Last week, after one of my classes, on of my 8th grade girls came up to me after class and told me, in English, “Mr. Jeffrey, I don’t think I can come to my conversation club tomorrow.”
“Why? What’s up?” I asked. She told me that she was moving.
I was floored. I’ve written before about how I’m becoming attached to these students and that leaving them at the end of the year is going to be difficult. For this to happen four months early really took me by surprise. On top of that, this girl is great. She is passionate about learning English and she has a great sense of humor. I was really surprised, so we sat down and started to talk.
I asked her why her family was moving away, and she started to fill me in on the details of the situation.
“My family is staying here. I am going to live with my grandmother.”
“Why would you do that?” I asked
“Sometimes I think that my parents don’t love me.”
“I’m sure that they love you. You’re a great person. Why would you think that?”
She talked about her desire for independence, about how she doesn’t feel like she fits in here, and other, normal problems that 14 year old girls face all over the world. We discussed whether or not moving would be the answer to these problems. I told her about how I think of America as being a wonderful place now that I don’t live there, but that once I get back, I’ll be reminded of the reasons that made me want to leave.
We made up a list of the good reasons for staying and the good reasons for moving. While I really care for this student, the reality is that there might be more opportunities for her in this other town. There is a more progressive culture there, and I think that it would allow her to more freely pursue her ambitions. It’s hard for young women to do that in Ujar.
We went back and forth on the topic, and suddenly, out of now where, she stood up, smiled, and said, “I’m going to stay.” This knocked me back as much as her saying she was going to leave did. When I asked her why, she didn’t give me any more information. She just shook my hand and walked away. I stayed in the classroom alone for the next ten minutes just thinking about what had just happened.
I don’t really know what changed her mind, but I think it had to do with our discussion. I don’t think it was really anything I told her that persuaded her, but rather, it was the interest I showed in her, and how I told her, “This decision is up to you, but let’s talk about it.” I don’t think that people show that much confidence in her ability to make decisions about herself that often.
I was still a little weirded out about the heavy conversation we’d just had, when she came and found me and told me, “Don’t tell anyone about what we talked about.” (I know putting it on the world wide web isn’t exactly keeping it a secret, but everything is anonymous). I told her that of course everything she told me would be kept between us. Then, as she walked away, she told me “You are my best friend.”
I know I’ve written about it quite a bit over the past few posts, but the relationships I’m building with these kids is absolutely special.