Submitted by Patricia McConville, (Cafeteria Manager)
We would like to thank everyone for their condolences, cards, and flower over the loss of Rosemary Dixon. We really appreciated the thoughts, prayers, and patience through all of this. Thank you so much.
Submitted by: Katie Kennedy (ESOL)
When teaching, it is important to me to have open, two-way communication with the students in my classroom to create a welcoming atmosphere. I am often one of the first Americans that my students are in contact with and must serve as a cultural ambassador, so-to-speak. Therefore, in my American Culture course, different topics can lead to a variety of open discussions with my students. Every year, it seems, the conversation leads to the students telling me stories about their journey to this country or their lives in their countries. And these stories give me a new perspective on our students that I’d like to share with you.
Before the mass influx of immigrants from Central America this past summer, one of my students told me about her harrowing journey from Honduras when she was 12 – with only an 18-year old cousin and a “guide” helping them on their journey. Her three weeks were spent traveling on packed trains and semis filled with unseemly characters and dangerous nighttime passages through the desert. Unfortunately, this young girl’s travels did not improve upon arrival at the border. Once she crossed, she was escorted to the “freezers”, the warehouses where the Border Patrol houses immigrants who entered the country and are trying to contact relatives in the U.S.. With nothing to warm them and only two ham sandwiches per day for food, she spent three weeks in this warehouse before being sent to Owings Mills to reunite with the mother that left her at age three. Fortunately, this particular student had the benefit of a decent Honduran education and a resilient nature that has allowed her to, so far, succeed.
Another student, a young man, came here alone to live with an uncle, fleeing the violence of El Salvador after seeing his best friend murdered at the hands of a gang. He works six nights a week washing dishes to pay back the $7,000 his family owes a smuggler. To top it off, he only has a 3rd-grade education and is expected to catch up to our rigorous academic standards. But still, he comes to school every day, exhausted, but willing to learn.
Fortunately, most of our students are able to smile through their hardship. Many are dealing with traumatic separation from their parents at early ages – some from infancy, most between the ages of 3 and 8. When they come to the U.S., they are reuniting with parents who are virtual strangers to them and siblings they have never met. A few students have very little formal education and are well-below grade level literacy in their native language, which makes learning academic English a challenge, to say the least. Our most extreme cases have witnessed violence unimaginable to most of us. What amazes me when I hear these stories is how resilient our students are. It reminds me to take a moment to look beyond the curriculum and data collection and get to know my students as individuals. They have the ability to teach me as much as I can teach them.
The Importance of Reading
The importance of reading and appreciating literature is often under addressed in our classrooms. It is very easy for us as educators to get so immersed in our content areas that we forget something as fundamental and common place for us is not as valued by the students that pass through our classrooms. I can remember being excited to read the newest release in my favorite saga in the 7th grade. I relished the in class discussions on the novels we read in my English classes. We were always told that it was important to read but there are so many reasons why that are not often discussed.
The most obvious reason our students think they should read is to gain knowledge. There is no doubt that reading is a fantastic way to gain information but with the technological advances that our students have at their fingertips we as educators are often asked why reading is so important when you can easily gather information from a video or tutorial service. If you’re like me then this query might have left you struggling for an immediate answer. I had never asked why I had to read. I just accepted that it was something you did and the fact that I enjoyed it left me with no thought of questioning why I was doing it.
So what is the importance of reading now that we can acquire knowledge in so many other ways? We don’t want our students to read just to gain information but to foster their ability to empathize. There are scarce few ways to truly understand the point of view of another person than to read their thoughts in a complete, flowing narrative.
“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”
To read a good book is to step into the mind of someone else. How many times have you felt your heart race when reading a dramatic scene out of your favorite novel? How many times have you felt a sense of longing or dread because of an author’s words? I don’t believe there is anytime where a person can honestly say that they would be better off never having read something. Each new narrative is an experience waiting to be had and those are experiences that our students deserve to have. I am sure that we all want our students to be better, more complete human beings and there are precious few ways that we can do that better than by urging them to see someone else’s thoughts and ideas through a book.
Whether it’s for entertainment, empathy, or just gathering knowledge we need to push and encourage our young people to step into the minds of others through literature. They have a wealth of human experience at their disposal and we would be irresponsible in not urging them to seize those experiences when they have them readily available. See the world through the pages of our world’s greatest minds.