Today I got another one of those email forwards which talks about how the illegal immigrants are corrupting America. Those things and the ones which talk about how prayer is not allowed in school really irritate me because I know that they are not truthful.
The complaint/plea was from an English teacher in California letting folks know about how awful the illegal immigrants behaved in her school and how they are sucking our tax dollars away from us and so on. As a language arts/reading (English) teacher here in Tennessee, there are so many of this teacher's opinions and concepts which I agree with. However, I also think we need to realize that less than 14% of the U.S. population was not born here (or are immigrants). So, for about every 20 people here in the U.S. 3 of them are immigrants. Less than 33% of the immigrant population here in the U.S. is here illegally. So, only 33% of that 14% is here illegally. Again, for every 20 people here in the U.S. one might be an illegal immigrant. I think that instead of feeling animosity toward these folks who are simply striving for a better life for themselves and their families, we should be issuing a stronger penalty to those U.S. citizens who hire and protect those illegal immigrants. (These statistics come from the Grant Marshall Survey which is an international one.)
Plus, our legislation also requires that after any immigrant has been here and enrolled in our school systems for at least a year, the student is required to take the same test printed in standard English as a student who was born and raised in our country. The same test that is geared toward white American children of college educated parents who earn six figures and live in a metropolitan area. Their test scores will also be used as an indicator of how well a teacher does his/her job, by the way. It doesn't matter if the child reads and understands the standard English language, whether he/she had a nutritious breakfast the morning of the test, whether the child went to bed early enough to get 8 hours of recommended sleep, whether the child was witnessing fighting parents/siblings/neighbors, whether the child was feeling sickly, etc. or any other factor which is beyond the teacher's control but which might have an effect on that child's performance on that test.
In the schools where I have worked, the bigger problem with disrespect - students calling names and being rude to substitutes, student teachers, and even toward me - that bigger problem is not coming from immigrant children because we had very few in those schools but the unacceptable behaviors are coming from folks who are ill-informed or uninformed. Yes, many of these rude students are enrolled in the free lunch program, fee waiver program, etc. and in all probability, about half of them are more economically sound than I am - having cell phones, parents driving nicer cars, having dirt bikes, video gaming systems, eating out more frequently, etc. However, their attitude of entitlement is usually a result of their upbringing - an attitude fostered by their parents and indoctrinated by our culture setting what we think is normal and necessary.
I could share time after time where a student is not performing up to expectations or is behaving in a rude manner and the parent comes in for a conference and defends the behavior or action for any number or reasons. For example, just a couple of weeks ago we had such a conference with a parent who was tearful and at a loss for what to do next. Yet, the child was carrying a cell phone in his pocket, was sleepy because he had been awake until after midnight playing video games on the computer, and it was the third time we had provided the web addresses for online textbooks and information which was available to the parent and child at home - because the parent claimed that the child did not bring home his books but could have accessed all the info needed from the home computer. Again, a situation of believing in entitlement. Plus, it was far easier for the parent to ignore the unacceptable behavior or not follow through with consequences because it would inconvenience the parent, too.
What has happened to our culture that so many folks believe they deserve something just because? What happened to earning everything you have and fostering things with care? What happened to the parent setting rules and following through with consequences when the child doesn't follow them - even if it was a headache and pain to follow through? What happened to us simply being stewards and caring for what we are blessed to get - and feeling and expressing gratitude for getting it?
Then again, are we willing to do away with these government programs if there is a need for even one-fourth of the children enrolled to get a meal so that they won't go hungry? I think that until we are ready to look after those few who actually are hungry and need assistance by feeding them from our own pantry or sacrificing our own comfort level, we are going to have to accept that it is a system with flaws. In some ways folks like the Amish or Mennonites who don't believe there is a need for insurance, government assistance, etc. have a really good system. Yet, am I willing to embrace all those other demands of such a culture? Do I want to do without electricity? my nice truck? my store-bought clothes? my comfortable income? my nice house? much of my free time? Do I want to give up many of the other luxuries I enjoy?
Yes, I think we need to set high expectations but I also think I've got to sacrifice at times if I want to achieve some of my goals. All of these issues mentioned burn me up and I have written and called and even gone to Murfreesboro, Nashville, and Washington D.C. to meet with my legislators. The thing is, I am also grateful to live in a country where I have the opportunity to do just that and am willing to try to do what I can to make the legislation which is passed work even if I don't always agree with what has been passed - for example, I try to teach children how to take and score well on that test and how to apply the knowledge needed when they get out into the real world. I have 7th and 8th graders who will be required to identify the sentence which uses a gerund phrase/infinitive phrase/appositive correctly on the required test. I don't think they need to know those terms in order to be successful in the 'real world' but they have to know it for a high score on the test. So, in order to follow the required curriculum as legislated, I teach test skills and communication skills - how to actually write a coherent, well devised sentence when they need it in a memo, letter, or other form of text in their workplace. My curriculum has 20-50 standards each for reading comprehension skills, grammar, writing, listening, public speaking, working in a group, research, logic/problem solving, media (video, computer technology, graphic arts), knowledge of classic literature, communication. The almighty test will have about 150 multiple guess questions similar to what I mentioned that my students need to score well on so that we will know what classes to enroll them in when they get to high school and so that the government will know what to pay me for the quality of job that I am doing to teach them all that. Then, employers will be expecting these children to know how to utilize that knowledge - not caring if they know what a gerund/infinitive/appositive is but wanting them to write coherently and understand and follow directions and stay on task to get their job done.
I recognize that more money will not solve all the problems. I make a good living and unlike lots of folks think - I don't just work a few months out of the year and then sit around and eat bonbons. I don't just work from 8 till 3 either. I rarely leave the school building before 4:30 or 5 and I always bring home work to grade or prepare for impactful lessons to try to meaningfully teach all those standards my children must learn and know. I do finish the school year at the end of May but I also spend at least one entire week in June or July in meetings and workshops getting further professional development so that I can do a better job teaching these children and usually another couple of weeks during those two months are spent planning for the upcoming school year and learning about my textbooks, computer technology, and other resources. Then, I'm back on the job during the first week in August. During spring break this week I have spent at least an hour or two each day doing school work, too.
I know our system isn't perfect. I know that we have loads of problems and as a government employee I know I am part of the system which needs reform or attention. I know that those tax dollars are part of what I work hard to earn and I want a say-so about how they are spent and regulated. I don't accept popular ideas and listen to folks complain without finding out about things for myself - like the immigrant statistics I mentioned at the beginning of this message. Yet, I know that the greatest power I have as a U.S. citizen is to listen, analyze, evaluate, and be informed about the candidates running for office and to try to vote accordingly - not necessarily along a party line. I also continue to communicate with my legislators - the ones I voted for and the ones I voted against by letting them know I am informed and have studied the issues and have an opinion about what way they should vote on upcoming legislation - my parents cared enough to teach me this and I continue to do that. I hope you are doing the same.