Lasting Effects of Elementary Student Mobility

Discover why primary students change schools and grasp the devastation it can cause.


| October 2017



handwriting

Nearly three quarters of homeless students live "doubled up" meaning they stay with friends or extended family members.

Photo by Da Capo Press

Separating home life and school life for students can be impossible, as detailed in the book, I Wish My Teacher Knew (Da Capo Press, 2016), by Kyle Schwartz. It helps communities to better understand childrens’ development and build stronger learning environments. Kyle shows that an integral part of teaching is often left out of curriculum manuals: the importance of forming a community. The following excerpt is from chapter 1 “Welcomes and Farewells.”

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“Ms. Schwartz, I have a big surprise for you,” a gleeful voice called out. With thick coke-bottle glasses magnifying his brown eyes, Ronaldo took pride in being the first student to line up each morning when the bell rang. “I read for two hours last night,” he told me, as he put his homework in the basket. Despite English being his second language, Ronaldo was reading a year above grade level. His dream was to be a scientist, and he was always ready to tell you a surprising fact about Venus or volcanoes.

Then one fall day, Ronaldo’s life changed forever. He arrived at school and told me matter-of-factly that he wouldn’t be in my third-grade class much longer. I was told that his father had been detained by the police. The family fought his deportation, but when news came that their appeal had been denied, Ronaldo’s parents made the difficult decision to leave the life they had built in Denver, so that the family would not have to live divided between two countries.

To Ronaldo, the idea of moving to Mexico brought mixed emotions. Of course, being reunited with his father was welcome, but doing so at the cost of leaving the only life he had ever known was intimidating. From the information I had, Ronaldo had been born in the United States and was therefore a US citizen. Colorado was his home. He had attended our school since preschool and had formed tight friendships with his classmates; he was the darling of every teacher who had ever taught him. Before leaving for Mexico, Ronaldo made his last days at our school count. He never missed a single homework assignment, even though an official grade would never be recorded. As the days ticked down, he took it upon himself to come to school each morning with an additional assignment completed: a letter carefully handwritten on blue-lined paper. His first was for me:

Dear Ms. Schwartz,
Thank you for all you have done to teach me, thank you for helping me learn. I will always remember you. Do not forget about me.
Sincerely,
Ronaldo