OUT OF THE FIELDS
My Journey From Farmworker Boy To Pediatrician
Book Excerpt from the Inspiring Story of Ramon Resa, MD:
Excerpt #3 of 17
TWO WORLDS AT SCHOOL: “NO SPANISH ALLOWED,” SO RAMON RESA STRUGGLES TO LEARN ENGLISH…WHILE HIS FAMILY ONLY SPEAKS SPANISH AT HOME…
My school is situated on the west side of Highway 99, toward the very western edge of the town. The kindergartners are separated from the other classes by a chain-link fence. Now that I’m in first grade, I feel like a big kid. We’re now treated like real students, but on the playground the older kids bully us.
Recess is a time for socializing. We speak to each other in Spanish, our native language, but it’s against the rules to speak it, and we all struggle in school at first. It takes a while to overcome the language barrier. One day my older brother Mily tells me, “My friend Ruben and I were walking home one day after school and he asked me if I thought in English or Spanish. We both realized we were thinking in English.” The switch occurred instantaneously. Their brains just went from one language to the other.
We speak Spanish at home and broken English at school. It bothers me that I can’t speak English well, and I try to get my family to speak more at home. But I have a hard time convincing anyone, and everyone continues using Spanish.
We’re living in two worlds.
Mr. Sims, the principal, has a paddle that he uses if he catches anyone speaking Spanish, and he carries it with him all the time since the rule is broken all the time. I constantly see kids being led back behind his office and then coming back crying and looking ashamed because they resorted to Spanish. They think they’re dummies because they’re having a hard time picking up English. I don’t get caught breaking the rule because I’m quiet, more of an observer than a participant.
I desperately want to learn English. I think in Spanish and I want to think in English, but I’m having trouble. People keep asking me to repeat what I say, so I decide not to talk at all. But then they really think I’m slow.