My daughter spent two days last week babysitting a few miles out of town. On the way there and home, we took advantage of the scenery. My daughter was able to get a few shots of things we take for granted sometimes.
Yes, I am fired up today! I have some things to tell small-town America…things they might not want to read. Let me preface my remarks by stating very clearly: I love living in my small, rural town. It is a great place to raise my daughter, and we feel safe here. I appreciate all the kindness from the people in this Nebraska town. Thank you for accepting us.
This should come as no surprise to people who know me in this town, but I have to say it all anyway. I ask your indulgence. I am a Spanish teacher. I live and breathe the language. I was actually HIRED to speak Spanish and to teach it to your children and grandchildren. The reality is that when I see one of my students around town, I may actually speak to the student (gasp!) IN SPANISH. You should be proud when your student answers in Spanish–or even if the student gives an answer in English that shows he or she understood my comment! The absolute wrong thing to do is tell me to speak English because I’m in America. Why? Keep reading.
My job is to broaden my students’ horizons and to teach them the joy of speaking a second language. It allows the students to experience other cultures and think in different ways. I would also like to point out something you may not realize—the United States does not have an official language. The reality is that America is home to many cultures and languages. Your language is not the ONLY language. Your way, my friend, is not the ONLY way. Your beliefs are not the ONLY beliefs. My job is to help small-town students be ready to move from life in rural America (where people are mostly similar) to a global environment where speaking English and Spanish (or French, Chinese, etc.) could make the difference in dollars later.
If you are uncomfortable with my language skills, ask yourself why. What hidden issues do YOU have that make you feel that way? What prejudices do YOU have in your heart of hearts? Are you afraid you are the topic of discussion if you don’t understand the conversation? (I can assure you, that is usually not the case; it’s human nature to feel that way.)
A short while ago, some community members were upset that my students can recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish. Why? Shouldn’t the focus really be on the honor and commitment of people to the flag no matter what language is used? I received a kind, supportive email from a veteran in our community who believes the language isn’t as important as the respect given to the flag. He is one of our nation’s heroes because he served the United States with honor and pride. Other community members might view me as unpatriotic because we say the Pledge in Spanish, but it’s not the case. My students willingly make cards for deployed servicemen and women, so your argument is not a valid one. My classes even have two adopted Spanish-speaking soldiers. Everything we do is somehow related to my subject matter whether it’s saying the Pledge or making cards to send. The sentiment is more important than the language. Do us all a favor and focus on the big picture. Understand that I care about your children, and I want them to learn as much as possible. I want them prepared for a bright future. Only education across the curriculum can do that. Trust me to DO MY JOB. After all, it’s why I was hired.
I think sometimes people just need something to complain about or they aren’t happy. My advice to those folks: pick a topic and go to it! It won’t keep me from doing my job anyway.
An English translation of Yoani Sánchez's blog Generación Y, from Havana, Cuba
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