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January 23, 2009 - Kylie Saari
This week I talked to a student who feels he can't be himself because he is Hispanic. He is fluent in English, although he speaks with an accent indicating his Spanish speaking heritage. I'll admit, while I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about what it would be like to sit in a classroom with people who have a completely different history than you, I consider myself open-minded and compassionate. I was taken aback listening to the teenager talk about his loneliness even while surrounded by people. He was shy talking to me. I speak no Spanish, except what I have learned on Dora the Explorer, and I was lucky to have his ELL teacher sitting with me, as she tried to help him open up by speaking to him in Spanish when he was hesitant to tell me about the difficulties his situation has caused him. He told me his parents don't speak English, and he is embarrassed by the looks he gets when he speaks Spanish out in public. The closest I can come to relating is experiencing life in Germany as an exchange student. When I came across another American, I didn't speak to them in German - I spoke in English! It is easier and faster to communicate to others in your native tongue. Why would Marco speak English to his Spanish speaking family and friends? He should not be given dirty looks or chastised by his teachers, as he told me he often is. I wanted to tell him what an achievement it is to be able to communicate in two languages, and tell him to be proud of himself. My motherly instincts of course were inappropriate during an interview with the newspaper, and I was able to resist my impulses and report on the story without following my instinct to try and cheer this sullen boy up. Talking to him about his experience was an eye opening experience for me. I encourage you to seek someone out who is different and find out what life is like for him or her. You might be surprised.
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