Because they are kids, that's why!

Throughout California and many other states in the US, there is a large hispanic population. I won't be surprised to hear that hispanics outnumber whites in CA when the census numbers roll in soon. Anyway, an aquaintance asked me the other day how I had the audacity to teach students who are here illegally. The answer is quite simple - because they are kids, that's why. It's my job as a teacher to teach children. I don't care where they come from, they are getting an education whether they like it or not!

I got to thinking about it later on and it really bugged me. It bothers me that people take things out on children who are 99% innocent (there's always the one that isn't, but that's another story). The children I have in my class of 20 are here with their parents doing what they do - being kids. They have no choice in the matter. They don't get to choose where they live, what they do, etc.

I am not crazy about the idea of people coming into the country illegally. But, when adults come in and bring their children or have their children here, then it's my time to stop giving a crap about the parents and worry about the children. They are the ones who suffer time and time again because of the choices their parents make. I don't claim to be the best parent in the world and I have made mistakes, but I like to think I do it all for my daughter the best I can. I think parents who bring their children to this country have the same intentions, or I hope they do.

In my 12 classes of first graders, I would say about half of my students have been Spanish speaking. Some are from Mexico, but the majority have been born in the states and have been raised in CA their entire life (the short 5 or 6 years of it!). The one thing I have noticed with my classes of students is that I will take student whose parents are from Mexico ANYDAY over a student whose parents were born in the states but still refuse to learn English or use it as an excuse.

This last year, I started off with 13 English learners, all of whom spoke Spanish. Most of them were 1st generation "Americans" whose parents came from Mexico or other Central American countries. Those parents were hard core! Their children were the top of the class. The parents made sure their kids knew what was going on. The parents found help anywhere they could get it. The parents would do anything necessary to make sure their child learned and did what they were supposed to do.

But yes, there were those parents who used it as an excuse. They couldn't help their child because they didn't know English and they were OK with it. They were OK with the fact that their child was far below grade level because they don't need to be at grade level, it's OK. Those drive me crazy! Why wouldn't you want your child to be successful and learn and be able to be part of a functioning society?

Then there are those kids who work their asses off (even in first grade) to learn and be at grade level only to have their parents pick and move back to Mexico. That I don't understand. I have had several students who have gotten to grade level in reading - in English - only to go back to Mexico in 2nd or 3rd grade and not be prepared for schooling down there since they aren't able to read in the language. It makes me sad for the kid who worked so hard and now has to work even harder, thanks to his or her parents.

I hope, in my Pollyanna views, that the students who are here with their parents, legally or illegally, will go on to graduate high school and college, get good jobs in the world and make a change in the world I will grow old in. Do I think that will happen? Probably for a fraction of the students I have taught and will continue to teach, but not for the majority. And that makes me sad, for any child.

But, as long as kids are with their parents in this country, it is my job to teach them. I don't have to like what their parents do or how they got here, but it is my responsibility to teach their children to the best of my ability so one day they can have a chance!

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