I recently read Girl in Translation, a wonderful novel about a young girl who has emigrated from Hong Kong to the United States and is living in essentially two worlds: one of maintaining her “good student” status, and one of a sweatshop worker.
Posts Tagged ‘Social Studies’
Language, it turns out, isn’t the only barrier. She writes about trying to find usable trash to complete her dioramas, and later, failing Social Studies class because she does not have a television or radio at home (and spends her nights in the sweatshop, anyway) to complete her daily assignment to watch or listen to the evening news.
Of course, this is one fictionalized story – although the author herself was an immigrant that worked in a sweatshop. Just a few days after reading that, I saw a question in LA Parent, where a parent had been told at the parent teacher conference to hire a tutor for her hcild, yet the family couldn’t afford one. I’m guessing this mother either simply hoped to make it work, or didn’t feel comfortable telling the teacher that this wasn’t financially viable for them; that maybe the teacher would question their commitment if they balked at the suggestion.
It can be intimidating for students to speak openly with a teacher about their struggles. It can be embarrassing for parents to talk about their financial concerns, or other personal problems that may be going on. The older I’ve gotten, the more experiences I’ve endured, I trust only when I feel it has been earned.
My daughters have become more selective about their own life stories to both friends and teachers; my youngest would prefer that no one at her school knew that her dad has been in and out of jail for most of her childhood. Yet, her schoolwork is affected by her father’s circumstances, and it has even affected a few friendships. My older daughter is not only has her own feelings about her father to manage, but middle school friendships, a body changing beyond her control, and trying to find enough hours in the day to do the things she loves to simply remember that life should be enjoyable from time to time.
Education cannot fit in one box for all children and the many different situations they live in, but schools should be a place where children feel safe enough to dare to venture. Teachers aren’t therapists, but should be open enough for students and parents to feel free of judgment.