At the end of this week is our school’s musical.
For the past two years, I’ve connived with other teachers to bring a cohort of English Learners to the musical in the fall and the school play in the spring.
This year, it didn’t look like it was going to happen.
I’ve always had the principal be able to talk to the drama teacher, who needs a revenue stream, and is, understandably, reluctant to decrease ticket prices. And this year the principal is new. And I don’t know how to access funding through the school. Everything is different, harder. I don’t get immediate answers to emails. I don’t know how to grease the wheels.
But I have a reason to argue for my students to get a bit of a break. I don’t think most people are aware of how awful it is to be a refugee.
First, you give up everything you’ve ever known: your language, your neighborhood, your lifestyle.
Then you move to a place that is totally foreign, where you don’t know the food, the money, the language, the customs.
This alone is enough to trigger some serious PTSD. Not to mention that the fact that you’re a refugee means that you are either running from something or somebody doesn’t want you anymore. This is the case for many of my students, as they are arriving from refugee camps that are closing.
Refugee camps are meant to be short-term holding spaces. But these short-term spaces have turned into communities, and for many of my students, it’s the only home they’ve ever known. They were born there. They don’t remember the country their parents ran away from. Many times, they’ve never been there.
This video shows one of the camps that many of the Nepali-speaking Bhutanese students came from. Camp life is not easy. The school is based on the British educational system, and classes are in English. One year, I was so excited to find a list of math terms in Nepali. Our Nepali liaison said it was very interesting, but it would not be helpful for our students, as they learn all math in English.
How crazy is that?
Can you imagine going to school in a completely different language than the one you speak at home? And now they come here, and our English is not the English of their country. It is one of many World Englishes. There are whole books and conferences exploring the many ways English is different across the world.
This article, written one year ago to try to argue against myth and fears surrounding Syrian refugees, explains how these refugees are not welfare cases. They have to pay back their flights. They pay taxes. They do not get automatic subsidized housing. Like indigent Americans, they must wait to get Section 8 housing, which can take years. Until then, they stay in the least expensive accommodations they can find.
I have students who are working third shift and then trying their hardest to get up for school in the morning. It’s not an easy life.
So they need a little compassion. They need boots. And coats. Blankets. Help turning on the heat and then help paying for the bills.
I showed a student a video of a blizzard, and her jaw dropped.
“Do you have a coat?”
“Boots? Do you have boots?”
We measured up our feet and I’m currently looking, hoping I’ll find some size 9s before the first snow hits.
But my kiddos need some breaks, some help learning about our culture and lives and all these weird things they have to deal with that are not at all like what they consider home.
So this past week, while we were discussing how to get artists into my classroom to help my students learn English in a different way, I mentioned this to Stacy Raphael, who works as the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts’ program director for teaching artists, and is a teaching artist in her own right, and she said she might be able to help.
“The Flynn’s mission is to get kids into artistic opportunities. And how much is it, like $100?”
It’s actually less. Student tickets are $8.
So this week, we’ll find out. I think Stacy might make it happen.
And for that, I am eternally grateful.
Even for the promise to try to help.
It brings tears to my eyes.
This morning, I walked into the school and a woman who just makes things happen walked up to me. She has been involved in the PTO at every level where my own children were. And she just gets things done.
She told me this morning that she would make sure the school would pay for my students to go.
I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!