On Saturday I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the Quinceañera of two of my students (twin girls). I had never attended one before so I did not know what to expect but, boy, was my mind blown!
I had always heard that a Quinceañera could cost upwards of $10,000 and I could NEVER understand how one person would spend so much money for a 15 year old’s birthday party. As I prepared for the day to come, God began to settle in my heart that this isn’t just any birthday party, this is the “coming of age” party for young women of Hispanic descent. There are many intricate parts of a Quinceañera and it is deeply rooted in heritage, culture, and love.
I arrived at the party on time (now, I’m Jamaican so I should have known better than to arrive on time… they didn’t start until 1hr later!) and watched as more family and friends piled into the restaurant. Once things got started, I noticed one thing rather quickly- no one spoke English. Here I was, one of the only English-speakers in a room full of Spanish-speaking natives. They conversed amongst each other in Spanish, the DJ announced everything in Spanish, all songs played were in Spanish- I was an English speaker in a Spanish world (well, Mexican restaurant).
As soon as I realized this, God began to settle my spirit and I switched from the high school teacher that I am, to the role of a student and that’s when EMPATHY happened. From those 4hrs at the party, I was able to experience what my students must be feeling when they set foot into our classrooms. They are there to learn and be immersed in our culture but for a long time, there is so much that they do not understand. Numbers and gestures remain constant, but words differ and it’s hard to understand certain cultural norms when you do not speak the language of the land. I thought of my one EL student and how he must feel when everyone is talking around him and he is heavily engrossed in his Chromebook, using Google translate to complete an assignment. I even thought of my students with 504s and IEPs and how they must feel when they do recognize the English being spoken, but they can’t comprehend the content itself.
I realized right then that the ‘nalia that I must often wear is that of a student and a forever learner. Regardless of my title, position, or anything else, I must never think that I am too “educated” to learn things from life and those around me. In fact, every day that God wakes me up, is another day that I must learn something new and learn from those around me. This reminds me of something that my pastor said a few years ago when he said that every person should have a mentor and a mentee and the ages of both should vary. Contrary to the thoughts of our ancestors, we can learn valuable life lessons from those younger than us (just like we can teach things to those older than us) and we should welcome this learning opportunity.
Open your heart to receive the messages that God has for you, regardless of the age, ethnicity, ability, etc. of the messenger. Always be a #Student.