A Letter to the Au Pairs of America

Thank you for your work and working with children and families. Most of all, for caring. I hope your host family cares for you like how you care for them. The definition I found for you is:

An au pair is an unmarried young adult aged 18 to 30 years, who has no children and travels to a foreign country for a defined period of time to live with a host family. … The main purpose of the au pair placement is a cultural exchange, which gives the the au pair an opportunity to improve his or her language skills.

Moreover, The au pair is considered a full member of the family during the temporary period of the au pair stay. As such, he or she helps the family with childcare and can be asked to assume some light household tasks. In return, the host family provides free board and lodging, as well as pocket money. However, the au pair is neither a housekeeper, nor a nanny. Please go here for more: https://www.aupairworld.com/en/wiki/definition-au-pair

Au pairs in the USA must receive a minimum of $195.75 (!!!!!!!!! WTF?) pocket money per week, depending on the specific arrangements made between the host family and the au pair.

But YOU are way more than this. You are so much deeper and more meaningful. You are unseen and unheard. And, it is a cultural exchange program but is it a true exchange of culture and ideas for each and every Au Pair who travels to America? Yes and no. Experiences vastly differ from extremes of really great-good dreams, in-betweens to terrible nightmares. Is it an exchange program or is it low cost nanny service? Come on! This is NOT okay.

If you are an Au Pair living a nightmare as they sold you a pipe dream that you literally paid for just like your host family did, I hope you get justice and get what you truly deserve. You deserve better. I also hope that you get more than 195.74 a week for working 45 hours. I hope you feel like a full member of the family during your temporary stay. Do not be gaslighted and do not be taken advantage. Many Au Pairs are a part of a vulnerable population of American society and are being taken advantage of right before our eyes especially as they are learning a language. Not all Au Pairs (as experiences vastly differ) but many of them and this needs to STOP. It is not okay. Au Pairs are someone’s daughter and/or son, they are someone’s human being! Injustice and unfair treatment needs to change even if their stay is temporary. No one should be taken advantage of. Not like this. Wake up America. Wake up.

Where Are You From?

Three Tips for Learning a Language

  1. Speak to people in real life and if you have the opportunity — move to the place where they predominantly speak the language you’re learning. I know right now it’s difficult and challenging especially during the coronavirus while wearing masks a substitute aka bonus: there are apps where you can virtually connect but realize real life and in person is the best kind of way. 
  2. Be yourself. Stay true. The authentic you. When people ask where you’re from: be proud and tell them. 
  3. Make mistakes and do the thing that scares you. Many times it comes down to confidence. Talk even when you’re scared to and even when you don’t know what to say.  That is where you’re language breakthrough and explosion is waiting. When you say: I don’t know how to express that or when you ask how do I say that? YOU are learning how to express yourself in real time.

*Note on Identity and Accents 

Do not try to sound like someone else — be authentically true to who you are. EVERYONE has an accent: be proud of yours. When someone asks you where you’re from. You make sure you tell them. Always remember and honor the spaces and places you are from. 

No one will ever sound or say sentences how and the way you say them. There will never be another you. So be the best you. Remember that.

Can I Have a Word or Two?

It’s Halloween time and I’m reminiscing when I was little and went trick or treating. You know when grownups would and will ask a child: “So what do you do?” And, children do a song or dance? I sang the little witch song and changed the word witch to (can you guess to what rhymes with witch—change the w to a b).

My sister was shocked and everyone laughed. In that moment — I realized the power of words.

I knew and realized in that moment just how powerful words are and the effect they may have on us. Most of all — words can incite us. Words can also invite us to talk or push us away not to talk and forever hold our peace.

My sister cursed like a sailor. I would curse at school as I tested out the words and expressions she used. Such as: #1 B#tc$ to describe best friends and sister Bonds. F#€|< it or f#€|< you when angry or frustrated. I went to school — testing out these words and phrases with friends but no grownup ever knew.

We test out words and expressions.

This brings me to another moment in time as I was teaching and all of us were outside on a field trip (giving a plug to the National Building Museum in Washington, DC). We were in the blue construction room: Play Work Build exhibit where my class aka engineers, architects and builders were building and constructing very cool creations and structures! One of my Fireflies as he was trying to fit a square peg into a circle and he was exasperated by all of his unsuccessful attempts (he kept persisting and showed a lot of resiliency!) and to everyone’s shock and dismay minus my own: he said, “Awww, f bomb, it’s not fitting!

All of the grown ups stopped and stared at us and looked very carefully at me. I was the responsible grown up for this class. I looked at my firefly that lights the night sky and who clearly just lit up this space like the Fourth of July. I got low and spoke low. I said, “I see you learned a new way to express exasperation and frustration. What word can you use instead of that one? I said, what rhymes with it?” He smiled and said, “Oh, shucks, oh muck, ohhh tuck, ohhh luck” we laughed. I took the stigma and the struggle away. Again, language can incite us. Language is explosive. Language (most of all — the connections in the brain) are also exploding for preschoolers at this time.

If we reprimand or dismiss, shut down or get shocked how do we model? If we kick out, put in detention, suspend or expel how do we teach?

Teachable moments happen each and every moment. Don’t overlook them or dismiss them. Don’t lock it up and throw away the key. Words are caged birds begging to be free. Teach with compassion, love and understanding.

Restorative practices, compassion, learning and justice is meant and intended not only for preschoolers. It is for all ages, stages and levels of life. Meet children, youth and grown ups where they are are and help them to where they are going.

Bonus: listen to some of my stories made up from my heart and brain.

https://podcasts.apple.com/za/podcast/the-story/id1505653221