Over half of the students I teach at my Title I elementary school in west Greenville, South Carolina, are from Mexico, Central America and South America.

I love teaching them.

I love them.

The political winds of the last three years have blown against them.

They are 9- and 10-year-olds, but they can feel it.

I have a button on my lanyard that reads, “No human is illegal.”

One of my little students from Honduras read it and looked at me with big, brown, questioning eyes.

“Do you believe that, Mr. Barton,” she asked.

“With all of my heart, with all of my life,” I answered.

She smiled at me and went about her fourth-grade business.

Later in the day, at dismissal, she handed me a letter.

“BE FRIENDLY WITH PEOPLE – MR. BARTON” it read, with two little hearts inside of a big heart on it.


This is what I hope all of my students remember when they think of me.

John Steinbeck once wrote, “In every bit of honest writing in the world, there is a base theme. Try to understand people; if you understand each other, you will be kind to each other. Knowing a person well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love.”

“There are shorter means, many of them,” he continued. “There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other.”

My little student understands.

I teach and write in hope that we will all understand.

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