Riding the Beast

Many students have difficult backstories they bring to the classroom

Photo of Nathan O'Neill
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Culturally and linguistically diverse students bring backstories to our classrooms that many of us could never imagine.  In a unit on telling our personal histories, several of my students opened up about their travels from Central America to our state.  They wrote of walking for days and nights through deserts, sleeping in trash bags to stay warm, riding on top of "The Beast" (see picture) across Mexico, being held in detention centers, getting barely enough food and water to stay alive, etc.  It's hard to imagine fully what this kind of experience can do to a child or adolescent and what ramifications it has on his or her education once they find their way into our school.  Many of them have had incredible journeys to get to our suburban classrooms.

[Optional] Synthesize a little! What's one take away or insight to leave people with?

We need to know our students' backstories to really reach them.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Donna Teuber

Hi Nate! Thank you so much for sharing these true stories from your students. I would love to see some of our Richland Two students participate in the #knowmystory challenge. They have such powerful stories to tell.

Photo of Erin Quinn

Donna Teuber makes a great point - would these students consider sharing in the #KnowMyStory challenge?

Photo of Erin Quinn

Many of our students come to us with stories we could never even imagine. I wonder how we could uncover the stories. I wonder how we could more fully connect with one another.

Photo of Kevin Day

What a picture. What a project.
At our school (an pre-K through 8th Episcopal day school in Carmel, CA), we're hoping to connect more thoughtfully with some other schools on the peninsula whose demographics look way different than ours.
Your post reminds me to slow down a bit. And continue to ask and listen for my own students' stories.
Thanks for that.

Photo of Brady Venables

That must create quite an emotional shock when they settle in here in our schools. Those experience add a layer on top of everything they do. I think it is great that you have already provided an opportunity for them to share their personal histories. Those histories make them stronger.