Independent Lens


Jose and Mr. Ramos

With parents working long hours in the fields, third grader Jose Ansaldo turns to his teacher, Oscar Ramos, for guidance. Jose is undocumented and as he grows older he begins to understand the complexities of the situation. Four years later, Mr. Ramos checks in on Jose, now in middle school but no closer to resolution on his immigration status.

AIRED: August 07, 2017 | 0:09:57


-We're at Sherwood Elementary School

in Salinas, California.

I am a third-grade teacher,

and I've been teaching third grade

for about 15 years, overall.

My students are mainly Mexican students,

and about half the class is migrant.

Being migrant means a lot of them have families or parents

who follow the agriculture season.

Every year, we sit together on the carpet, and we talk.

And I let them know my life story.

I let them know that I grew up in a labor camp

and that I grew up working in the fields

at a very young age -- seven, eight years old.

I wasn't born in Salinas.

I was born in México.

We came here, and guess what. It wasn't easy.

We had to work. And you know where we worked?

In the fields -- In the lettuce fields where it's really hot.

And the tomatoes...

As soon as I start telling my story,

the students stop squirming around

and listen to what I have to say.

We used to get up really early, like at 4:00 in the morning.

And then we used to go work for 10 hours, 12 hours,

and then come home.

What I'm trying to do is let the kids know

I'm just like them,

that here's a kid from Mexico who knew no English whatsoever,

learned the language, did well in school,

and went on to college.

And I want them to see that if I was able to do it,

they can do it.

I've been teaching for many, many years now,

and I've established some great relationships

with a lot of students and a lot of families.

And every once in a while, there's a special student.

Jose is one of those students.

He's extremely smart. He's a very happy student.

He's always smiling and jumping around.

Jose, did you get the next one?

He knows what he has and he doesn't have.

Yet he's still very happy.

He loves school. He wants to learn.

And he recently started thinking about his future.

I see a lot of potential -- true, genuine potential.

So, if you agreed with Galilea, you got it right.

-I agreed! I agreed!

Yeah, I agreed. Yeah.

-You know, these kids are only eight, nine years old.

I don't think they fully understand

that if they're not a U.S. citizen,

they might get kicked out of the country.

But that's only half the problem.

But I think it's more a fear for their parents than themselves.

[ Siren wails ]

[ Dog barking ]

-[ Speaking Spanish ]

-When I get up in the morning, I go and brush my teeth,

get ready for school,

and then my mom drops me off with a babysitter

for the babysitter can wake me up by 6:00.

-[ Conversing in Spanish ]

-Bye. -Bye.

[ Speaking Spanish ]

-[ Speaking Spanish ]

-When I go home, I have to do my homework alone

because my mom and my dad -- They speak Spanish, not English.

But I learn more when I try by myself.

When I finish with my homework,

I watch TV and then I go to eat and then I go to bed.

[ Siren wails ]

-[ Speaking Spanish ]

-My mom and dad work really hard

so me and my brother and sister

have to stay at home by ourselves.

I would like to go outside and play, mom says that me and my brother

can't go to the park alone.

-Salinas is a very tough city.

Jose's mom doesn't want them to go outside

because it's just way too dangerous.

How many of you have gone to the Exploratorium?

-No. -Anybody.

-I guarantee you're gonna have tons of fun.

We live 20 minutes from the beach,

but some of our kids have never been to the beach.

We live close to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge,

but a lot of them, even though it's only two hours away,

haven't seen it.

So, we try to schedule field trips

where they get to experience it.

Listen. Let me tell you something.

When I was in sixth grade, I came here on a field trip.

It was so awesome.

Okay, so now I'm bringing you guys.

-It looks like...

-Mr. Ramos! Look at the water!

There's no more water! It's up!

-At this age, they just absorb everything.


-Everything's so new and wonderful and spectacular.

Put your hands in it.

One, two, three.

-Whoa. -Spin it. Go like that.

-[ Laughs ]

-It's very different reading about the beach

than actually being at the beach...


-...reading about ocean life

and actually going to the aquarium.

These kids deserve to have those experiences, too.

Did you have fun?

[ All cheering ]

I know you're all very excited because it's vacation time.

[ All shouting "No!" ]

Time to go home in five minutes.

-I'm gonna miss Mr. Ramos.

He told me that when I start the school,

like, just 'cause I'm in another school

doesn't mean he's not gonna come visit.

-Jose Ansaldo.

[ Cheering ]

-It's just that he makes things more exciting.

-He did great!

-Yeah! -There you are.

-Double hug! -Double hug.

Double hug.

-Goodbye, Mr. Ramos!

-You know what I've been thinking?

I've been thinking, like, when I grow up,

I might be a -- maybe a teacher.

-Jose is in middle school now,

and nothing really has changed as far as the law's concerned.

He's still undocumented, but he still wants to learn.

He still wants to do something great with his life.


-Oh, hi, Mr. Ramos.

-Where's your mom?

-Uh, she's in the room.

-She's in her -- Go tell her you'll be back right now,

but bring your report card. -Okay.

I'm gonna go. I'm gonna go with Mr. Ramos.


-When I was growing up,

I was given the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen.

There was policy that allowed for me to become a U.S. citizen.

And now, it doesn't seem like

Jose's gonna get that opportunity anytime soon.

Are you thinking about doing any other sports?

-I don't know.

-What about soccer?

-Mr. Ramos gives me advice so I can live a good life.

He has advised me about money and how to manage it,

about things I can do so I can get into a good college.

-These are the homework folders, and it's really easy.

Their behavior report -- Do you remember these?


-Just highlight it, and then put it back in their folder,

and that's it. -So, where do I do it?

Over there in the back?

-Yeah, you can take the comfortable chair.

One of the good things about Jose is that he's Jose.

He's very motivated and he's always happy and smiling.

That's who he was in third grade, and that's who is now.

That's a small taste of what being a teacher is like.

[ Chuckles ]

-[ Chuckles ] Uh, I'm doing fine at school.

Um, it's not that difficult

than I thought it would be, so I'm doing okay.

My favorite subject is math.

I want to get a job so I can get some money to support my family.

And -- Well, yeah. That's pretty much it.

-So, you brought up your grade from a B+ to an A.

So, I want this to be a success story.

I want him to finish school.

I want him to enroll in a university.

I want him to tell his success story

to many people in the future.

Hopefully, he'll inspire other children to do the same.


  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv


World Channel
Vienna Blood
Under a Minute
The Talk: Race in America
The National Parks
The Light
The Cardinal’s Files
The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross
Talking Pictures with Neil Rosen
Shall Not Be Denied
Room Tone
Reel 13
Prehistoric Road Trip