I come from a different world. I went to the same private Christian school for 13 years of my life. My world set me up to be an over-achiever and perfectionist. Never did I recieve lower than a B- in any of my classes: elementary school, middle school, high school, or university. I was friends with my teachers. I had their cell phone numbers, we went to the beach together... sure there were teachers I didn’t like, but I always treated them with general respect.
When my students at Monte Cristo rejoice with merely passing my English class with a 60%, I fail to relate. When my students talk back to me and treat me disrespectfully with out reason, I fail to relate.
On Monday, we were forced to stop our 9th grade class because of the extravagant amount of vulgar language, heckling, and disrespect. As a result, the director of the center came to speak to the students and inform them that at 4:30 there would be a meeting with all the students and their parents about the continued discipline problems in this grade, not just in English class, but across the board.
When 4:30 came along, everyone was nervous. Even Eric and I were jittery. The meeting began simply enough, the director spoke to the parents and them gave the children the chance to talk with their parents about what had occurred. Then, the floor was opened for the parents to say anything they would like.
One mother from the rural community stood up, shaking with frustration and anger saying, “Tell me now if my son is the one doing these terrible things! Tell me now if he’s one of the students causing all these problems! Because listen here, if he is, I’m pulling him out of the school today. Today! There are no more opportunities left. We sacrifice for him to come here and learn and if all he’s doing is messing around and creating problems- he’s gone. He’s more use to us working in the fields to help put food on the table than wasting time here if he’s not setting his mind to learning.”
Now, I have this problem where if other people cry, I instinctively cry with them. When Wilmer’s mom spoke those words through her tears I began to sob as well. I remembered that I don’t come from this world. Where I’m from, education is a right that everyone deserves and expects to receive. Where I’m from, full-time jobs are for adults, not 9th graders.
As Guatemalan as I often feel after the past 11 months I’ve spent here, Monday taught me that I have to remember that I’m from another culture. My expectations and perspectives don’t always translate.
I’m happy to say that Wilmer’s mom didn’t pull him out of CEMOC. He’ll likely graduate with his middle school diploma in October. I hope he finds himself in anywhere but the fields.