Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Goonies, Sandra Cisneros, Immigration, and Our Wishing Well

Not only do I love this clip for all of the nostalgic reasons any kid of the 80's does, but also for the uncanny way it popped into my head during one of my sheltered English 10 classes.

For those of us not in the education field, a sheltered core class is solely comprised of English language learners.   Most sheltered classes contain students that range in English proficiency levels from conversational-only up to just about No Child Left Behind grade level reading and writing mastery.

A unique cultural trend in public schools that have large populations of Hispanic families (my school, Freedom High School in Woodbridge, VA consists of close to 70% Hispanic students) face the same phenomena--the extended November/December through January family vacations back to the countries from which they immigrated.  Our county regulations force us to withdraw a student that is truant for fifteen consecutive academic days.  Unfortunately for a good amount of our students, their families leave for Central and South America the week of Thanksgiving and return sometime in mid-January; thus, these students do not receive credit for the first semester at all and pending on their time of re-enrollment, may not receive credit for the second semester either.

One of my students returned to school today from Honduras.  She was tan, looked emotional wrecked, and sat in her old assigned seat.  It was ghostly to see her walk in the door.  She told me her mother still lives in Honduras and she lives in Woodbridge with her father.  When I met with her about her academic situation and what the midterm exam situation is going to look like, she registered a sincere nothingness.  Her academic GPA meant nothing to her; she just wanted to check  out a text book, a novel, and pick up from where she left and probably avoid the emotional waterfall pouring down on her.  And that's what got me thinking about The Goonies.

This is her time, her time down here.  Up there, up there in the land of her parents chasing down their dreams, of superintendents and No Child Left Behind legislators, it's there time, there time up there.  On-time graduation rate?  Passing standardized tests?  It all just seems trivial.  Her life and its meaning is being defined by larger cultural forces of Hispanic immigration while she tries to hold on and forge her own way to happiness.

But then I thought about her mom...who in my mind became Troy waiting for Andy to ride up that bucket.  What about her mom that might have been aching to see her daughter and found a very Americanized young Latina?  Andy, you Goonie!  How could you do this to me?  Or, this student could be Troy waiting to see her mom again to find that her mom is not the same way she left her last year.  Mom, you Goonie!  Then I felt really guilty for speculating upon and equating their relationship to that of Troy, Andy, and the schism between one person's subconscious wishing well and the other's. 

My mind then jumped to Sandra Cisnero's character, mamacita, in the vignette "No Speak English" in The House on Mango Street.  The "no-speak-English" Mamacita loses it when her little baby boy starts speaking English, thus rendering the two unable to communicate and connect.  The tragic irony is that Esperanza realizes how much freedom a bilingual education can bring if mamacita could just find some moxie to get out there and...just get out there and...go out there and...maybe its not that doable after all.   

And then I was jealous of her Kerouac-esque lifestyle.  She may or may not score well on our No Child Left Behind standardized ENGLISH reading and writing tests, but the depth of her education  dominates that of her general education peers that may never go on vacation and to travel the twenty some-odd miles to Washington D.C. seems unfathomable.  She somehow seems much more real and interesting than the American, general education student that sits in that same desk next period and complains about how much work I make the class do.

Then I felt like Mickey.  What the hell, right?  Goonies never say die and this is our time, our time down here.    Down here...down here where life really is and our public school legislators don't really seem to know what's going on in our wishing well of a classroom; its our time down here and that's all over the minute we go riding up Troy's bucket. 


  1. Right on the money. A similar yet quite different thing happens to the sons of the hispanic business owners. Many leave the 16-17 year old sons here to "manage" their business dealings. These kids miss school like the girls, but are also thrown right into the deep end so to speak. The ones who survive it are light years ahead of most of our highschool grads by the time they are 21. Fluent in at least two languages, balancing checkbooks, solving real life challenges, on their own. Yes they miss the homecoming dance, but it makes you think...

  2. Buddhists believe life is found in the struggle, but I also know this is being used to fit the post and your comment. Ha!

    Thanks for reading and the comments.