one of my students told me yesterday that her father hit her with a belt and that she lives with her mother, father, brother, and sister in a studio. her brother and sister share a bed in the kitchen. she sleeps on the floor with her parents. i asked if she sleeps on a mattress on the floor and she explained that they had bedbugs last summer and had to throw out the mattresses so she sleeps on blankets on the floor with her parents.
of course i feel for her and i told her how sorry i was and i referred this situation to the proper counsellors at school but i can empathize with the parents. all my students are immigrants ( i teach esl). they can't afford more than a studio because the neighborhood is becoming pricey. 5 people in a studio and they can't afford new beds - beds are really expensive. i can see how mom and dad would get really freaked out and angry a lot.
i think of the abuse i experienced as a child (although my financial situation growning up was better than this girl's, i still went through hell as a child) and how i've been working through that in my adulthood. those events are in the past for me. this girl is living it right now and can't change it or get out.
i was thinking of asking for money for new mattresses at my church but then i thought, what if those get bed bugs? there's a major infestation in queens and all over nyc right now. even if their apt. is fumigated, what about the neighbors? that problem is not so easy to solve.
it's not just about fixing one little, manageable thing. it's a whole system. my students have to take a state-wide, standardized english language test every spring and it is so hard that kids their age who are native english speakers could not pass this thing. i believe it's set up that way to keep the kids in esl (which goes at a slower pace than mainstream classes but also carries with it a stigma) because someone's got to be the gas station attendant and it sure isn't going to be the native english speaker.
living in the school's neighborhood is expensive and parents make sacrifices like this because the schools are good. i mean, i won't compare them to the public schools in my neighborhood. but, for example, at my school we got 30 laptops for the 2nd grade to share. i use those things whenever i can with the kids. that makes a big difference in their lives and their futures.
i'm not sure where to go with this but i think the spirit is leading me somewhere. i'll talk to the peace and restorative justice committee at my church and see what comes of that.