A Day Without an Immigrant Teacher

This morning, I was scrolling through Twitter, and I happened upon a few posts about something called “A Day Without Immigrants.” It is a nationwide protest that aims to send a message to the current administration. Basically, the message is: you white guys are being wholly ignorant of the fact that this country was founded by immigrants, and many still contribute to the running of this country as we know it.

From what I’ve read, this protest is asking all immigrants to not go to work, open their businesses, not shop,  not go to classes, and to not send their kids to school.

Many restaurants in my city are participating, and even the New York Times said that this protest will likely hit people “in the stomach.”Read more about that here.

I get hitting them in the stomach. But what about the schoolhouse? There are so few of us (1 out of every 10 teachers is of color, much less an immigrant) that I wonder how much of an impact we’d have if we just called in sick (and weary) tomorrow. What message would I send? What message do I want to send? And who do I want to send it to?

If I don’t go, my students will have had a sub for three out of the last five days, because this week has been the Week of All the Conferences and Trainings. I haven’t spoken to them about this protest, because my district is currently taking a firm Switzerland stance on anything related to immigration (more on that in a later post. In short: it’s dumb and I hate it) and I fear any sort of disciplinary action. So, they wouldn’t even know why I was gone, and when I came back, I’d be walking into 2017’s version of Lord of the Flies (I think that book was originally written about a group of students whose teacher left to go make copies for 5 minutes during silent reading time, and what ensued. The plane crash just sounded better, so they went with that) and frankly, no teacher, immigrant or otherwise, wants to walk into that.  Also, due to the aforementioned neutral position, I didn’t tell my administrators about the possibility of participating in this, so they’d just think I’d caught one of the 1,343,820 colds that are running amok at our school.

And yet, my white students would probably have a white sub and their day would have 25% less diversity as a result (I’m the only teacher of color on my four-teacher team). There’d be no, “Buenos dias!” to all of my students in the morning. No asking if they want “uno o dos,” pieces of paper. I wouldn’t be able to tell them about my amazing father and mother, who sacrificed everything to come to this country as we start our Inspiration Letter assignment. My school, and my district, would lose me, a bicultural, bilingual, Latina immigrant educator for one day and be all the more white and obtuse because of it.

I am feeling so torn. Torn between wanting to honor my immigrant story, and to stand by so many with stories like mine. Stories of sacrifice, humiliation, and perseverance through it all. I want to stand by the few students and their families who have decided to send a message to our current ignorant administration that even though they are wracked with fear and despair, they know they deserve to be here. And that they will feel their absence.

As an educator, I also want to stand in front of my students and tell them about why they should support immigrant rights. I want to read “I, Too” by Langston Hughes, and “The New Colussus” and send our school’s neutral stance straight down the toilet. I want to stand in front of all of those little white faces (and the few brown ones) and let them see a proud immigrant woman standing in front of them, challenging everything they’ve ever known about people like me.

I just don’t know. Until recently, I was confident in feeling what I did in this skin of mine mattered. Now, I just don’t know how to go about proving it.

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