As if this year wasn’t challenging enough

I discovered today that I have a new student coming into my class on Tuesday. And by “my class” I mean “third and fourth hour,” the class I have repeatedly begged that no further students be added to, the class that is both my biggest and my by an exceptional margin most poorly-behaved class.

The student is an Afghan refugee. I have no idea if she speaks any English; I sure as fuck don’t speak either Pashto or Dari. I have no idea what her educational background is. Hell, I have no idea what her personal background is; if she’s coming out of Afghanistan there’s almost certainly some fucking trauma in there somewhere. She has a brother, and her brother’s teacher told me today that he thinks that her father worked with the Americans in some capacity or another, which could mean fucking anything. It might mean she speaks some English, it might not. For all I know, he’s making assumptions– which, okay, as they go, that’s not a bad one, but it’s still an assumption. And if I hadn’t seen her name and started asking questions today this would have happened with no Goddamned warning of any kind at all.

To be absolutely clear: I’m glad she’s here, if that’s what her family wanted, and yes I’d be perfectly fucking happy to have an Afghan family move into the house next door and replace the family of the dude who took one look at my white skin and told me he was happy “the right kind of people” were moving into our house when we bought it. I’m glad she’s in my school. But this is not a regular fucking transfer student! I’m just as responsible for her education as every other kid in the room; I don’t get to just shove her in a corner and ignore her, and if it turns out that she’s a hijabi I’ve got to prepare the students for her to be there as well. Now, granted, one can probably assume that any Afghans looking to flee the country and enroll their kids in public school in bloody Indiana are probably on the less religiously conservative end of the scale, but even a simple head wrap combined with the language barrier is going to set her up for bullying if we aren’t careful, especially in the class they’ve got her in. If she’s wearing anything more conspicuous than that the kids are going to treat her like a Goddamned alien. Can we at least get a parent meeting before this kid comes into school? Shit, Google Translate isn’t even going to help, because you can’t type in Pashto on a Chromebook. I can get it to translate– probably poorly– from English to Pashto (not that I have any way to figure out if she speaks it, since fucked if I know the difference between it and Dari, or Arabic for that matter) but not the other way around. So if she’s got no English at all we’re limited to gestures and sign language.

It’s entirely possible that she’ll turn out to be Westernized enough already that none of this will be an issue; again, I know nothing about her. But if she isn’t?

Fuck.

1/16 EDIT: It has only just now occurred to me that even if this girl is literate in her home language, which is not guaranteed, her home language is not going to be written in Latin script, and therefore she may not even know the alphabet. And I’m supposed to teach her 8th grade math.

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Luther M. Siler

The author of SKYLIGHTS, THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES and several other books.

4 thoughts on “As if this year wasn’t challenging enough

  1. You can use Google Lens to take an image of written text and translate to English. I make no promises that it’s a good translation, I just know it’s possible!

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