Political Reporter #28



Three years ago, a group of sixth-graders who had just arrived from their countries came into my classroom. Like all immigrants, they were displaced, quiet, scared, and they didn’t speak a word of English. On June 18th, 2002, three years later, I had the opportunity of sharing the stage with administrators, counselors, and invited guests for the graduation of the Mabel G. Holmes Middle School class of 2002. Those kids, who came into my classroom, were now part of the whole school; they spoke English fluently; they had changed.

Mixed feelings crossed my heart; I felt sad because we had become a family. I had taught them more than English; I taught them the way of America. And now, I see them succeed, I have to let them go, just like we, as parents, do with our children. On the other hand, I was immensely proud; a deep feeling of accomplishment made my joy as an educator easy to understand. They had come from 17 different countries, bringing their culture; sharing their ways. Yes, they had changed, but they retained their essence that goes beyond their nationalities. Along with English, we had traveled the indelible path of humanism. Our class slogan is “Human dignity starts with self respect.” On the other hand, they learned to love and respect this country that had offered them the opportunity they didn’t have in theirs. And I felt privileged to be placed in a profession that provides the opportunity to influence, in the noblest of ways, society as a whole.

For the last three years, we shared our views, our laughter, wonderful and difficult moments. They had grown from children to young adults. We disagreed at times, we joked, and many were the complaints that I heard for the abundant homework I assigned. On graduation day, one by one, they came, embraced me, and said, “Thank you.” In the academic field, I knew that I had done my job, but they weren’t thanking me for that. I had always told them that the real purpose of an educator is to motivate, to shape attitudes-not personalities, to build better human beings, better citizens. As I drove home, I realized that I had learned as much as I had taught. In my words to the class of 2002, I emphasized that essential part of education where we cross nationalities, race, religion and learn to work and love each other as Americans. And I thank God for giving me the privilege to have met such a wonderful group of people. They repeatedly said that they will never forget me. I embraced them and wished them good luck. It wasn’t the time or the place to explain that they will forever be a part of me.

Mabel G. Holmes Middle School in Elizabeth is a special place. Yes, we have many problems. Who doesn’t? But I reflect on the ethnic diversity, the social problems, the disadvantages, and the hurdles that these students have to overcome in order to succeed. And after all the difficulties of teaching in an urban setting, something comes out very clear: when we study, play, and eat together, we transcend political and social labels; we are overwhelmed by the unstoppable force of humanism. That is the essence of education. It is not the complicated political debates that we see on the ideological corrupted campaigns in this country. It is not in the posture of supervisors who have lost direct contact with the students. It is not in the tons of paperwork assigned to teachers to justify millions of dollars and the salaries of immaculately dressed bureaucrats. Somehow politics has corrupted the educational structure. What it could never touch is its essence.

Mabel G. Holmes Middle School is one of those institutions that retains the heart of the noblest profession on earth, that which I experienced in this unforgettable graduation day. As for my students, off they go to high school. No longer are they the scared group of immigrants that came into my classroom three years ago. In a similar way that they grew, so did I. Because teachers have the blessing of receiving much more than they give. May God always be with them.


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