One morning I was visiting first and second grade classrooms. The purpose of this visit was to have a casual conversation with students about the importance and constant intentionality of using Spanish inside and outside of the classroom. The week following this conversation was the beginning of Hispanic week, and we planned the visit of various Hispanic members from the community (policemen, bankers, bakers, real estate leaders) so that they would/could talk with our students about the importance of knowing two languages in the community. After speaking with the children about the short time that we had left to speak in Spanish, the benefits and enjoyment of being bilingual, and all of the things that being a part of a language gives us (like celebrations, food, sayings), I told my students that they were not Hispanic by blood, but by who they had become from all they had learned during the three-year class. Two second graders were tearing up after listening to all of this. (They were really moved.) One student, Vincent, followed by several others raised his hand and said, “I am Hispanic; my grandfather is from Chile,” to which several students joined him and began to say that they also had Latino relatives. Now of course after knowing the families for several years, we know that this is not true. Nevertheless, this was a very sweet moment, because the students sincerely feel that their being is Hispanic; the language and the culture are already a part of who they are. We are giving a gift to our country by way of a new generation that accepts and welcomes a different language and culture through their open hearts and minds. It’s priceless.
Thank you for that day in Panera many years ago when I asked whether a teacher could be a point person and you said “do you want to be one, you would be perfect for that.” The confidence at the moment was an affirmation of the passion that I have for the language and for sharing it with a whole new generation of students, of parents, and of an entire community.
Mónica, point person – St. Peter’s