The end of the school year also marks the end of bilingual education for my fifth-grade students. With the prospect of “Dual Language” coming up through the grade levels in this district, there may come a day when I don’t have to worry as much about the issue of language with regards to their matriculation, but the STATE exams (STAAR) after 5th grade, as far as I can tell– are still ONLY GOING TO BE GIVEN IN ENGLISH after 5th grade, so the inevitability of their becoming English Proficient is still just as much an issue, and WORRY for me.
For the past nine months, my student’s school days have had two major focuses: learning English and passing the STAAR exams in Reading, Science and Math. Next year, in middle school, they must be ready to study completely in English.
The last week of school will also mark the end of breakfast brought to them in the classroom, the end of Spanglish-splattered banter with teachers and friends and the end of sheltered English instruction. From here on out, they will be expected to matriculate in English with little support.
As teachers approach these final days together, as soon as the final results come in from the latest STAAR retests we will be busy setting up summer school for the very few who didn’t quite pass the State tests, we will be practicing our fifth-grade Celebration Ceremony, signing yearbooks, exchanging email addresses and phone numbers and saying our “goodbyes,” sometimes tearfully, as we send them off into the last summer of their childhood.
I worry about how they will adjust to middle school. I worry about whether I’ve taught them enough to excel academically regardless of the educational environments they encounter.
I worry about whether they will have retained enough of the life skills I’ve tried to teach them to survive.
As they head off into their futures, I will become a vague memory of the lady who taught them … something.
In 10 years they may remember my name, they might remember that we had fish tanks and animals in the room. And if they continue to use it, they might remember that it was here that we began their “positive digital footprint” as we all learned to “blog” together. They might look at their early posts someday and think about what it felt like to write and publish…for the first time. Some of them may even realize that it was here they learned to love poetry…but in all likelihood, they will not remember the reading skills and strategies I taught them to pass their first “exit exam.” Although they may still use them, they probably will have made them part of their cognitive work skills, and will not remember the time and effort we spent learning the math facts, multiplication tables and math problem-solving skills.. The same holds true for the history, social studies, the language acquisition strategies and the science vocabulary, cycles, systems and information that we covered for 37 weeks… little if anything will be remembered. But I hope they learned how to learn — and better yet, how they learn best.
And I hope they will remember the life lessons of goal-setting, problem-solving and self-evaluation. What I hope they will continue to use are the seeds of hope and inspiration for a better future through hard work, dedication to studies and the knowledge that learning is an ongoing process necessary for a successful and fruitful life.
It is a given that many of these children that I have spoken with, laughed with and cried with — almost daily, during the course of this school year — I may never see again.
Will they heed my warnings and stay away from drugs and gangs? Will they follow my advice, postpone their “love lives” and continue their educations? Will they use the study skills and habits I’ve tried so hard to instill in them this year?
Have I given them enough?