Thursday, March 10, 2011

The American Dream

My "Infamous 7th Period" hit an all-time low yesterday, with me having to call security and actually have the principal come in and deal with the kids.  Why?  Because I had the audacity to call the kids out on their abominable behavior for the sub while I was gone.  I was actually shaking by the time class was over.  Once again, I asked myself "What is the point?  Is this all for nothing?"  As my wonderful friend, Ms. K said, "Sometimes I ask myself that and the best I can come up with is, that it pays my bills."

I have always felt that any kind of service profession is a calling.  Sometimes, a calling feels like a glorified way of saying "I do a job that is hard work for crummy pay that no one really appreciates."  Sometimes, though, I have a day like today and I realize why I am here.  David joined my 11th grade class a few weeks ago.  I found him to be polite, well-behaved and highly motivated.  He is from Honduras and speaks decent, but heavily accented, English.  I also discovered right away that he must have faced some pretty heavy challenges because when I asked him to have his parents sign something he told me "I have no parents.  I sign my own papers."

Today, 10th graders had SOLs, which means that my normally 75 minute 2nd period, was 3 hours long.  UGH.  Then, because so many  people had still not finished, an announcement was made that it would be stretched into a fourth hour.  Needless to say, we ran out of things to do, so I just started talking to the students.  David told me he wants to join the USMC.  This evolved into a conversation about his life.  Here is the basic story.  David's entire family was killed by Honduran military/police when he was 12.  He just happened to be out of the house that day.  Homeless, with no family, and fearing for his life, David joined a group of people who crossed the water to arrive in the U.S. illegally.  He literally swam.  Once he got to Texas, he was caught and put in a detention home for six months while our government decided to either give him papers or deport him.  Luckily, they gave David papers and then brought him to Virginia where he was put in a foster home.

David began working as much as he could in addition to attending school.  He saved his money and kept the cash in his room.  Then he told me, "My foster mother said she loved me.  She'd buy me things all the time.  Then one day, she tells me to give her my cash and she will open an account for me because it will be safer in a bank.  Then I find out she has taken all of my money.  When I asked her why, she said it was to pay her back for all the things she bought me.  I told her I never asked for anything.  I told my social worker and my foster mother said it was only $100, but it was $1,600 and I couldn't prove it."  At that point, David began the process of becoming an emancipated minor.  David now rents someone's basement, works 60 hours a week at the local grocery store, and rides his bike everywhere because he does not drive.

It strikes me just now that David did not tell his story with any sense of self-pity, he was very matter of fact.  He doesn't want a hand out, he just wants an opportunity.  I have had conflicting opinions of the immigrant issue in this country.  However, this young man reminds me of the complexity of this issue.  Ironically, my 10th graders are going to start Of Mice and Men and we are going to talk about "The American Dream".  The American Dream is  the idea that anyone from any background, race, religion, creed or economic standing can be born in or come to the United States and make it all the way to the top if they are willing to work for it.

This is the difference between David and many of my other students.  David has no one and nothing, but he has a dream (to join the Marines) and he is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that.  My other students, on the other hand, think they should do a minimum of work, act like savages and still get good grades, be accepted into college and go on to become sports stars.  Its distressing to say the least.  However, a kid like David can give me a lot of momentum and keep it all in perspective.

No comments:

Post a Comment