Apr 11, 2016

Beginner ESL


Since we've moved to Minnesota and the kids started going to public school, I found myself with a ton of extra time on my hands. I didn't see myself going back into my previous profession, so I started looking around for places to volunteer. The only place I was qualified for had this description: "Can you speak English? Then you can teach it. Call us." That looked like the place for me. I was hooked after the first class. 4 years later and I'm still loving it more than ever. I even went back to graduate school to earn a certificate to teach Adult ESL classes. This is just one more part of my journey in this wonderful life.

These are my people! I cannot tell you enough how much I adore them. Every Tuesday and Thursday I get to spend the morning helping them acquire a better grasp of the English language. They inspire me. They teach me. They humble me. I'm the lucky one. They LOVE to take selfies with me and each other. We laugh a lot in class. We encourage each other. We help each other. We respect each other.

Let me introduce you.

One gentleman is from Cambodia. He was a high-level government official. He already speaks Cambodian and French. He has his master's degree in Economics. He tries to ask me questions in French, but my French is only in the numbers and colors stage, so that doesn't work well. He is very good at reading English, so we communicate mostly through writing. He is improving daily on speaking English though. The older you are, the harder it is and I have the highest admiration for him. He is a man of great status, wealth and prestige who has voluntarily lowered himself to be in a beginning English class. That takes a person of deep character!

The other gentleman is a 69 year old Vietnamese man. He walks two miles to and from school every day in any type of weather. He is undeterred. This is his first time to learn English. He used to be a writing instructor in Vietnam. He has the most beautiful penmanship. He is so eager to learn. I keep a Vietnamese/English dictionary very close at hand because there is still a very large language barrier. But he is making excellent progress.

One of the Mexican ladies used to be a migrant farm worker in California picking all types of fruit and vegetables until she moved here 5 months ago. She is a single mom with 5 kids. She works 60 hours a week yet still makes time to come to class to improve her English. I don't think I would have that much dedication. And she is always happy. She never complains. She is one of the hardest workers I know. I understand quite a bit of Spanish, I just can't speak it well. She often asks me questions in Spanish and I find myself answering her in English. It's actually very funny if you were to see us talking to each other.

The other Hispanic lady is just pure joy. She is loud, happy and the best encourager. She brings our room to life. She lacks confidence in her speaking, but is actually quite good. I met her at the library the other day to help her get her own library card so she could go check out any books she wants. She was thrilled. She has a very supportive husband and three teenage boys. She's my cheerleader in class.

I had two other students most of the year who aren't in the picture. One was a lady from Afghanistan who had never been to school before she came to see me. She was 30 years old with 5 kids. We started at the very beginning...how to hold a pencil, draw straight lines, curved lines. I even went to her house in the summers to keep her up to speed. After two years of working with her she is now reading, answering questions in class out loud (which never happened before) and has gained oodles of confidence. She's a whiz at math. She is my friend.

Lastly, I had a Pakistani gentleman, in his mid-60s, who brought a smile to my face every single day. He had to leave school at the age of 7 (or 9, I can't remember) to go work for the family after his father was injured. He ended up a successful mechanic in Dubai for the same company for 30 years. He moved here to live with his eldest son's family. He loves Walmart since they gave him his first job in the States. He has a beautiful sing-song quality to his voice. He loves everyone. He greets everyone with a smile and bow. He was so proud of himself for learning to read that he would tear up whenever anyone asked him about his story. Now that he can read, he wants to read more and faster. He has a beautiful outlook on life. I'm thankful for the chance to know him and call him my friend.
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