This was another essay I wrote in 2010.
I am Puerto Rican. My culture is a mix of three roots: African, Taino(Indigenous), and Spaniard(or European). Before I lived in Puerto Rico, I resided in Killeen, Texas. My father was in the military and therefore I attended English speaking schools. In my home we spoke Spanish. We ate our cultural dishes. My father always listened to Salsa music (deep African roots). Our way of life was Puerto Rican, yet living in Texas and overseas. Go figure.
I cannot help but to feel a personal connection to this assignment. Though I am not a refugee or political asylee, I do have a different culture from where I currently live in Dallas, Texas. As far as being an immigrant, yes I am one. But, since Puerto Rico is not a sovereign country, I may not be considered an immigrant by all sense of the word. We are one of the last colonies on Earth. Yet we are U.S. Citizens at birth. But that subject is a whole other essay.
By definition we must know the difference between a refugee, political asylee, and immigrant. A refugee is a person who seeks protection from UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) due to fear of “persecution or death because of race, religion, membership in a social group, political opinion, or national origin”. A political asylee is “a person residing in a country in which there is a well-founded fear of persecution because of race, religion, membership in a social group, political opinion, or national origin”. An immigrant is a person who resides in “a particular country who decides to reside in another country”.
The difference about an immigrant is that he/she decides to move freely between the two countries. An immigrant does not necessarily moves to another country in fear of persecution, death because of race, religion, membership in a social group, political opinion, or national origin. Though political asylees, and refugees are immigrants since they are residents of a particular country who decide to reside in another country. The rights that immigrants have depend on the legal status of residency. Technically, if a person is a legal immigrant in the United States, then he/she has most rights that citizens have. They also have the right to reach citizenship through due process. An illegal immigrant does not have the same rights. Not to say that the United Nations recognizes universal human rights.
Refugees are those who flee across international borders in search of a safe haven. They live in refugee camps before resettling into a new host country. They petition “for protection from outside of the country in which they hope to live”. They have the right to establish permanent residency in the new host country to become “productive members of society”. They petition relocation from a country outside of their “country of last habitual residence to qualify as a refugee”. Refugees often times go through very difficult journeys leaving their home countries. After reading about experiences that refugees have in Dr. Cowart's article, I gained a profound respect for them. The stories about war impacted me the most. Particularly the one about Ishmael Beal growing up as a child soldier. I could not even fathom the idea of taking a human life as a child. We as teachers must take into account the experiences that refugee children inherit.
A significant difference between a refugee and a political asylee is that a political asylee “petitions the United States government for protection and legal recognition after entering the country”. “While the refugee requests protection from outside the United States”. Political asylees go through much of the same turmoil as refugees.
These children that migrate to the United States might go through cultural bereavement. “Cultural bereavement is the sense of being separated from the past and losing touch with all that is familiar from the homeland”(Cowart, 2007). It is very dangerous to lose ones cultural identity. Though we all have a name to distinguish ourselves, culture is the way of life that we take for granted. Children are far better at adjusting to a new life than adults. To an extent, it can hurt them in the long run. By assimilating more and more to a new culture, they begin to lose certain characteristics of their native one. They might not feel the impact of cultural bereavement until they reach adulthood. Take Spanish for example. If a child comes into this country and assimilates well with its peers, he/she begins to take off in the U.S culture. After reaching adulthood he/she applies for a job that requires them to be bilingual yet does not know how to read or write with proficiency in Spanish. It is a sad when a person realizes that he/she cannot reach back into its roots at that moment. But it is never too late. After my father retired from the Army, we relocated to Puerto Rico. My soul was half full of my culture until we reached the island. It was a cultural awakening. I was reborn. My sense of belonging was not even half of that when I was living in Killeen. Though I am sure I have not gone through half of what these children have seen, I must be aware of their experiences.
Acculturation on the other hand is the opposite of cultural bereavement. It should be embraced by all teachers of all cultures and backgrounds. It embraces the culture that students bring into a classroom. We as teachers must find materials that are pertinent to acculturation. We must “become or continue to be a student of cultures and languages, particularly those of our students so that our knowledge of their experiences and needs will grow regularly”. Two way immersion education embraces acculturation. It involves the students and community to learn and appreciate different cultures. I am still fascinated after watching a video of two way immersion. To see native English speakers embrace and speak Spanish is something that settles well with me. Caring about other cultures goes hand in hand when implementing acculturation. It is the unmeasurable tool that must be with teachers throughout their careers. If not, it will be a bumpy road. “Without a caring and knowledgeable adult to guide the acculturation experience and to provide reassurance that learning a new language and culture does not mean that the heritage language and culture must be eliminated or forgotten, the refugee student will flounder, literally taking one step forward and two steps back out of fear of losing his or her cultural identity”(Cowart, 2007).
Though I write this paper learning about how students retain or lose their cultures, I cannot help but see my life story applied into some of these ideas. My parents where the ones who facilitated acculturation for me. As a young boy, every time I stepped in our house, we only spoke Spanish. My mother also embraced other cultures. She always told me that whatever girlfriend I brought home was to be accepted, no matter what culture(acculturation). My father always played Salsa music wherever we lived, even in Germany when we were stationed there, yet we always found time to experience German culture (acculturation).
The following was an essay I wrote in 2010. The language is "user friendly" but makes its point concisely.
“Writing is mankind's last manifestation”. I agreed to the previous quote after I heard it from one of my college professors in 2000. I realized then that written expression is humankind's most ultimate form of communication. Written text has the power to change the globe everyday. Every single idea that has made an impact on our lives has been due to someone somewhere writing it down. How would law establish itself without it? How could we know about Shakespeare's plays and its pertinence to today's culture? How do we know the way our history shapes us? And most important; how do we know the truth? As a teacher we must know the importance of writing. Yes, many of us do not like writing. But no one will dispute its significance. We must show (model) the importance of it. Not to say the least that reading also goes hand in hand. Most people who do not like to write is because they do not like to read. If a teacher does not enjoy reading, their career will be a steeper path to the finish. An important factor is to show them (the students) how rewarding writing may feel. This may be implemented in the publishing stage. To see our own work be admired by others is an exhilarating feeling. There are steps in which I can help a student reach this feeling. First, I must introduce the concept of a writing “process” and not a finished work. All written work may be revised at anytime (including this one). Then, show that the process is divided into five steps that are: pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, publishing. Also, there are other approaches that help writing development in which could be used. Krashen's affective filter does not limit itself to a conversational class. It can also be noted in the writing process.
It is important for the students to comprehend completely the term pre-writing. We must leave it as a step in which we construct ideas, cancel out ideas, and to see what is pertinent for the subject given. Many people might feel frustrated when writing because it may be difficult to know where to start. It's ironic how people fear their own thought process. It is important to let our students know that they should relax. By doing this we, lower their affective filter. Creating an excellent writing atmosphere helps to bring about good ideas. Some of my best teachers thought that everything was art and beautiful. They would praise any idea as if it were the discovery of world's biggest secret. This attitude creates such an atmosphere. To introduce brainstorming, I would show the students a video of a thunderstorm. The concrete example gets them the idea of creating a storm of ideas for their paper. After that, I would model on the board a brainstorming activity, by timing myself and just go “crazy” and showing them that no idea is out of bounds. After modeling brainstorming, I would model listing by writing down ideas for a paper on the board. Within a given time they would tell me different ideas specific to the subject. “This will help the students to focus on the important and interesting ideas they have instead of struggling to find the correct form for those ideas”(Zainuddin). After these two activities, freewriting can be introduced. It would be simple just to give them a blank sheet of paper and ask them to write anything that comes to their mind about the subject. Freewriting may be a spaced out activity for those who have never written a formal document, and would not recommend it as a first activity. A good first activity for pre-writing would be visual mapping also known as a web map. The teacher would first model by circling the main idea of an essay in the middle. Then, would ask the class to give supporting ideas to the main subject and web it off. This activity can even lead to other ideas they never thought would come out. It also helps a lot with the visual learners. An activity such as question dial could help elaborate on a subject without losing yourself on another. A teacher would have a big circle and divide it into the five W's and H questions (who, what, where, when, why, how). It can also be used as a supplement for the previous pre-writing activities.
Drafting is where a student would construct the base or skeleton of their paper. It is where the ideas actually begin to form into paragraphs and structure. Many people struggle in drafting (especially the perfectionists) because they refuse to let their ideas flow. Again, we as teachers need to model the thought process of drafting. We can digitally project a Word Document and think aloud as we write. The questions we must ask ourselves as we write are: “What is the essay about? Why are you writing it? Whom are you writing for? What is your favorite part? Why? What ideas did you leave out? Why?”(Zainuddin). Keeping on your topic is the most important idea in drafting. Though drafting may be the stage with the least activities, it is the longest to create. It is where the essay actually comes alive.
Revising is the stage where students exchange their essays with their peers and provide new ideas for them. Ideas may even be canceled out. I have read about authors who have canceled out entire chapters for their books. It is very important to let the students know that this stage is not about correcting syntax. It is only to provide ideas. If they have never written an essay before, then much less have practiced revision. A good idea from Zainuddin is to provide them with Reader-Writer Response Worksheets, where the reader responds to a series of guide questions provided. Teachers may create these questions molded to their objectives. A Group Response Worksheet has the same concept except it is answered by a small group instead of an individual. An Audience Analysis is applied to a whole group. Revisions should be considered an input from readers of an essay. The author has the last word when it comes to choosing any given insights.
On the other hand, the editing stage has little room for author's choices. In this case, the students actually search for correct syntax. The teacher may hand each student an essay from their peers. To edit a paper requires good knowledge of grammar, so they must first learn or recall information in order to be effective in this stage. Constructivist teachers love this stage because the students must be active in their thought process due to the fact that their peer's correctness depends on the editor.
The publishing stage is a great motivator for the students. The feeling they get from their work being recognized can last their whole lives. Even I still remember my teachers displaying my works. It shows them that working the mind pays off and has it intrinsic rewards. Teachers may publish students work by posting them in the hall, school newspaper, mailing them to parents, posting it online. The possibilities are endless. The most important factor in stage is the motivational factor and helping them achieve a sense of accomplishment.
In 2000 the same professor that taught me that “writing is man's last manifestation” caught me plagiarizing. It was the essay “The Things They Carried” by Tim O'brien (brilliant by the way). I was young and given a second chance in life and did not even know it. After my lesson taught, I realized the importance of writing, and firmly believe that it shapes our world culture. This sense of belief must be carried by all teachers while teaching the writing process. It can be arduous, but the results are definitely worth it. We must remember that if they can master the “last manifestation”, then there academic career will go on smoother than their peers.