I love going back to the school I taught at for two years just to say hello. The kids always greet me with hugs and I get to let them know I haven’t forgotten about them.
It is actually really important to me that they know that I still think of them. See, the school I taught at is a place where all the kids are immigrants, who have left people they love behind in another country. The school I taught at is a place where the kids see their parents either before they go to bed or as they are waking up for a few minutes at a time. The kids fend for themselves a lot, learned to cook at a young age, they pick up their smaller siblings from school and help them with their homework. Some of them have jobs of their own, because their immigrant parents’ minimum wage goes only so far, even if they have worked 84 hours that week. So it goes without being said that they also get a hug only sparingly and are told they are loved only occasionally.
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It is important to me that they are reminded that they are loved and cared for, even if I am the one to remind them, just so that they are aware that even though others have left and never looked back, some of us will always be there for them.
I went back last year during their “Thanksgiving meal” and for their holiday party before school was out. I went back last year for the boys’ championship baseball game…to which I made it just in time to see the ball caps flying in the air after they’d already won. This year, there was no Thanksgiving meal and there was no holiday party, business ran as usual. In an attempt to disrupt class the least possible, I made sure to visit during their lunch period.
I was greeted by the security who remembered me and let me right in, as she had during previous visits. It warmed my heart each time that she not only remembered me but still considered me a part of the community.
I entered the cafeteria to find few students had come in on the last day of school before break. This did not surprise me. Such was the case during the two years I worked there and during the last visits as well. I did find a few of my kiddos who were expecting me–one even had chocolates for me as a holiday gift…can you imagine had I not made it?
I spoke to them during lunch, they are mostly graduating now. I taught them as 9th and 10th graders and now they are all tall and bearded or have shed they baby weight that once made their faces round and cherubic. They look like veritable adults!
They told me about their college applications and how they have heard positive news from a few colleges. They told me about their current courses and how they talked about the election in all their classes the day of, but that the principal made no attempt to address them, even as those of my children who were undocumented cried between classes in the halls. They talked about how they haven’t been on one field trip this year, or trips at all. One told me about how he failed music this marking period because as he was handing in his final, the teacher said he had taken the wrong exam and wouldn’t allow him to take the actual exam.
And I was angry. I was angry because I knew the principal wouldn’t talk to them, as the person who leads them, and I couldn’t make it to the school that day.
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I was angry because field trips not only help to re-engage kids, build community, but are also one of few opportunities to experience nature or people other than their own that these kids have while living in an environment like the one in which they live which affords them little by the way of culture and nature.
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The impact of student field trips
Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature
I was angry because that kid who failed his music class, of all classes, has two parents (and is an anomaly for it) who both work long hours and who couldn’t make it to the school and advocate for him and so he just gets to fail even though he is one of the brightest in his class.
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I was angry because this teacher’s expectation is that he fail and therefore, he doesn’t believe it is worth his time to re-test him and what he doesn’t know is that his expectation of failure by his students breeds failure.
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These and all of the other injustices in that building make me want to punch a wall because I am neither someone who can ask that the principal to be there for her students nor someone who can advocate directly for a child who is not my own.
In fact, forty minutes into my what was supposed to be a fifty-minute visit, I was asked to go get a visitors pass. I said, that I had announced my visit days prior to coming, that the security guard allowed me by because she believes I am still part of the community and that it would take me about as long as I have left in my visit to go get a visitor’s pass. She retorted with the phrase “safety issue” and the word “liability” within her sentence, but I couldn’t be bothered to listen. I replied,”right, okay.” I said goodbye to my beautiful kids and left at this point. This story pretty much repeats itself each visit I make.
What they don’t realize amongst the adults at the school is that I will not stop coming by, I will not stop letting my kids know that they are loved, I will not back down because I am asked to. They day I stop coming will be the day that no kid I ever taught remains at the school. So I will be there for their graduation and I will go to prom if a kid uses their +1 on me, as has happened before. They can try as hard as they want under the guise of order…but the kids want me there as far as I understand, which means I have the upper hand.