September 13 2016

I stand with you

It’s a Tuesday afternoon. I’m sitting in the library as a babble of voices filters over the counter. Broken English, hesitant and accented. Arabic, Cantonese, Samoan, and so many more languages that I can’t even begin to identify fill the air, as students, proud in their blazers and honoured to be serving their school, assist our Intensive English Centre parents in finding the teachers they want to talk to this afternoon. To see how their child is settling in to school. To discuss how they are coping in this strange new world of education in Australia. To contribute to the education of their child.

I’m so incredibly proud to work in a school with an IEC. The wealth of knowledge, of experience, of stories that surround me on any given day is just astounding, and I’m honoured and privileged to be a part of a team who support refugee and migrant students in their education, as they learn how to “do school” here, as well as learn how to function in another language.

What strikes me most, as I look around the room, is the expressions on the faces, of the students and their parents or carers. They are expressions of hope, and of joy, and of deep pride for the accomplishments of these amazing children, who’ve come across the sea, and joined the wonderful community that is Evans High School and IEC. They don’t see this parent teacher interview experience as a chore, but a deep and abiding privilege, an honour to be cherished. They acknowledge the power of education, and celebrate the role that we play in supporting their child, as they continue to live out their incredible life story.

So, as I sit here, finishing up for the day, and trying to finish off some paperwork, I flicked onto facebook. A post from Neil Gaiman appeared, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how irresistable I found that. But now I’m in tears. Silent, gut-wrenching tears, for the stories that are represented in this poem, and the understanding that so many of the wonderful people outside my window must recognise this heartbreak. Could see their own story echoed in these words. I sit here crying, and feeling helpless, and hearbroken at the unimaginable horror of it all. I remember when I first moved into my current house, in a bushfire area … we were evacuated a few days later, and the terror, the dread, the oh so difficult decision of what to take in case we lose everything? It still haunts me a bit. And we spent the evening at a friend’s place, surrounded by people we loved, and sharing a meal. We got to go home that afternoon, and sleep in our beds. Hold our loved ones. Look at our cherished possessions, and make plans for what we might take with us next time, just in case. This? What to take when you don’t know where you are going, and know that you most likely will never return? Unfathomable. Indescrible. Far too cruel for words.

So, I wanted to share it here, and to remind myself just thow lucky I am, to have the opportunities I take for granted every day. And how important it is that I don’t forget to use my voice, and my privilege, to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, and to support the right of those who suffer unimaginable hardship to seek a better life for themselves and their children. I stand with refugees. I hope you do too.

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Posted September 13, 2016 by Tamara Reads in category Library Life

About the Author

She/her. On Whadjuk Noongar land. NSWPRC Officer, Teacher Librarian, English teacher and social media advocate. I've been teaching in Western Sydney for my entire teaching career, and love my job more than I love Neil Gaiman. (That's a lot, in case you're wondering!) I stalk authors (but always politely), fangirl over books, and drink coffee. And one of my guilty prides about my children is that they all have favourite authors. All opinions are my own.

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