Among the scores of artifacts at Ellis Island, graffiti has been preserved. The sketches kept getting my attention. I can imagine an anxious immigrant sketching a burro from a home, a New York pigeon on a window ledge, or a simple cooking pan.
As some immigrants waited on Ellis Island for weeks, these sketches and names are treasures among America's embroiled history of immigration.
They are symbols of the perseverance still required of immigrants today.
And they serve as a reminder to me not only to keep educating myself about our country's history of immigration but also well-read on the current state of affairs. Recently, my students wrote about their family heritage--many do not have to reach all that far back to share their stories of family emigrating to our country. In some cases, I am teaching the children of two adults who sacrificed a family history and a homeland in order to come here for an education.
Sometimes that fact of life as been lost on me. It has been easy (and irresponsible) to see immigration as something that ended once Ellis Island closed, or to just associate it with the early twentieth century and U.S. History textbooks.
As a teacher, my classroom is a living harbor to immigrants. That overwhelms me. The American classroom is indeed one of the last few harbors of hope for the modern immigrant--the entire American classroom, and not just the TESL classrooms.
I need to be mindful of that honor.