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Uncategorized   |   Oct 12, 2008

Letter from a former student

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Letter from a former student

By Angela Watson

This is the kid whom I nearly yelled at only ten minutes into the first day of school. I was undergoing the tedious task of trying to figure out how children would be going home at the end of the day (“Um. I think my mom is gonna pick me up? But I also ride the bus sometimes. No, I don’t know which one. But I used to go on the purple bus until I lived with my grandma.”). Argh. So I ask this kid whom I’ll call Elsa, “How are you going home today?”.

She stares at me. I repeat the question. She stares at me. “Elsa. Are you riding a bus?” She shakes her head tentatively. Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. “Do you go to aftercare?” Shakes head again. “Can you walk home?” No response. I sigh. “Okay, Elsa seems to be a little bit shy about talking in front of the class. I will ask her later. Jerome, how are you getting home?”

I go up to Elsa later and whisper, “Elsa, do you walk home?”. She stares at me. “Elsa. You have to tell me. How are you getting home? I won’t know what to do with you at 2:00 if you don’t say something. ELSA. Seriously. If you don’t know, say ‘I don’t know’ and I will find out for you. But you have to say something. You can’t just ignore my questions.”

Nothing. The girl next to her raises her hand. “Um. Ms. Powell? Elsa doesn’t speak any English.”

Now it’s my turn to stare. “Why? Didn’t. You. TELL ME? That. Twenty minutes ago?”

So as it turns out, Elsa speaks no English. She has just moved here from, let’s say, Venezuela. I pity her, and also pity myself. It will be a long year of badgering another eight-year-old to translate every thing I say, all day long. Of searching out pre-primer readers for her independent reading box. Of working one-on-one in math. Of playing the Spanish version of the science video series before school. Of creating a special reading ‘group’, just for Elsa. Of discovering English learning software and scheduling time for her to use it. Of begging other staff to write notes home for me in Spanish. Of pantomiming “Please don’t throw away your trash right now” and “Get your notebook out of your backpack” and “No, you cannot use the bathroom during a science test which you cannot read but must complete anyway so I can record yet another failing grade which will magically become a ‘C’ on your report card”.

Fortunately Elsa is a sweet girl, and very smart. She catches on fast. I learn that her mom is still in Venezuela and Elsa lives here with dad. She misses her mom very much. Elsa has another Spanish-speaking child tell me, “You are like a mom to Elsa.” She instantly becomes one of my favorites, although of course, I do not have favorites. I miss her over the summer.

Last week, Elsa hands me a folded up TWO PAGE note as her class passes mine on the way to the cafeteria. Portions of it read:

“Hi, Ms. Powell. I am Elsa. Ms. Powell, you was the best teacher ever. you were so nice with me and the class. I am living {leaving} this year for Venezuela with my parents. I am not happy because I am living. I am going to miss you Ms. Powell everybody but I going to miss you so much. Thank you so much for everything that you did for me when I did not stand any English. Love Elsa”

I heart Elsa. Elsa makes me ‘stand why I teach.


Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. What a sweet girl. It is difficult to understand what is going on in a child’s mind at any given point in time. Your understanding meant so much to her. I agree that moments like these are what teaching is all about.

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