Today, on the last day of school, we had several special visitors taking a tour of the building. The school I teach at specializes in non-native English speakers, recently arrived immigrants, refugees from war zones, and other historically under-served minorities. The amount of racial, cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity is staggering. This coming year, we are expanding to include a classroom strictly for kids who have just recently arrive in the US and don't have enough language and cultural knowledge to be in a mainstream classroom. Included in this group are several Syrian refugee children who had arrived in the United States several months ago and will be starting school with us in the fall in this program. They got to see the whole building and watch a few minutes of classes to see what school in like in America.
When they came up to my room where I was teaching a small group, I noticed that one of the Syrian boys (maybe about 9 years old or so) couldn't stop smiling while he was looking around. He was giggling to himself and soaking in everything around him; the posters on the wall, the displayed artwork of students, the computers, everything. I heard him whisper something to the interpreter, and the interpreter translated it to the teacher leading the group as "he says, everything is so nice and pretty here". When I heard that I had to stop for a second. Our school is far from what I would consider nice. It's in a converted factory building in a industrial neighborhood with a lot of decay and blight. The inside is all unpolished concrete floors with walls that desperately need a new paint job. But to this kid, who came from hell on Earth, it was probably what he dreamed of always having. It was an opportunity he is probably overjoyed to have in a strange new country after being forced from everything he has ever known. Here we are, in our tiny little corner of this big city, about to hopefully give him, and other like him, a new opportunity in life. It's little moments like this that make all the stresses of this job worth it.
I think it also sends an important message to refugees and immigrants like them that they are wanted here. Despite what our con man president and his hicks in the sticks supporters say, America will still welcome you and give you a chance to succeed. You can find peace and stability and your kids will have the opportunity to become even greater then you. We all need to take up that mantle as Americans.
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”