For the past 10 months, I've been slaving away at a small, private, for-profit, "university" in Orange County. For professional reasons I will not discuss my working conditions there. I will say though, I was unhappy there. The reason I stood so long was because of my students.
I taught an Intermediate and High Intermediate (I hate those names) ESL Class over the span of my time there. None of my students were younger than 19 years old and at one point, I had a sweet 70-something year old grandmother in my class. People all of all races, religions, professions, ages, and at least 10 different countries were in my classes. To say I learned "a lot" is an understatement. I'm moving on and searching for work elsewhere. Before I left, I wanted to say farewell (for now) to my students.
To all my former students at (removed),
By now, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’m not working at the school anymore... I’m writing to you all to say thank you and farewell (for now).
Throughout my 10 months at (removed), I had the privilege to share cultures, build confidence, and feel proud of the work we did together. Cliche as it may be, we learned something new every day. We discussed so much culture, from Mansaf in Jordan, to getting your hair done in Venezuela, to Nina Simone of the United States. Everyday, provided a small cultural insight that I believe makes us more compassionate and understanding people. Everyday, was a new opportunity to say something you’ve never said in English before. Do you feel confident now? It’s what I wanted for you. I wanted you to feel prepared for the real world, where people speak quickly in slang and never seem to be aware that English is your second language. I’m so proud of the growth I saw in all of you, because whether you know it or not, you improved. The same way a child doesn't realize he's (or she's) getting taller unless his parents measure him on the wall, is the same way you have improved your English ability. Slowly, surely, over time, and with a parent (me) watching over you.
Be confident. Be proud. I am for you.
I want you to know that I had fun during our classes. More than that, I want you to know that I felt alive. Sure, some things we had to do were not fun (e.g. editing) but that’s part of school, right? You’re there to learn and learning takes work and repetition. Especially language. Language takes repetition and even if sometimes we discussed the same topics (believe me, I tried to keep it as varied as possible) I still enjoyed hearing you all talk about them. I enjoyed the interruptions and scoldings from office staff, I enjoyed the disagreements, I enjoyed the environment we created. Even on Monday mornings, when it was cold and grey outside, I would walk in to three or four students who were on time, and by the time it was 9:30, we had a class of 20 - 25 students fully engaged in conversations about vitamins and supplements, superstitions, and things men should not wear. We made time to play and joke around, like the time (removed) yawned so loudly and reminded everyone of Totoro or the way (removed) would always ask people their blood type during the "Hot Seat" game.
Wow, I had so much fun. I sincerely hope you did too.
We say in English, “You can take a boy out of the neighborhood, but you can’t take the neighborhood out of the boy.” It means we are where we are from, regardless of where we end up. So, I say to you an edited version, “You can take a teacher out of the school, but you can’t take the teacher out of a man.” I will always remember my time as your teacher. I have fond memories and positive feelings about the time I spent with you all. Study English. Live in English. Struggle in English. I implore you all, continue learning more than English! I truly believe when you stop learning, you stop living. Be curious. Be interested. Oh please, be interested in the nouns around you.
You are so much more interesting, when you are interested (Maria Popova).
Without your participation and willingness to contribute, what would our classes have been? Thank you for the good times. Thank you for the hard times. Thank you for the bits and pieces of language you taught me. Believe me, I learned just as much as you did.
I’m grateful for your work and presence.
This is farewell, for now, but always feel welcome to contact me.