Kids are a major asset to any society in the world. When adults cease to produce and provide, the present kids will be the adults of tomorrow, injecting more of the talents they’ve learned years past. As a former school social worker for an Early Head Start program in the Bronx in New York City, I strove to be an agent of change in the lives of the many young ones whom I taught. Outside of being an academic support, I collaborated with my families and for the children who needed extra services. I referred them, and with success, to dual-language learning agencies that provided Early Intervention and other forms of life-changing therapeutic services that changed the lives of the children, but the parents benefited more because they saw with their very own eyes the changes occurring in their children. That is how I won the heart of my families and children.
I cared, and I still do.
Most of my families were Spanish-speaking, emigrating from México, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Since most of them came from very poor backgrounds, the education in their countries did not provide enough to give them basic reading and writing skills, leaving them illiterate and lost once they crossed my door. And because most of my families were undocumented, I hosted immigration workshops where immigration attorneys would give free consultations to our parents who fled from their countries, guide them to a GED program or other forms of academic advancement, among other resources.
When it came time to be the aggressive advocate, I was loved and admired for my work.
But, that love and reliance parents had for me changed whenever I wasn’t in my office, disconnected from circle time and the many snacks our children enjoyed while reading and writing. When I was in the classroom, the children loved having me around. Hugs and high-fives were commonplace, and the teachers loved having a male figure around the children, as many of the children in my program were being raised by single mothers. A male presence was key to the lives of these children, and they showed it with their dances, smiles, willingness to learn from me, and the pride they had in having Mr. Christopher around in their class, reading The Big Umbrella to them.
Did the kids love me in their class? Of course they did!
Parents? Not so much.
More to come.