At the beginning of December, I had 29 ELL students that I saw every weekday. Some of them spend two or three hours with me every day. They’re too old to be my children, but they’re my brother’s age. Many of them feel like they are a part of my family.
Then, I had 28, after a shy, polite newcomer felt the pull to go back to work to make money to support himself and his family. He is 19.
The week before winter break, we had an early dismissal because of snow. A fifteen-year-old boy from South America was wandering the halls with no way home. I didn’t have my car and had to walk home. I asked an administrator what to do to help him. I was sent to three more administrators, and after a few fruitless phone calls, I was dismissed and he was sentenced to four hours in a conference room by himself. His parents died in his home country and he lives with relatives he doesn’t know well.
Over break, a student brought me flancocho (flan cake) and an announcement that she was moving back home to be with her family. She was barely 14 and had tried a difficult four months away from home. She wants to be a pharmacist.
Expecting to see 27 of my students when I returned to work, I was dismayed to learn that another nineteen-year-old boy had gotten a day job over break. He wants to send money to his mother back home. He is a charming kid. Once, he said to me, “Teacher, you are looking junger and junger every day.” Another time, he asked permission to read his science book after finishing his homework.
It’s been two weeks since break, and I’m now down to 25 students. A counselor emailed me to tell me a student had returned to his home country during break and could not return to Iowa City. This was odd, since he had been at school since break, and the students who live in his neighborhood report that he still lives there.
Two students will move at the end of January. Two more students report that they will be moving “any day now.”
I miss the students who have left, and I worry about them along with the ones who remain. I am tired of crying each time I find out about another sad story or about another student who is leaving. When I cried, it was half for the student and half for my own sadness that they were gone. When I was done crying, I wanted to act. I have a lesson plan that outlines average salaries for people with and without high school diplomas and compares that information to the cost of living. I have hopes of creating a GED class outside of school for those who needed to work or who were too old to finish a diploma. I have an idea for a fantastic mentoring pair.
I found out about the earthquake in Haiti on Wednesday night. One of my students is from Haiti. His parents and siblings still live there. He doesn’t know where they are or what has happened to them. He does know that they lived in a severely affected area of Haiti. I cried about this too, but there isn’t a “plan of action” I can create to solve the problem or to make myself feel better. But not acting was not an option.
We’ve made a donation to Compassion International.
I’m linking to this post on Money Saving Mom, who will donate $10 to relief efforts for each blog post or comment about what people are doing to help.
I’m praying for Haiti, and I’m praying for peace for my Haitian student.
My lesson plans look different, too. Friday, we discussed what happened in Haiti. We discussed inequality in the U.S. and around the world. Next week, instead of reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, we’ll devote class time to create a fundraising effort headed by my students. I wanted to do this but didn’t want to push it. But they asked me, “So, what can we do?”
If you’d like to make a donation to help Compassion International help Haiti, there is a link at the top of the page. If you’d like to encourage my students in their fundraising efforts by making your donation through them, please let me know.