As I wait for my cousins to bring me to the New World,
I am anxious, anxious to learn and anxious to speak. Will they accept
me? Will I have friends? Will my mother remember me? As I think, fear
builds up inside me like a terrible recurring nightmare. I wonder if I
should stay. My home is like a warm blanket on a cold, dark night. I
don’t want to leave but my mother tells me I will be okay. I hope she is
When I arrive, I am surrounded by unfamiliarity. All I hear is,
“Why can’t he speak English? Why doesn’t he get it?” My teachers don’t
believe in me but I still do.
A few years pass and my struggles continue to bubble over like a
pot of boiling water. I learned their language like I was told to but I
forgot mine. I have new siblings in my country that don’t know me. I
don’t know who I am anymore. Where do I come from? Where do I truly
belong? I am a stranger in a strange land.
I was inspired to write this piece by one of my students. Most
of his family is back in Cape Verde. He is learning English but has
slowly forgotten the Creole he once knew. He has not seen his mother in 2
years and has siblings he has never met. His teachers have lost faith
in him. I truly believe in his capabilities and I remind him he can
achieve great things every day. I see how lost he looks and it makes me
sad. I know there are more children who experience this and I feel their
stories need to be told.
Michelle Johnson is an ESL resource teacher in Rhode
Island. She graduated from the TESL program at Rhode Island College in
2013 and is in pursuit of her master’s degree in ESL. She is passionate
about her students and is a true advocate for them.