This summer, I taught my first online English class for Blue Ridge Literacy, a local non-profit whose mission is to teach English to Roanoke’s immigrant population. I taught a beginner class that had one Haitian woman and four Afghan women. I began the summer nervous and ready to tackle the challenge of teaching five people English having no background in their languages. I had no idea what the end of the summer would entail.
It first began when my student from Haiti told me she was going back to Haiti for an emergency. The next day on NPR’s Up First, I heard Haiti’s President had been assassinated. Shortly after, there was a massive earthquake and tropical storm. Although my student said she would be back “next week”, we have not heard from her in two months.
Then towards the end of summer courses, President Biden announced US troops would be pulled from Afghanistan. Many of my Afghan students became nervous about their families back in their home country. Some students even went back to Afghanistan to bring their families to the US. As the last few weeks of classes went on fewer and fewer of my students showed up to class.
It’s hard knowing that a group you have come to know and watch progress is in pain because of what is going on at home. Immigrants and refugees have gone through so much to be here, and they leave behind family, friends, jobs, a whole life. And yet the American point of view reeks of nationalism, without a second thought of the people who want to experience the so-called “American Dream”.
As a society, we need to listen and learn more. Find resources to help us understand other’s perspectives rather than closing our minds and hearts. We all reside in this world, and we all have our own stories. Listen to new narratives and be open to what there is to learn.