What Independence Means to Me

I left the University of Guam in January, after teaching there for more than 10 years and probably teaching more than a 1000 students during my time there. Some students I can definitely say I had an impact on because they have told me as much and I've seen them blossom into professional careers.

A few of my former students have become elected officials in Guam and some have PhDs of their own now. For some, maybe the impact was less obvious or pronounced, but there may have been something. Something said. An assignment required. Something gleaned. Who knows what, but somewhere in my scattered approach to how I would hold a class, something stuck with them.

Sometimes I find students, who years later refer to something I said, or a space I created and how it really changed their view of certain things. One thing that former students from UOG would regularly tell me is that they liked that I seemed to care about the island. This, according to them, was a contrast with most of their other professors who either seemed to not care at all about the island or seemed to actually have great disdain for the island the people living on it.

For years I collected these moments like precious shells, carved and shaped and then looped together on a necklace. Since leaving UOG, these moments have become less potent, because of the bittersweet nature of my leaving. So many of my stories and anecdotes come from teaching students at UOG. It is hard to constantly quality my tales now with, "when I was at UOG" or "anai eståba yu' gi UOG."

Recently I have been using the lockdown time to go through some of my old papers and research, occasionally throwing things away. Alot of student papers that I held onto are being tossed out, but every once in a while when I find an essay or a reflection from a student which impressed me or is tied to an important experience or memory, I hold onto them.

I came across this poem, written by a student when I was teaching English composition at UOG. One semester I decided if the students over performed to give them the option of a poetry portfolio for their final project. They did and so instead of a long easy to close the year, they turned in a short essay and five of their own poems. This student wrote a poem, about Independence for Guam, at a time several years before Independent Guåhan was formed. Here is the poem.


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Independence

I never stopped to think about whether or not Guam was truly liberated
It wasn’t until my classes that I pondered such a question

To me independence means
Doing things on my own convenes
It means doing whatever I desire
Without worrying to whom it will matter

To some it means no worries
Being carefree
To dream a dream with no limits
To love whoever and break no law
To be who you want as a person
And know you can shape you
With the tools you acquire

The tools you are given
Because you are free
It is often a gift
We don’t always see
But reminders are given like through
Poems and songs

And although we have a troublesome status
With meaning to some that does not exist

We are free to be and that is
Free to be
Without our nation at heart

That is what independence is to me

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