Skip to main content

Still I Rise Reprise

Long before I began raising my own emerging bilinguals, I dedicated my life to raising others. I’ve now been a certified ESL teacher for a decade, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with a wide range of emerging bilinguals from kindergarten to adult learners, but the majority of my time has been spent teaching middle schoolers. 

There must be a very special place in heaven for middle school teachers, as the role of ringleader to a preteen circus is not for the faint of heart. But I feel compelled to teach those middle years, where young people are just starting to find their voice, understand their identity and assert their individuality. They’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. It’s miserable and magical, and guiding those kids through young adulthood is such a challenge, but also a joy.

I taught the highest level of ELD at Fuller Middle School for many years, and each June we would have a promotion ceremony for the students who passed the ACCESS test and gained native-language fluency in English. For some students, that meant one year of English instruction, and for other students, it took up to six or seven years. (Research shows it can take between 5-7 years to learn a language fluently, and the rapidity of language acquisition depends on so many factors; it really differs depending on each student's own educational journey.) 

These promotion ceremonies were the highlight of many students' academic years, and a chance to celebrate the grand feat they had accomplished—the transition from emerging bilingual to bilingual. And at each ceremony we recognized students with a certificate, a potluck lunch, and the students and I produced some sort of performance to showcase their language prowess. 



In 2014 my 6th grade class performed a tribute to Maya Angelou by memorizing some of her most famous poems. We called it, “Still I Rise Reprise.” Those same students will be graduating from high school this June. But unlike when they were in 6th grade, there will be no ceremonies or parties. They will not hear their name called over a microphone, and they will not be dressed to impress as they receive their diploma certificate. My heart goes out to them, and I’d like to offer my sincerest condolences that this mandatory social distance quarantine has robbed them of these very special memories and experiences they earned. 

So in tribute to these students, I present to them their 6th grade selves. Six years ago, they came together and spent the year becoming fluent in English in my class. They had overcome so much adversity just to get that far, and succeeded in becoming bilingual at just 12-years-old. Now, they are entering adulthood and face a slew of other challenges to overcome. But I know they will continue to succeed, because they are fighters, and they've made it this far. They will continue to rise.

We will write them down in history
For abiding by the "stay-at-home" advise
Those days you could not trod the very dirt
But still, like dust, They'll rise.

Canceled parties, canceled proms,
With the certainty of cries,
Just like hopes that were once high,
Still They rise.

Out of the cap and gown purchased in vain
They rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
They rise
Into the unknown, they will leap far and wide,
Just as soon as it is safe to be outside.

Leaving behind nights of boredom and isolation 
They rise
Into a daybreak that’s free of contamination 
They rise
Enduring patiently the unforeseen 
They are the dream and the hope of the quarantined.
They rise
They rise
They rise.

Congratulations class of 2020. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why my Children Won't Believe in Santa Claus

Tonight all across the world, children are waiting for Santa with bated breath. They've made lists of wants and perhaps written letters addressed to the North Pole, baked cookies, set out milk, and dream of sugar plums dancing in their heads. But not my children. Well, maybe the dreaming of sugar plums part, but definitely not the white beard, chubby and plump right jolly old elf part. Even before my two biological children were born, my husband and I made the decision to not deceive them with the narrative of Santa, and in fact, not give them any gifts at all on Christmas. Intrigued? Infuriated? Here's why... My husband is from Guatemala and was raised Jehovah Witness , and one of the tenants of that faith is a strict adherence to not celebrating anything here on earth. This includes not celebrating Christmas or birthdays , and not giving gifts to commemorate these days. While he isn't a practicing Witness right now (instead we attend Celebration International Church

Why My Daughter Won't Be Attending Preschool

There's no doubt that the first five years of a child's life are formative and indicative of later success throughout their lives. As an educator, I know preschool can play an important part in the cognitive and social development of toddlers. However, in this unprecedented time of pandemic life, social distancing and remote learning, sending your child to preschool is a personal decision that varies by family. And our family has decided not to send our daughter to preschool.  The research on the benefits of preschool is irrefutable, and there have been incentives for families to enroll their children in preschool since the 1960's and 1970's. Many BIPOC families have actually been targeted and encouraged to send their children to preschool, with HeadStart and other free programs available. According to a DOE report , access to high-quality preprimary education can be the key that unlocks education equality across races, geography and income.  With all of my experience a

Apple Picking without Discrimination

In New England, apple picking is the quintessential fall fun activity. I actually didn't know going to an orchard to pick your own apples was a pastime until I moved to Boston, but after I went with my youth group during my freshman year of college I was hooked, and I've been apple picking with friends or family every fall since. I have beautiful memories of walking up and down rows of apple-laden (or sometimes picked bare!) trees, trying to climb to the top and always searching for the shiniest, juiciest apples. Even one of Francisco and my first dates was apple picking.  In my 15 years of residency on the East Coast, I've visited a variety of apple orchards in New England nearly every autumn and a few years ago, I thought I had finally found the perfect place. Tougas Family Farm had everything you wanted for your perfect fall afternoon--apple and pumpkin picking, fresh apple cider and donuts, kettle corn, a petting farm, a hayride, and a playground for the kids. But it al