Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Freedom Day!

Every year on the 4th of July I find myself thinking about the families I teach.

5 years ago I checked my email on the 4th and found an e-card from the mother of one of my former students. I'd taught her son for a few months before the family returned to Peru. They'd come to America for a better life for their children, for education, for the American Dream. Once here, they realized that as long as they were illegal immigrants they wouldn't be able to promise their children the future they wanted. So, unlike most of our families here illegally, they returned to Peru hoping that eventually their children would make it back to America for college, where they could later become legal citizens. On their last day of school I watched the family slowly walk out of our school, crying, sad because they were leaving our country.

That Fourth of July I clicked on the e-card and found it said, "Happy-Freedom Day" from someone who was not American, and not even in America.

I always find myself thinking about that card because of everything it represented. The hopes this mother placed on our country, the answers she felt it held, the Freedom she wanted for her children one day.

This year I also find myself thinking about another family from my school who is leaving our country. They are an amazing family- with children ranging in ages from high school to kindergarten. When my partner-in-crime and I did our home visit last year we were amazed by the love, kindness, structure and support the family gave one another. The youngest boy was in our kindergarten class, a bright boy with a quick sense of humor and insatiable curiosity. The next child was in 3rd grade and was one of my jumpers. She too was bright, quick, and a hard worker. From what I understand so was her older sister who graduated from 5th grade this year. She'd started her own bracelet-making business.

This summer the family is leaving to go back to the Middle East.

When I first learned of this I was devastated for our school. These are some of those amazing children you hope to teach- smart, fun, full of energy and always ready for a challenge. But then I started to think about the girls. The two girls in the family I knew were headstrong. As an adult watching them you know they are destined to do amazing things.
And now they are leaving, to go to a country where women are not given the same respect they are here. Growing up these girls have had the freedom to be as smart as their brothers, to question their teachers, to dive into anything they wanted to try.
And now? What will happen to their excited minds when they arrive in the Middle East? When they are told how to dress, how to act, and given guidelines on what they can and cannot do simply because they are women?

I hope my limited knowledge of their country is wrong, and that once there the girls will still thrive and do great things. Or, if I am right about their cultural norms, the girls will continue to do great things anyway, in spite of their surroundings.

But I wish they would stay. And, it makes me even more thankful that I grew up in a country where my freedoms were in place.

Happy Freedom Day.

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