Written by an immigrant

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The following is now a couple of years old so I feel that I can safely post it without worrying about exposing the writer. I always change names to protect the innocent. I also decline to write great posts that simply cannot be made anonymous. The exact words a child cut into his or her flesh are too revealing.

In an opening assignment, I asked students to write a paragraph. I don’t even remember the exact topic. Here was one result:

“It’s very important for a parent to pay attention to a child. My parents sometimes forget when (they) are too busy like working two jobs. I get sometimes sad and a little bit left out. I think they should spend more time with me so I could feel better and they could become better adults.”

Another student wrote about how kids might not eat and they might get sick.

Eduhonesty: I have had many immigrant students by now with parents who work during the evening and parents who work two jobs. One part-time, minimum wage may not be enough to survive, but two can get you by. A man with two full-time minimum wage jobs whose wife has at least one job can pay for a car, an apartment and the survival needs of the family. These parents often diligently inquire after the homework and may make it to student conferences to check up on their children’s progress.

I don’t have much to add to this post. But if we wonder why some school districts always seem to be struggling academically, I think this post provides part of the answer. Thirteen year olds who are feeding themselves and their siblings, taking responsibility for doing their own homework, and managing a household can easily become overwhelmed. The homework will be triaged, thrown off the task list in favor of food and laundry. “Ana” was often tired, a little girl with large, sad brown eyes who caused almost no trouble in class. Every so often I had to wake her up. If I had to guess, I’d bet she’s a mom now, barely twenty with a couple of a kids. Where Ana lives, lonely, pretty, mostly unsupervised girls usually become young mothers.

I can see readers indignantly thinking that social service agencies ought to be rescuing “Ana” and others like her. But those agencies are mostly busy managing emergencies, children in real physical danger from abuse or children who have no food in the house. “Ana” had loving parents and enough to eat. Should her parents have been home more often in the evenings? In an ideal world, the answer’s obvious, but in this world, the money for rent and groceries has to come from somewhere.