We have a mandate to leave no child behind,
Yet we are educating children not left behind,
But left to die, escaping with their families and their lives,
The clothes on their backs and a lifetime of images they want to forget.
So we attempt to educate them--
‘educate’ from the Latin-‘to lead out’
Lead out from terror, away from want, weariness and war.
Away from fear, their homeland torn beyond recognition.
Lead them to
we shout “welcome!” and expect them to be, America
Somehow, just like our children.
Expect them to forget the hell they’ve seen,
ask them to ignore the obvious (they are alive!)
Expect them to observe the rules, sit in our chairs, be quiet,
Raise our voices when they don’t understand,
hand out warnings at their laziness and lack of discipline,
shake our heads that they are so behind.
And all along inside, they’re saying,
“Thank you for the clean water and the toilets in the school.
Thank you for the windows in my classroom, the grass at lunchtime,
the daily food and a place to
Stand in the sun away from bullets.”
“Thank you for the pencils, this paper, that is mine.
for this ‘picnic’, (for surely it must seem to them!)
This safe place of freedom
To play and laugh without fear
Regain some of my childhood spent in the dark behind doors and walls.
Thank you for not having to hide, be quiet, be not-me
But be who I am, free in
As to my education—that can wait.
Right now I’m just trying to live.”
When I first was hired for our school district, my position was as an Assistant for English Language Learners. I've spent over 25 years in education and am so very undone sometimes by what is NOT educational in our schools. This poem was prompted by my experience with a Middle Schooler from Iraq.Sharing with the poetry folks over at dVerse Pub today for Open Link Night. Join us!