Today I had such an interesting and eye opening experience. The last few weeks I’ve been seriously questioning my career choice. Not because I hate my job, but because my job is really hard, really long hours, sometimes not so rewarding, and it is sometimes a very draining,and energy sucking career.
That being said… today was one of those days I was like “Oh. Now I remember why I teach.” This letter is to some of my students today.
Today you cried in our lesson and some of you wept. I’m sorry for those experiences you’ve had at such a young age that brought such strong emotions. At the same time, I’m so glad that you are in my class. I’m so glad that you shared those tears today. I’m so glad you came today. You are my first-generation high school students. You are my ESL students. You are my immigrant students. You are some of my favorite students.
When I chose the movie “Una Mejor Vida” [A Better Life], I had you in mind. I knew that many of your parents had immigrated here. I figured that many of them were undocumented immigrants and many of you were natural born citizens. I knew even if your parents weren’t undocumented, you might have relatives that were. I knew that when I taught about immigration to Ellis Island and their experiences in the 1800’s, I wanted to show you that unfortunately this country has struggled with immigrants for a long time. I wanted to show you that you weren’t alone. I assumed that you would relate to this and it might help you see how relevant history is. What I didn’t know, was how fresh your wounds are, how broken some of your hearts are, and how hard this movie would hit you.
What I couldn’t say today to the class, because it’s my job as a teacher to play the middle ground, present both sides, and do my best to remove my bias from the topics, is that I don’t want your families ripped apart. I want the politicians to stop talking about immigration like you are boxes shipped from place to place; to stop talking that all immigrants are gangsters, drug lords, and criminals out to corrupt America.
I did say that I don’t have the answers to politics or immigration, and that I do know that we are dealing with people and their families- and that requires that up most respect and consideration of all the topics in politics. I want your friends, teachers, and peers to see that you have a story to tell and it is a wonderful story! But I also wanted to say I love you. I wanted to give each of you a hug and to wipe your tears. I wanted to comfort you and tell you it will all be ok. I did it as best I could, without violating any of the laws that, unfortunately due to others poor choices, make it a little more challenging to help you know we teachers care about you, but I wish I could have just taken you under my wing and told you: It’s going to be ok. We will figure this out.
So to my students: We will figure this out. I want those politicians to see your tears. I want them to get along so we can fix this immigrant system for both sides and so you can be with your families. I know we need to have security in this country, that is a must. But I also know that there are wonderful people like you who wept today- who had to step out of the room because this hit home in a way that you couldn’t handle to watch it in a movie anymore. This was real life. This was reality. We will figure this out. I will help you. I love you. Hang in there. I promise I will fight for you. I will help figure this out. Never forget that I care about you and I will fight for your future even if you give up. I will always, always, always fight for you.
See you tomorrow.