Over the past eleven years, I have participated in several wonderful seminars developing innovative curriculum units to supplement my teaching. These projects have motivated my students and myself to investigate new and exciting areas of learning. In recent years, we have explored African-American studies utilizing Jacob Lawrence’s paintings of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas to depict the horrors and the struggles against slavery. We have also studied the literature and poetry of African-American greats such as Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks and Paul Laurence Dunbar.
This year I am developing a unit entitled “Coming To America” which addresses the issues of assimilation into American Society, that is, the United States of America, economically, socially and culturally. This work will become especially important for our school because many of our Hispanic students at Roberto Clemente Middle School have migrated from Puerto Rico to the New Haven area.
The central focus of my curriculum unit will analyze minority immigrants who have willingly traded off their language and culture in hopes of pursuing the “American Dream.” Ironically, without their home language and culture, they lack the necessary skills to bridge the gap to the new language and culture of American schools and society. They have come in huge numbers from places like Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries in search of basic economic and social needs. They have taken calculated risks at losing their lives, of being abused and exploited, of not securing employment, of being deported, of losing their family, or worse, losing their language and their culture. Yet, they continue to come because life in America provides them with an incentive to seek better living conditions for themselves and their families.
As my unit develops, we will introduce a wonderful piece of literature whose central characters typify the struggles, the hardships and the disappointments which accompany their quest for opportunity. This selection entitled “Family Installments” follows a family from Puerto Rico to New York City as they migrate over a period of time, time which allows the family to save and to negotiate loans for additional plane tickets. Edwin Rivera, our author, moves us in many ways as he recounts this warm and wonderful story.