Many of my students are undocumented. This was true last year, when I taught in an English Language Learners classroom and it remains true today. Some reports that I have seen estimate that as much as 60% of RMS is comprised of students who are undocumented. Last year, as the year went on, I started to figure out, to an extent, which of my students were undocumented. Before breaks, I would ask some of my students if they were going to Mexico, where I knew they had family.
“No, mister. If I go I can’t come back.”
Last year this was a problem for many of my students, but I never addressed it. I knew that some of my students were not documented but I felt like I couldn’t do anything about it. This year I’m addressing it head on. Over the last two days, we have screened a documentary film called “The Dream is Now”, which focuses on the Dream Act, a piece of legislation that would offer a path to citizenship for students who go to college or join the military. In addition, today I brought in several guest speakers from DREAM Act OK, a local organization dedicated to advocating for undocumented students and families.
As one of the guests told me today over lunch, “these kids know something is wrong. They live it, but they don’t have the words to describe it.” Exactly. My kids know the world is not a just place. They know that things have to change or their situation is hopeless, but they don’t know how to conceptualize or self-advocate for these changes. They don’t know the vocabulary; they’ve never been introduced to the ideas of social justice and activism.
As important as it is to look at data and teach to standards, I also think it is integral to these kids’ lives that they are exposed to these ideas because they could be potentially be life-changing. I see in these moments a chance to reach kids, to pull them in to school in a way that they’ve never felt connected before. Already, I have gotten visceral reactions from some of my repeat students that I never got last year. They’re more invested, they feel a stronger relationship, and they are putting more into their writing than they ever did last year.
That’s why I’m here.
http://www.thedreamisnow.org/documentary - It’s 30 minutes long. I feel like everyone would have something to learn from this film if you can spare the time to view it.