“Teachers are deeply committed to the success of every child.” When speaking with a parent, with a student, or with the media, I make it a habit to say that line. Not because it’s a nice sound bite, but because it is 100% true and it is a reminder of why we do the job we do. It is this commitment to students that makes these teachers endure the multitude of problems thrown at them at a time, the constant requirement that they prove themselves in this profession, and the basterdization of the facts and figures related to the quality of education in this country, making them feel like they aren’t doing enough.
Recent political events have driven school Districts and teachers to make statements that seemed silly to have to make in the past, declaring that all students are welcome at school and will be kept safe. It is disgusting that the current political climate has made it necessary to make such a statement. You see, I have had the great fortune of teaching and serving as the EEA President in the same community in which I attended public school. When I was in first grade at Washington Elementary School in the Vancouver Public Schools, there were several immigrant students, who spoke no English, who had escaped the political tyranny of Vietnam. Being an innocent six year old, I had no idea why these kids were in my school, but I remember telling my mother “these kids are weird and don’t make any sense; I can’t understand them.” While there was no way for my mother to explain this complexity to a six year old, it was my first exposure to culture outside of the United States. I benefited from this exposure just as much as these refugee students from Vietnam.
In third grade, I moved into the Evergreen Public Schools. Fast forward to eighth grade at Covington Jr. High School and it is there where I discovered, in casual conversation, that one of my classmates were among those refugees that I first met in my 1st grade class at Washington Elementary. He told me stories of his parents sneaking him out of Vietnam and how they feared they were being followed and might get sent back. Again, I got to learn from him.
Him and I, we had an assignment in our 8th grade English course, an essay on our dream future. We were asked to edit each other’s paper. In his paper, this young man wrote that he dreamed that he would one day be President of the United States, a country that he loved. Me, being the insensitive and not all that clear of thinking teenager, told him, “you can’t be President of the United States, you weren’t born here.” The look on his face still haunts me, I was responsible (though I was only 14 – cut me some slack) for crushing this kid’s dream. His English had gotten pretty good, he was in those awkward teenage years where we all just try to find a way to fit in, and he was probably just starting to feel like he was just like any other American. However, I just reminded him, that the country that he loves won’t allow him to lead because he might be disloyal.
I have no idea if this young man was (or if he is now for that matter) legally in this country. What I do know is that he was incredibly thankful to be here, and while I have lost touch with him, I’m confident he is a person making our society better. So, when the EEA executive board asked me to make a statement on behalf of our immigrant students, I knew that would be easy for me. All our members, be they teachers, counselors, nurses, psychologists, librarians, or Educational Service Providers are deeply committed to the success of EVERY child! The over 1,800 members of the Evergreen Education Association individually, and collectively, are committed to using our resources and connections to educate and look after the wellbeing of all the students that walk through the school house doors, regardless of their immigrations status, or any other status for that matter. This is an easy commitment to make, for we are deeply committed to the success of every child, it is our calling, and our reason for doing this job!
-Rob Lutz (Evergreen Education Association President)