Xian. I will show you how I did that with the map, if you want.
September 20th, 2015 at 8:08 pm
Thanks, that’s great.
September 17th, 2015 at 8:20 pm
How beautiful and moving, David! Thank you for your photo-prompt, and for that story. The map was an added bonus — and made it even more real, somehow.
If you’re interested, this is my take on your photograph (which I really, really liked, by the way):
September 18th, 2015 at 12:16 am
Oh, this makes me want to cry. Oh, David. You had such a wonderful impact on your kids. Of course, they will remember you and it all mattered. Wonderful story!
September 21st, 2015 at 8:36 pm
Thank you so much for the great comment, Amy. I don’t generally share true stories, but especially since it was my picture, it felt like the right thing to do.
September 21st, 2015 at 9:02 pm
It was! It was a great feel-good story. You should be so proud.
September 18th, 2015 at 12:24 am
I am sure you are still in their hearts, kids don’t forget teachers, especially those who have been good to them. I have not forgotten mine 🙂 they have very special place in my heart.
September 21st, 2015 at 8:26 pm
I’m sure you’re right. It would be interesting to go back and see them, although maybe I wouldn’t want to see how many of them remember me and how many don’t. 😉
September 18th, 2015 at 2:16 am
You kept this so simple and true to life that the truth of it cannot help but shine through. The deeply felt emotions of the teacher, the love of students for someone they have come to know and trust and from whom they learned a great deal, all these are there in every sentence. This was heartfelt and moving.
Your students will carry a bit of you throughout their lives, Dave. That must feel very satisfying. I can easily see why your tears flowed and I understand .
Very well done.
Thanks for a perfect picture and for sharing your story with us.
September 21st, 2015 at 8:25 pm
Thank you, Doug. You leave some of the best comments. I appreciate it.
September 18th, 2015 at 2:18 am
Very moving, David. A very special memory. I can still conjure up the faces of all my teachers at junior school; the ones after that … not so much. I wonder why that is. I’m sure you will be remembered.
September 21st, 2015 at 8:24 pm
I have some teachers like that too, who I remember very vividly and then others I barely remember at all. I’m sure for some of my thousands of students I was just another face in a line of English teachers, but I think I had an impact on some. Thanks for the comments.
September 18th, 2015 at 2:53 am
Beautiful, David. So sad to see abandoned homes so close to the school. You mattered very much to these students; you touched their lives. Education–and the impact of great teachers–is something that no one can take away from the student, as long as he lives.
September 21st, 2015 at 8:22 pm
Thanks, Jan. Actually, I’m not sure what the story was with this place. I think these were back buildings for a house out of shot to the right. I never paid much attention to it, although I liked the gate enough to take a picture of it. Clearly I should have done more research. 🙂
September 18th, 2015 at 3:23 am
I can understand the tears. For a few years I taught English to refugees and asylum seekers here in England and loved every minute of it.
September 18th, 2015 at 3:59 am
It’s all been said…but not by me. I’m tempted to just copy and paste Doug’s comment and add my name. But then I was the kid who always got “uses own ideas” checked on her report card (in art anyway).
You can comfort yourself with knowing you made a difference in those young lives. I hope you’ve had some correspondence with So-yeon at least.
Beautifully written and wonderful picture.
September 21st, 2015 at 8:20 pm
I am sure I’ve made some difference. I am friends on Facebook with a few of them, but not So-Yeon, since I’m not sure if she’s on there. I don’t talk much with them though, but such is life.
September 18th, 2015 at 6:13 am
First of all, thank you for giving us the context and the map, this makes this very special. And the story is beautiful. Everyone who goes to work away from home and makes friends there knows how hard it is to leave. If only we had transporter beams like the Enterprise for quick travel. For a teacher who touches and shapes the future of children, leaving must be extra hard. Beautifully told, and of course they will remember you.
September 21st, 2015 at 8:09 pm
Many times I have wished for a transporter. If I had that, I would live in Korea and work in the States. 🙂
September 18th, 2015 at 6:19 am
You may have had to leave the school, but the experience will never leave you or your students. Wonderfully told, so full of life and love.
September 21st, 2015 at 8:08 pm
Thanks Melanie. I appreciate the comments. 🙂
September 18th, 2015 at 6:56 am
Thank you for giving us the photo for the prompt and also giving the background to it. I can picture your line of students in their very white shirts lining up. I can understand also how it pulled at your heart strings whilst you were remembering and writing the beautiful flash of your farewells from the school. An experience to cherish.
September 21st, 2015 at 8:07 pm
Memory is funny in many ways. It’s been over a year, but I can see it as if it were yesterday. And yet I can’t remember what I ate last week. 🙂
September 22nd, 2015 at 2:32 am
LOL At least you can remember what you ate yesterday. I’m pushing to do that.
September 18th, 2015 at 7:37 am
Very touching, especially with the backstory. The pain at leaving any place is a sign of how much you were truly there, connected and present with your whole heart. Thank you for sharing.
September 21st, 2015 at 8:05 pm
Thanks Joy. The pain of saying goodbye is so much a part of life, unfortunately.
September 18th, 2015 at 9:18 am
Working with a class of kids as I do made this all the more poignant. Thanks for the photo. I’m glad I was correct in my assumption that it was school building!
Rosey Pinkerton’s blog
September 21st, 2015 at 8:05 pm
It’s interesting the details that different pick up on. The lights of the soccer field are visible but most people didn’t think of them. And then, a lot of people picked up on the paper stuck in the gate, which in fact I hadn’t even noticed. 🙂
September 18th, 2015 at 9:09 pm
You say “knowing it doesn’t matter” but I think it does. Heartfelt and cool that you embedded the google map!
September 21st, 2015 at 8:03 pm
I think it does matter, although what I meant there was that I have to leave and I’ll never know either way. Glad you liked it.
September 19th, 2015 at 6:45 am
That was so heart-warming. I think the teacher’s vocation is the noblest of all.
September 21st, 2015 at 8:02 pm
Thank you. There is a lot of trials and a lot of rewards in teachings. Kind of like being a part-time parent, in some ways, especially for younger students.
September 19th, 2015 at 8:30 am
It must have been terribly heart wrenching leaving your students. This is very heart felt.
September 21st, 2015 at 8:01 pm
Thanks Joy. It is always hard, although sometimes much more than others. This group in the story was hard since I had taught them for 5 years, so I really knew them well.
September 21st, 2015 at 8:02 pm
Yes, I can imagine that it would have been very difficult after 5 years.
September 19th, 2015 at 2:36 pm
Ah, I can definitely relate to this! I may not be a teacher, but I just finished my work placement and it’s been so tough leaving. I think the authenticity of the emotion comes through in your piece, it’s not overdone. 🙂
September 19th, 2015 at 4:31 pm
Thank you for sharing the picture and the lovely story.
September 20th, 2015 at 11:56 pm
Thank you, Francesca.
September 20th, 2015 at 12:29 pm
David, yes, a departure from your usual, but what a beautifully tender departure it is! Brought tears to my eyes as well, and that is before reading your intro! (I prefer to read the story, without the context). I have little doubt that you do indeed remain in the memories and hearts of many of those students, but surely So-Yeon’s. Even as the years slip by, those teachers that touched me most, are alive and well and still encouraging me. xox
Loved this photo!
September 20th, 2015 at 11:55 pm
Thanks for the comments, Dawn. As a teacher, I always hope that I make a positive impact on my students, but it’s one of those things you never know for sure.
September 21st, 2015 at 2:27 am
David, I really believe that you know, in your heart, which students your really touched and which ones could go either way. That connection is meaningful.
September 21st, 2015 at 8:53 am
[…] Picture copyright by David Stewart. […]
September 22nd, 2015 at 3:14 am
Great story, David. I was a teacher (Grades 1 & 2) so can understand how you felt. Since you taught them more than one year, I can see how hard it was to leave. Thanks for the picture that led to so many lovely stories. 🙂 — Suzanne
September 22nd, 2015 at 9:33 pm
Thanks, Suzanne. Glad you liked the story.
September 24th, 2015 at 5:07 am
Uncharacteristically sentimental, but all the more beautiful for it David. The fact that you contributed in a small way to who they are and will be in the future, will always remain, whether they remember you or not.
September 28th, 2015 at 8:15 pm
Thanks Madhu. I like to mix things up, but I’ll be back to quirky and weird soon enough. 🙂