“Today is my last day,” I say to my class of adult learners.
There are looks of confusion and uncertainty; they’re unsure if they’ve understood correctly. “Why?” someone asks.
“I’m going to write a book.”
An urgent conference takes place towards the back of the classroom. An immaculately dressed Vietnamese lady excuses herself, “Teacher, I go out.”
I give the rest of the students a colourful folder each (67cents each from Officeworks) with their name printed on the binder as a farewell gift. Seeing an African student studying the folder quizzically, I borrow a hole puncher and show the class how to file up their notes. If I ever teach again, I’ll give out folders on my first day, not my last.
After lunch, the Vietnamese lady rushes into class, late. Her hair is awry. She pulls a black jacket out of a bulging plastic bag, hands it to me and says,”Teacher, try.”
I put it on, it fits perfectly. The students look very pleased. Then they pull out a scarf. Then two boxes of chocolates. Then a handbag.
I protest, this is too much, you shouldn’t give me so many things. They tell which students have chipped in to buy the gifts, and an Iraqi man pipes up, “Me too.”
“You too? You pay?” asks the Vietnamese lady.
“Yes,” he says.
“OK, $10 tomorrow,” she says.
Many of my students are learning English in order to get a job in Australia. They pack their food and drink for the day and are frugal to the point that the school canteen struggles to make a profit. I am deeply touched and humbled by their lavish generosity.