First, forgive me any typos, please. I am doing this on my phone. Apparently I have not posted since April, yet I feel like I have yet to come up for air since that last post.
My granddaughters remain a constant source of inspiration and delight. Likewise their parents and my son who chooses his dog as next of kin. How blessed am I?
My novel is paused, my retirement is in negotiation, my career is a constant self-test. But others are far more deserving of our concern. Colleagues have lost parents, spouses, and nieces. Students have arrived from countries torn by violence and intolerance, and many of them are in deportation proceedings at the onset of their arrival. Really the focus should be on how to support these brave souls in the face of these obstacles. And truly, everyone in the face of their obstacles. We need to acknowledge and be sympathetic to others’ pain, even if we don’t understand it.
Here is what I can and will do: welcome those brave enough to come here even though they have been made to feel unwelcome. I will help them to grow in this new home by teaching them the language and advocating for them within the community. I will make sure they know they are welcome and have a home in my classroom.
Here is what I wish all people would do: welcome those new to our country as the change-seekers that they are. Understand that although these new residents may not hold professional jobs or be on the honor roll, many of them are a big deal in their home countries. It is not unusual for a doctor from another country to take a position as a telemarketer here in the U.S. Education levels may not transfer between countries.
Finally, that elephant in every room, (poor elephant, as it has done nothing to deserve this distinction), “How do I communicate with someone who doesn’t speak my language??!”
First; smile. Say hello. If you have any vocabulary in their language, attempt to communicate. If not, just smile and be inclusive!
If there are others who speak the language of your newcomer guest, introduce them to each other!
If not, do not abandon your new friend. You can easily access Google Translate on your phone. It isn’t perfect but it is a great communication tool.
Your international classmates are a lot more like you than you realize and often more interesting than people who have been here all of their lives (not hating on the locals, who I love). Learn their stories. Tell them yours.
This is how we maintain, assimilate, and grow our culture.