NM: So tell me a little bit about what you notice about your student's previous school experiences. When they move here and they come into the classroom, what do you notice that they are having to transition the most into American culture of a classroom?
ML: One thing is that this schedule here, this
schedule is long. It is the whole day schedule. I did my elementary,
middle, and high school, and even part of my university in Nicaragua.
And we have only five hours in school. And here it’s the whole day. We
don't eat in school. We don't have breakfast in school. We start early,
and we leave at noon.
People who decide to go in the afternoon, they start at one, and they
finish at five, six, and here is a long day for them. So I understand
that, and I try to explain to them, "Listen, this is why you need to get
adjusted to a new schedule." And it's good for them because what I made
them to understand that they won't be alone at home.
So it's better for you to be safe or for you to be here in school and
not to be alone at home. Also, you need to learn a lot. So you need to
take advantage of the time that you're here and in school, and you need
to learn the language, which is the most important for you because
that's when everything is started.
And I just tell them, everybody goes through the same, so don't worry. You will make it. Look at me. I made it.
NM: And it's so important because the cognitive load
of learning a new language, learning a new culture, it's a lot, it
takes a lot. What do you notice, and how do you pick up on behaviors of
students when you know they may need a break, like they just need a
ML: Well, I told them when you feel that this is too
much, let me know. And I will give you a break. And I noticed that I
have had only like we can say three or four that tell me "This is too
much for me. I want to go home. I start feeling sick. My stomach hurts. I
And I told them "Do you really want to be home? Do you really want to
call your mom? What's going on? Tell me what's going on." And they tell
me, "No, so and so made me feel bad today." Most of the time, that's
NM: Oh, someone made them feel bad.
ML: Yeah, because they don't feel accepted, and it's
hard. It's hard. And I understand the other side as well, because
everything that is different, it scares us.
NM: So let's talk a little bit more about, they
don't feel accepted. Has a student ever shared with you something that,
you know, almost breaks your heart, but you have to help them work
ML: Definitely yes. Unfortunately I have heard
people, we can say colleagues, that they really feel like they don't
accept the students, because I understand we have a lot of pressure
because of the grades and they represent a minus. And I understand that,
but as a human being, I think that that's not the right thing to do.
NM: It saddens me to hear you say they represent a
minus. And how much do you see that they pick up on that, and how can we
continue to strive together in education teacher-to-teacher to know
every student has a story, every student needs and wants to thrive?
Because what I got to see from your students is they are definitely more
on the side of thriving, and they are together and a community.
I loved seeing them make eye contact with each other when they talk
or when they're about to say something. They know a student who's from
their country and might think the same as them when they were sharing
with me the foods that I should try from their country.
When we asked what food that they have learned to love here, and there was like this crescendo of "Pizza!" and I loved seeing your smile. Do
your students worry about anything?
ML: Yes, my students, those who have their family
here. They come in, most of them, they come into a broken family with a
new father or stepfather, and they are broken in pieces because their
family, they're not together anymore.
They were living with a grandmother here and now they're living with
the mother. The mother has a new stepfather who they don't know.
They do not get along with that person. And if they try to live with
their father, they have to deal with a new stepmother.
And they go through a lot. They're going through a lot of issues. But
like I said, even if you have a struggle in your life, you need to go
through it. You’re going to make it. Just take advantage of everything
that you have here that you’re missing in your country and just keep
going. Keep going, keep going. Don't do silly things.
I understand that probably you will have some distraction, but don't
pay attention to distractions. Just focus. Don't let those things to
take it away from your path because, and I asked them, "What is the
point for you to be here? Why [did] you come here?" Not “because my mom told
me." No, there is a reason why, and you know that reason.
The reason why is because you're safe here, and also you're going to
have a better life. And they listen to me, they start telling me what
they want to be.