SCET Journal 2020/2021

« Language Matters

wanted me to include, at first she replied, “This is a hard question. I don’t think I even know the answer to that, to be honest.” Then, she said, “I guess you can include my religion and ethnicity,” which she described as “first generation Muslim Arab.” Andi emigrated when she was 12 from a country embroiled in violence; her father first obtained a job in the United States and then orchestrated the move for the rest of the family, which includes three sons and three more daughters. She attributes her drive to succeed academically partly to her heritage; about her home country, she says, “I feel like girls are more driven to be academically successful ‘cause they have more pressure” because “it’s just the culture. Uh, I feel like it was, it was just made, it was just for men, to be hon- est, like everything there, there’s not a lot of opportu- nities” for girls “so you have to work harder to reach your goals.” Roxanne is a first-generation Mexican immigrant child whose parents both emigrated to the United States before she was born. She is their first child, and she has a younger brother and a younger sister, who, Roxanne says, feels even more pressure to suc- ceed academically because of all the success Rox- anne has had. “I told my parents to just, like, be a little more calm with her because they say that the reason they weren’t as super strict with me was because I didn’t have any help from my parents ‘cause they didn’t, they didn’t really go to school. They only went to elementary school, and that was it,” explains Rox- anne. She continues, “I had to research on my own; I had to reach out for help on my own, like with my teachers after school, and they wanted to be a little bit more easy on me because of that.” Both participants speak their first language at home with their parents, and both translate and/or speak for their parents at times. Both said that their fathers speak English more often than their mothers, but Rox- anne explained that her father reads and writes much better in Spanish than English: “I am a translator for them, even though my dad, he can speak English, he prefers when I translate everything for him.” Andi said her father has learned to read and write in English as a local business owner, which required him to communi- cate in English. Their desire to make their parents proud is strong, and they both feel pressure to succeed academically and in their careers. Roxanne tells stories of her par-

ents leaving Mexico and coming to the United States to escape poverty and to provide an opportunity of education for their children, even though adjusting to life in the United States has been more of a chal- lenge for her mom. She says her mom “doesn’t feel at home really because it, she was kind of, kind of, like confused about whether she wanted to come or not because it was her home, but she was thinking about, like, in the future, she wants to have kids, and she doesn’t want them to be in Mexico under still being in poverty. They were still poor at the time, so they came over here.” She later explains, “She came over here for us, and both my parents, like, they thought about me before I was even born.” Findings My interview with Andi and Roxanne revealed a few salient findings, which I have grouped into four cate- gories: their feelings about representation in school; their feelings about how others relate to them; their feelings about how others view them; and their feel- ings about learning English. I have listed them here by creating a statement that summarizes their feelings on these topics, but I have illustrated the statements with explanations from the participants in their own words as much as possible. Andi says she would like to see teachers “be more inclusive and like, in school, and represent, like, your students. I don’t, I’m the only one in the yearbook. I don’t think I have felt represented much.” Roxanne concurs and says that Andi is the first “hijabi girl” that she has met, and “me and Andi are sometimes the only people of color in our class, and this, like, I’m not surrounded by people of, like, my race anymore, and I haven’t been for a long time, so just having that diversity, well inclusiveness, even if there’s not diversity in the classroom, just inclusive- ness with the teachers, it’s, um, means a lot.” I asked them both to explain what they meant by teachers being inclusive. Andi began to explain how teachers recruit for advanced classes: “Some of the teachers, when they are like, when they are recruiting, they are like, ‘this class is really hard.’” She continued, and explained her response, “I went to that teacher, and I was going to take her [honors class]. She was I need to see myself and hear myself in what I read and learn in school

South Carolina English Teacher



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