On Tuesday, following the boycott, we had a class discussion about why so many students skipped school and, recognizing that it cost our school about $8,000, whether or not it was worth it. The discussion changed my mind, as I came to realize the gravity of the situation in the students’ minds and came to accept their need to take immediate action in any way possible. After the discussion, I asked the students to write down their stance in an essay. Students who boycotted seemed to come from two perspectives:
They came here to United States so they could work. We aren’t criminel. We gose [just] come here so we could work and go to school. They think that we gose come here gose for nothing. We came so we could getter better education and that our parents work. We aren’t criminel.
Many students wrote about their concerns for them and their families being labeled criminal. They are confused and frustrated. We constantly tell them that education is a great and vital thing. They know that they / their parents came here for the sake of their education. How can that add up to make them criminals?
I’m worried about my parents because if the law is approve and the government or police takes my parents away who would we stay with The government doesn’t care about that Most of all, if they can’t work they can’t eat and we die.
This was the line that I found deeply persuasive. Many of the students who weren’t in class wrote about concerns that their parents would be taken away and there would be no one left to care for them. Given that this has actually happened once in my class already this year, it’s far from a childish and unrealistic fear. We talked about staying in school so that twenty years down the line, they can take leadership and take action for their people. They're worrying about la migra coming tonight.
I’m a big believer in recognizing and reacting to the distractions in students’ minds. As someone who only just finished his own classroom education, I can remember very well how many looming issues can keep a student from complete focus. Being called a criminal, having your fundamental values questioned, and being faced with the very real prospect of your parents being taken away by the police are about as looming of issues as any 10 year-old can face. We have class meetings and brain breaks galore in my class, and I find them totally worth it, as it allows me to demand much more complete focus when I am instructing. I’ve come to see that the boycott was perhaps not, as I initially felt, the worst possible distraction from our high-stake testing this week, but perhaps exactly the head-clearing outlet they needed. My students who skipped talked constantly about “supporting the Mexicans,” I hope they feel that they have done their part and they can get back to work.