Reggaeton was at its peak. Most of my students were older teenagers right out of high school. It wasn't unusual for them to use their electronic devices in class, flirt with one another, and even tease each other with silly names, argue about whose musical artist was the best, or to try to get over on each other just for fun. One girl was a Daddy Yankee fanatic. And in these ways, the students enjoyed socializing while Karla seemed worlds away.
Another one of the young men then called him out, "You look just like Chicken Little...You do!"
I turned to the subject of all the teasing, and I replied, "Did you say Chicken Little? I think that's a compliment because he's the best character in that movie. Plus, he is the hero."
Relieved at my reply, the young man then responded to those teasing him, "She said Chicken Little is Cute. Yeah, Chicken Little IS cute," and he walked away contentedly.
Such were the silly conversations the students entertained themselves with between classes. Karla did not play a part in these pranks and antics.
The next day however, Karla came back. In a departure from her serene demeanor, she hurriedly rushed to explain to me why she had missed class the previous day. She had an appointment, she explained, and with fervor, she insisted that it would not happen again. This told me that Karla was far more concerned than I was about a single absence. It also told me that Karla was different. Class was crucial to her.
She said, “I think it is good for him to express himself. That's why we're here, so we can talk to each other.” In that moment, I realized that Karla’s long-held secret was that she was undocumented. She had no anger, resentment, or sadness over the other student’s comments.
"What time do you get here?"
"About 5:30 in the morning." She replied with a bit more reluctance.
Yes she was and still is in my mind, my most dedicated student. Not only did she achieve high marks, but her polite and kind greeting gave me a hopeful feeling every single day I entered my classroom.
If I could speak to Karla today, I'd thank her.
"Hey, Karla, thank you for your early morning greetings. I still consider you my student. In light of that, I will do whatever I can to support your rights to the Education you gave so much to acquire. I hope we can have the chance to say hello again someday."
From your English Professor