21 June 2012

A Few Words for the Class of 2012

In the fall of 1999, the vice mayor of Tapa asked me, a Peace Corps volunteer at the time, if I would substitute for one of Tapa Gümnaasium's English teachers who had decided to extend her working summer vacation at a YMCA camp in Colorado. I was excited!

In the fall of 2007, the deputy head of Tapa Gümnaasium told me, now a teacher on the school's payroll, that I would be teaching English to fifth graders. I was terrified!

Today, those fifth graders, whom I also taught as sixth graders (pictured above at the beginning of class and below after 50 minutes), graduated from the ninth grade at Tapa Gümnaasium. I didn't make it to the school oven that they call an auditorium this year, but I sent a message to the graduates, which, as is the tradition for all letters received from well-wishers who could not be present, was read during the ceremony. I was told through Facebook that it received the intended laughs and unexpected applause. I wrote it in poor Estonian, knowing that Sirje Sell, who has been in charge of organizing Tapa's graduation ceremonies for more than a decade, would correct my many mistakes. (She is also one of the school's Estonian teachers.) No student names were changed, however, because there were definitely no innocent students to protect.

Arvake kus ma olen. Lilled on igal pool. Toatemperatuur on kolmkümmend neli kraadi. Ees, kolm õpetajad naeratavad. Paremale üks veel nutab. Üks direktor kulmu kortsutab. Ja taga, sajad rahvast magavad.
Guess where I am. Flowers are everywhere. The room temperature is 34 degrees. In the front, 3 teachers smile. To the right, 1 more cries. A director frowns. And in the back, hundreds of people sleep.

Õige, õige! Ma olen Tapa Gümnaasiumi lõpuaktuses!
Correct! I am at the Tapa Gümnaasium graduation!

Barack Obamast kodulinnast, Eestimaalt vorsti pealinnasse, ma saadan Palju onne! iga õpilanele 9. klassist.
From Barack Obama’s home town, to the sausage capital of Estonia, I send Congratulations to each and every student of the 9th grade class.

Ehkki ma olin õpetaja Tapal viis aastat tagasi, ikka ma mäletan palju õppetundid mis ma andsin teile. Ma mäletan, et alati Andres istus nurgas ruumist, ja Karl Robert eelistas istuda aknas pigem toolis. Ma mäletan, et Angelika, Cärolin, ja Sigre oli alati vait kui hiir aga Elli ja Silvester möirgasid nagu lõvid. Silvester hammustas ka! Priit ja Arthur uskusid, et Tehke harjutused tunnis tahendas Mängige kaardid. Ma olin uhke, et Kristo oli mootorratas kuningas ja Kuldar oli Lada ekspert. Kristian teadsis rohkem inglise keel kohta kui mina. Karina ka oskab küll saada inglise keel õpetajaks aga ma saan aru, et tema tahab saada tants superstaareks.
Although I was a teacher in Tapa 5 years ago, I still remember many of our classes together. I remember that Andres always sat in the corner of the room, and Karl Robert prefered to sit in the window rather than in a chair. I remember Angelika, Cärolin, and Sigre were always as quiet as a mouse but Elli and Silvester roared like lions. Silvester bit, too! Pritt and Arthur believed that "Compete the exercises" in class meant "Play cards." I was proud that Kristo was the motorcycle king and Kuldar was a Lada expert. Kristian knew more about English than I. Karina, too, could become an English teacher but I understand that she wants to be a dance superstar.

Ma olen vana Ameerika mees nüüd aga kindlasti ma ikka mäletan Marek ja Margus ja Maria ja Jane. Kas see on kõik minu kallis ja õpetatud õpilastest? Ei ole, mitte päris. Muidugi ma mäletan Batman and Robin – Venno ja Ülo. Ma usun, et teie rääkisite minuga inglise keeles rohkem tunni pärast kui tunnis.
I am an old American man now but I definitely still remember Marek and Margus and Maria and Jane. Is that all of my dear and learned students? No, not quite. Of course I remember Batman and Robin – Venno and Ülo. I believe that you spoke in English with me after class more than during class.

Ma tänan kõigile nii rikas mälestused jaoks. Ma soovin teile kõike paremat tulevikus. Lõpuks, ma jagan teiga sõnad üks suur saksa keelt õpetajalt kes ma tunnen: Hip Hip Hoorah! Hip Hip Hoorah! Hip Hip Hoorah!
I thank everyone for such rich memories. I wish you all the best for the future. Lastly, I share with you the words of a great German teacher that I know: Hip Hip Hoorah!

Minu poolt Atlandist,
From my side of the Atlantic,

Kevin Hogan