By Trina Otero
My former middle school students have been writing me on Facebook and Instagram, asking, no..practically begging, me to come back and be their teacher again. That sucks. You know why? Because it isn’t that simple. First of all, it sucks because many of them thought I left them….so I had to explain to them how much I loved my job and loved being there for them [they should already know this] and I explained that the administration decided to hire someone else for the position after I completed my term [as an ENL Tutor]. Don’t worry, I wasn’t a bad girl — I did a fantastic job there — another person was hired because she has been working for the school system for many years…so I guess it was decided that she deserved a better job [totally understandable]. It is also unfortunate that the school thinks there is no need for another tutor in the ENL program [which, sadly, is far from the truth]. I would love to return and work with my kids — they are my “babies” — and honestly, I’d volunteer at the school everyday if I could. But that is not the case right now, so I remain in Europe dedicating my time to travels and my writing.
This whole situation has bothered me since I started to receive messages from my students. At first I thought they missed me, which of course they do. They were sending messages during their summer break. But, the messages have not stopped and they are now into their second month of school. It breaks my heart that decisions were made without the consideration of the students in mind. I mean, hello, that is what this should be about — the kids. What should be considered is: Was there any significant, positive change within the last year? Did the students’ grades improve over time? On average, did the English fluency rate improve? Have behaviors changed in a positive way? What is the feedback from the children? What do the children want? Are the students able to understand and learn with the current staff in place? How do the ENL teachers feel about their team members?
While I was there, I took the time and energy to get to know all the students, and I figured out how to communicate with them and motivate them to focus, work/study, and dream. My students weren’t just “some kids” I had to teach, help, and do translations for, they were [and still are] human beings….people….with individual personalities, backgrounds, thoughts, emotions, and goals. Everyday I was there to be their friend, confidante, therapist, nurse, family, tutor….because, let’s face it….teaching is NOT just teaching. If you are true to your job as a teacher, you know EXACTLY what I am talking about here. Teachers are more than just teachers. We are an active, constant figure/role model in our students’ lives. And once our students trust us, they come to us willingly, all the time, for advice, encouragement, help, comfort, food [yes, food], hugs, and simply to charlar.
While at the school, of course I wasn’t the only one who cared for the students this way. The ENL staff, which only consisted of two teachers and myself, was a tight-knit unit and we treated our students like our kids. We were like a family. The three of us somehow made it work, everyday, even though there was only three of us and more than 100 students that needed ENL services. But don’t be surprised America, this is your public school system. Where programs are understaffed, overworked, and poorly funded.
But I love them, and although I was overworked and should have had the title “ENL Teacher” instead of “ENL Tutor,” I loved the job. I love my students. And….maybe if the students keep begging….the school will find enough money to hire another staff member ::coughs:: [me, of course] and I’d gladly accept the job again. 🙂 Or maybe this honest rant [well, this wasn’t really a rant, was it?] ruined my chances? Honestly, I’m not sure….but I’d rather speak the truth than forever hold my peace. That is just the type of woman I am.
Plus, do you have any idea how many teachers in the US are fed up and boldly speaking up in the blogosphere?!?! Yes, “America,” wake up….our school system is b-r-o-k-e-n.