My view of childhood in relation to my experience in Isla Mujeres
~ By Jessica
I write this blog for our November posts and cannot believe in just 7 days it will be the end of October, the new month of November and we will have only 7 more weeks here on this island. Maybe I say this every blog, but time flies here, it has to be something in the water because I have never felt life pass so quickly than I do here. It is bittersweet, in many ways I am not ready to go, but in some ways I am. I know that there is so much I have done for the good of my student’s lives and they have enriched my life more than they’ll ever know. One thing I am walking away with is a greater appreciation for my life, especially the childhood I was so blessed with.
I truly believe many times we become adults and forget to continue loving and living the way we did as a child, in a way that allows us time to truly stop and take life. Our sponge-like desire to learn is less activated and we fall in routine without thinking. I have to say that is why being a teacher was something I knew I always wanted to be, I can be a kid everyday with my students and I can relive the amazing times I had as a child. Not every child has the same experiences, even more so when you are immersed in another culture other than your own and you get to see firsthand how much of the students’ lives here in Isla Mujeres collide with the responsibilities of adulthood that they, quite frankly, learn to take on as young beings.
It is so apparent the gender roles and their importance here in Mexico, very traditional roles in education, in the home, in social settings, and within relationships. My boys are very often the rowdy ones, the girls can be mischievous but they are quiet for the most part, and many of the ways they interact with one another are similar to the stereotypical gender norms we have back in the states, yet here they have not broken that glass ceiling on much of those stereotypes. The one I want to focus on here is work, its relation to boys and girls here, and what I have seen in terms of this affecting their childhood.
A week or two ago I was taking role in one of my first grade classes and noticed that one of my boys had missed his 3rd class in a row. He is a great student and always motivated as well as excited for English, so this caught my attention. His sister is in the other first grade class I have and she misses class here and there, but is usually always in class. This last week he showed up and I asked him why he had missed school so much, I thought maybe he had been really sick, but he told me he had to work with his dad selling things from their store. Well earlier this semester I had gone out to eat with the other teachers and his sister, the student I mentioned before, was there at the restaurant selling jewelry with her mom. May I point out that this was around 10pm at night and this restaurant does not close until midnight. The next day she was having a hard time paying attention in class due to exhaustion. Here it is normal for some of the students who come from less advantaged homes to miss school due to work or lack of sleep because they work after school to help support their families.
It is more common here to see a young boy taking on responsibility of helping making money for the family at such a young age, this affects their childhood and it has really made me realize that I was fortunate that I was able to have a childhood that didn’t involve me working late hours at 7 years old to help my parents pay the bills. I do not write this with pity, these children love their families and honestly are proud of the work they do with their families, it is just the way life is here, but it has made me more accepting of my childhood and life back home, as well as the differences I may have with another culture. Living life with a collectivistic mentality is just how life is here, it is amazing in so many ways and I admire it. I admire how my students work in and out of school in hopes that it will help lift their family up financially. It has been a huge blessing to live my childhood all over again with these students, appreciate the things and experiences I had that they don’t have, and vise versa. Despite the gender norms placed on children here at such a young age, and despite all the responsibility that comes with that at such a young age, they have a childhood they are proud of.
When I was young I wished to be an adult so badly, now that I am one I wish to be a kid again, living a life that I take advantage of opportunities for enrichment and just have fun no matter what life throws my way.