School truancy. Kids skip school and go to the cinema, hang out at the mall, or rollerblading for a variety of reasons, but the primary one is fear of the classroom and its result: lower grades.
Kids could get bullied because they do not understand math, computer science, cannot contribute intelligently to class discussion or don’t know how to write essays that will get them a C mark, at least.
Immigrants and Fear of the Classroom
Kids who just arrived in a new country get a double dose of fearing the classroom because:
- · They might come from big families and sleep with brothers and sisters, something that could lead to ridicule because most kids in north America have their own rooms.
- · Their clothes seem outdated compared to what other kids are wearing.
- · They don’t belong to power cliques that rule school hallways.
- · They might speak English or French but not the way it is spoken in Australia, Canada, France, U.K. or the U.S.
Immigrant kids might even do well in science because science subjects work on tried and tested formula, not like writing essays where they have to express themselves.
An essay is storytelling, with some examples from experts like doctors, car mechanics, census figures or the writer’s personal experience, and language is the steering wheel that directs the story to the left or to the right.
Immigrant kids fear the classroom because they believe that where they were born, what they were taught in the old country’s schools and at home is irrelevant in, let’s say Canada and the U.S.
That is a mistake. The human experience is valid experience, wherever it is in the world. Let’s say children are asked to write an essay about astronomy.
Immigrant kids should understand that what their folklore believes about the full moon is legitimate, valid knowledge they should share with their classmates in the new country.
They should not wait until their experience becomes a trend in North America before being proud of it. For example, women in Africa, Asia and South America have been carrying children on their backs since the beginning of time.
Now it is called ‘backing’ in North America and some college professors are writing papers without attributing the origins of what they are writing about. It is called plagiarism in academia, but it is not stolen property if the source is from Africa, Asia or South America.
Another example is food. Immigrants should understand that what they ate in the old country is part of what is called nutrition, and should not wait until it trends under terms such as ‘vegan’ before they own it.
The First Paragraph
The essay title is what journalists call the lead. What is the story all about? Journalists stick to the lead for example, police shot and killed another unarmed black man in America today. That is the lead and everything that follows including people interviewed, is based on it.
In the classroom, the essay title could be: MY 2016 SUMMER. The teacher is looking forward to some interesting essays because kids in North America go to summer camp; cycle around the state with their parents; visit grandparents in Turkey or India; travel around Europe with backpacks on their shoulders or work in restaurants in a foreign country to learn a language.
Immigrant children should not be intimidated by all that because there are millions of kids who spend summer in their cities for a number of reasons. One of them is the cost. It is expensive to go on a summer vacation either by car or bus, outside your province or state.
Immigrants and First Summer
First of all, the immigrant kid must grapple with the fact that summer is in July in North America and not in November/December, like where he was born. That should be part of the essay. It is what makes him unique. He should also mention that 2016 was his first summer.
I spent 2016 summer helping my parents buy furniture for the apartment we moved into when we arrived in Dallas from Turkey at the end of July.
This is the framework for the story, the lead. The student will then explain why the family left Turkey, write about his brothers and sisters, why they chose Dallas and the difficulties of living in an apartment block, after living in a free standing house your whole life. This is just an example.
Immigrant kids should just make sure that every paragraph has a theme: helpful neighbours, mind boggling grocery shopping in those huge supermarkets and learning the bus system.
All this happened during the 2016 summer and the teacher will award points.
Teachers and Immigrant Kids
Teachers can either make or break a child’s spirit. Kids can pick up irritation, anger or hatred from a teacher and it can affect them negatively for life.
Kids from another country find many things confusing in Canada and the U.S. Teachers for example. In Africa and Asia, they were called Miss Tembe or Mrs. Naidoo. They are called by their first names and wear jeans and sneakers in Canada and the U.S. and call students ‘guys.’
‘O.K. guys, today we are going to count the number of sun rays.’
Teachers are very informal in North America and immigrant kids should use that to their advantage. They should go to their offices privately and ask for clarity.
I was thinking of including playing soccer with some boys I found in the public park. Is that O.K.?
Future Essay Writing Tips
Kids should read free newspapers such as Metro, which is found in all major Canadian cities. The more they read, the more they will understand why the first paragraph in a story is important. That paragraph is the lead.
They will also get used to how the following paragraphs are related to the lead. This type of writing is everywhere. Businessmen prepare their speeches according to this formula. Politicians who want to be U.S. President also follow it. Their speeches start with a powerful punch.
For kids writing about MY 2016 SUMMER, the lead is important, but they must think about five other paragraphs. They must be choosy because they cannot include everything in the essay.
What are five other things they want to include?
- The new currency. How they spent the summer getting used to the difference between their home currency and dollars.
- How they learnt not to stare at men with black bamboo shoots in their ears
- How their neighbours showed them how to use grocery coupons
- The importance of garbage days
- The school bus and how it works
Focus. Focus. The essay should be focused. It cannot be all over the place, that is why the lead paragraph is so important.