This year is my first year outside of the classroom. I have a desk at the district office and get to make and deliver professional learning for our teachers and coaches to support our multilingual learners, but I miss the students badly!
During the days I get to sub, it's a breathe of fresh air. Yes, I get nervous when I don't know what class I am about to walk into, but it always turns out to be worth it. When I am at my desk in a quiet room, I think a lot about my students I got to teach in my various classrooms (and sometimes closets) to remind me of my why. It's easy to lose sight when your why is not right in front of you anymore!
So for Valentine's Day this year, I wanted to write a love letter to all of my former ESL students in the past ten years.
Thank you for allowing me to be myself.
Inside of the classroom, I truly felt like I could be myself with my high school ESL students. I could be silly or I could tell them when I was in a bad mood. You have to embrace the silly when you teach high school newcomers since using gestures, facial expressions, and acting things out are the norm! But the best part was that I never felt embarrassed. Sure, I've had the occasional comment about my shoes or my hair, but that's high school, am I right? Lots of concern over name brands and make up; that just comes with the territory sometimes!
Thank you for showing me that we can do hard things.
Every single day, my ESL students never ceased to amaze me. I had mostly newcomers in my last couple of years and the amount of bravery and courage they have to even speak English in a room full of 35 students when they know they sound different is monumental! They do it for seven periods a day, every day of the week whether they want to or not. They wake up, get on the bus, go to a new school where they barely understand anything, and somehow make it home to finish up homework or babysit, work, or help with dinner.
On top of it all, they are in classes that every other student has to take. Algebra? Okay, here we go! American History, sure! And then they would come to my class and we would read Romeo and Juliet (with comprehensible input, of course!). They are truly my heroes. If they can do it day in and day out, I think I can do one thing each day that scares me.
Thank you for the deep conversations we've had.
One of the reasons I love teaching high school students is that you can have those deep conversations with them. The ones where they tell you they are depressed, the ones where they tell you their parents are in Honduras and they miss them, the ones where they tell you their parents died from the violence in their home country, the ones where they tell you they ran away last weekend, the ones where they tell you their life plans and what they want for their futures. Or the ones where they tell you they have no idea what their future will be! All of them, I appreciated them all. It's all about those real human connections and helping each other through things.
Thank you for opening up your world with me.
I loved hearing little things about their family life or what life was like where they came from. One thing about Covid lock-downs that I actually enjoyed was seeing a glimpse into their family lives. I got to see one girl who always had her two year old little sister with her, and one girl who always had a loud singing bird with sounds of her mom washing dishes in the background. But when they voluntarily gave me stories of their lives, it made me feel so privileged to see that world.
Thank you for teaching me your language.
I tried, I promise I tried so hard! But language learning does not come natural to me! In all of my ten years, I learned about five Arabic words, one Chinese word, and all of the inappropriate Spanish words. I am an emerging to expanding level Spanish learner, and I think I won't get any further unless I move to a Spanish-speaking country. But it was so so fun to have students teach me their language (and make fun of my accent, but that's okay;).
And finally, thank you for letting me serve and advocate for you!
Mess with my multilingual learners, mess with me! ESL teachers are one fierce bunch when it comes to their students. It's a pleasure to get to do so!
Wishing all of my former students much success, whether it be getting a job, becoming a citizen, having children, moving back to their home country, or doing whatever makes them happy. I will always go to bat for you.
I support middle and high school teachers through monthly lesson plans, coaching, and guest speaker offerings in our Secondary ESL Teacher Membership.