Thursday, March 29, 2012

Los profesores aquí

Day 29 of 31 at TWT!
Today is the third and final snapshot in my mini-series of posts about A., my most special student ever.  Earlier this week, I shared her background storythe first snapshot, and the second snapshot.

After I found out that A. was undocumented, I worried about her constantly.  (Sometimes I still worry, and it's been several years!)  When she was absent (which was rare), I immediately started to panic: what if she... or her mom... or both had been deported?  But the next day always brought a sigh of relief: her bright smile was there to greet me again.  Every day is probably a gift to her and her mom...

I later found out (accidentally) that A. hadn't told anyone else she was here illegally.  She had told me so casually that it hadn't occurred to me that she hadn't also told the bilingual aide and the other ESL teacher!  I knew we had a close relationship, but I didn't realize until that moment how absolutely she trusted me.

But today's story isn't about A.'s struggles like the other two snapshots were.  At least, not completely.  Today's story is ultimately a happy one because of what it says about teachers in my district.

One day in first period, A. and I started talking about the other schools she had been to.  I learned that she had bounced around even more than I had thought:
                from the first school she attended in our district
                          to a different school in the large urban district bordering our town
 back to the first school she attended in our district
                                              until she finally wound up at School #3 with me.

When I asked her if she liked this school and what she thought of the other schools, she gave me the greatest compliment a student can give a school: "Los profesores aquí se preocupan por los estudiantes." (Teachers here care about the students.")  She then went on to explain that when she was at the school in the large urban district, the teachers didn't pay any attention to her.  She just sat all day, drowning in English, with nobody to help her.  How awful.  Maybe they didn't know what to do with her.  Maybe there weren't enough bilingual aides.  Not a favorable review of the large urban district.  But in our district, she felt a difference.  That's probably why her mom worked so hard to try to move back here...

She felt like we cared.  And we did.  So much that I was truly devastated when the last day of school came, knowing that she'd move onto high school and I'd probably never see her again.  I've been sad to part with other students before and since, but the hole they leave in my heart is basically refilled by new students who are just as fun, energetic, special, and kind.

A. left a different kind of impact though: a whole new story to carry with me. I carry her story of hardship and hope, and it makes me a better teacher and a better person.


  1. When anyone in our live has this kind of an impact on us, " it makes me a better teacher and a better person" that is something to celebrate.

  2. Have you ever tried to find out if she is still in the district? You made a difference to this girl. She learned English, but also compassion from a teacher. Wonderful story Jennifer.

    1. Oh yes! I found out this fall from a traveling teacher that she is still at a high school in our district and doing well! :-)

  3. I read these final two stories, Jennifer. I believe you gave a big gift to that young woman, although you may never know, but the way you feel must reflect some of what she felt too. I am hopeful that our country can change in order to help these kids. We have many stories like this in Colorado. I just taught a short story group using immigrant stories. The work & experience just getting across the border is frightening. Thank you for sharing this poignant story.


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