A little Thanksgiving alternative.

As you may have gleaned yesterday, teaching Thanksgiving is not necessarily my thing. Since I’m not going to ignore historical accuracy in favor of cute pictures and warm fuzzies, and since I’m certainly not going to gloss over the treatment of the Wampanoag, this could leave me in a bit of a quandary. Fortunately, there’s a way out – teaching immigration as part of the American experience. The Pilgrims were not the first or the last to immigrate, so I tend to present them as part of the bigger picture.

For me, this is personal. My dad’s grandparents all immigrated to America around the turn of the 20th century. Their stories are different, their paths were different, and their end results were different, but their experiences definitely informed our family’s story. Also, we retained more than a smattering of national pride. To wit:

Croatia Beats Serbia!

And also this:

Pasta face

My point is that the immigrant experience – past, present, future – is a huge part of the American Experience, writ large, and I think it’s insanely important that students get a sense of what it means to leave everything and move to a new place. This includes people who moved against their will, because of enslavement, removal, etc. Only you know the children in your charge well enough to determine how much of any one story they need to hear, but I think that all children need to hear all these stories as they get older, so that the great ‘melting pot’ cliché gets some meaningful context.

My husband started his teaching career in a school where kids spoke one of 83 native languages. Every class had kids who were immigrants, and their experiences varied widely. He didn’t have to look for a reason to teach immigration; he addressed it every day. Immigration has a face, and it’s human. Helping our children realize this will be key to their lives as 21st century citizens. Tomorrow, I’ll share some books that talk about historical immigration situations, and some ways to use them meaningfully.

On a lighter note, there’s no way I could write this post without including this little gem:

Mom – you’re welcome.