My teaching profile sheet from my last job at an eikaiwa (conversation school).
Hands down, this is the one thing that I can say without reservation has gotten harder to bear over time. My relationship with my students was not one of friendship or scholarship, but more of a therapeutic one in which I largely functioned as a counselor and they as clients. The biggest part of good therapy is that you listen respectfully, attentively, and with empathy and get people to talk about themselves as much as possible. The biggest part of good conversation teaching is that you listen respectfully, attentively, and with empathy. There is a bond of trust that you build over time that cannot be easily replicated in any other relationship. From my point of view, the teacher and student relationship was better than that of a client and counselor because there was no expectation that I'd solve their problems, but only that I'd improve their English. The latter is a far easier task than the former, and with far less dire consequences if one fails.
The relationship I had with my students was close, deep, and authentic. I miss talking to them and knowing that I was helping them in multiple ways, and I doubt that will ever change no matter how many years pass since my departure from Japan.