One of the things I have loved about being an EL teacher in a small school is that I get to work with my students over multiple years. Research in language acquisition generally suggests that it takes between five to seven years to learn academic English. As a K-4 teacher, I often have students who work with me from Kindergarten through Fourth Grade.
Spending several years working with each of my students offers an incredible opportunity to build lasting relationships with my language learners. The corollary to this is that saying good-bye to my students can be even more difficult. I have to say good-bye to my students for a number of reasons. Sometimes it's because they are 'graduating' from the Elementary School and moving on to the Middle School. Sometimes it's because they are moving to another district. And sometimes it's because they have reached the exit criteria that has been set for the English Language Program.
The letter below is from one of my former students who had been recently exited from the program. After several months, she came to me to ask why she could no longer come to my class. As I had told her before, I explained that she had already learned everything she needed to from my class...and it was time for her to learn new things with new teachers. I felt pretty proud of my explanation, and then I got this note:
Dear Mrs. Karalson, I realy wish that I was in your class again I forgot evething that I learned when I was in your class Please take me back! PLEASE Love, M.
This is probably one of the cutest notes I have received from one of my students. She is a very bright girl who took a very calculated approach to pulling at my heartstrings. I did double-check her scores to make sure she was doing well in the classroom without my support - and, of course, she was. In many ways, I wish I could hold on to some of my students for much longer. But in the end, I know that they do need to move on to new teachers to learn new things and build new relationships. And when that happens, I hope these students know that even though they are no longer in my class, they will never be forgotten.