I Could’ve Done Better

So yesterday was my last day at work. I see my third and fourth graders once a week, fifth and sixth graders twice a week. So since last week, we’ve been giving them time at the end of class to write good bye notes to me.

Some of them are really funny, some are really touching.

And then yesterday, a fifth grader who rarely talks, who almost never has his book or a pencil, wrote me this card. Everyone else used markers and crayons, he used only his pencil.

happy Korea
happy Canada

I am not from Canada. This shows you how much he pays attention. In fact, when I got it, I teased him about it. “Canada? Me?” He blushed and I gave him a half-shoulder hug. I only read the inside of the card after he left.

Hellow Amanda
I’m chan hee
after before very nut like
after very like English
because you teach very
I love you
Tank you

before teacher is
not very teach very
but you is very very
English time very
happy und very great
good bye Amanda
good bye

Chan hee

When I read it after class, I was able to hold back the tears. When I got home and showed Good Man, I couldn’t stop crying.

He wrote that without any help. One of my many no-book, no-pencil, no-talking students wrote that. We told them they could write in Korean, and yet he wrote that. All of that.

Why didn’t I know he could do that? Why didn’t I see it?

I was bawling, “[Good Man], I could’ve done more! I could’ve done better! I could’ve taught more!”

“You’re a great teacher, Amanda, they like you. In elementary school, English is not tested, it’s to introduce them to foreigners and English and to have fun, he remembers you,” Good Man said. “You did a great job. You don’t need to cry. He will have good memories of English and foreigners because of you.”

My first year as a teacher, I had a student give me a handmade bracelet. It was your typical fifth grade girl craft bracelet. Sort of like the pasta necklace I gave my grandma for her 50th birthday (which, 10 years later, she still had in her fine jewelry box).

“Here, Ms.,” she said. “I want to give this to you. I gave it to my mom.”

“Oh, then, hon, you should—”

“But she said she would never wear it and gave it back to me.”

I tried to hide my shock and slipped it on my wrist, “Well I will wear it.”

She touched my heart and broke it in the same moment.

This card did the same, because I want to shout “MY GOD, WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? YOU’RE AWESOME!” from the school courtyard, and yet I ask myself, “Why didn’t I know he could do that? What if I’d known? What could we have done then?”

Did I do enough for these kids? All… 700+? Did I teach them any English? Did I make them less afraid of foreigners? Did I make them think, just a little?

Did they learn half as much from me as I learned from them?