mermaids

…And Then There Were Five

Posted on: 3 June, 09

That’s right.  We are down to the last Thursday, Friday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of school.  The last few days, I have had the pleasure of working with some of our ESL students.  I admire them greatly.  Imagine being plunked down in an office in a foreign country.  You don’t speak the language, but everyone expects you to produce work.  Perhaps the job is in a field about which you know nothing.  You are a lawyer, but you are being asked to be a surgeon.  That is exactly what these students face every day.

Our district has a growing population of refugees from Burma.  Most of these students have spent their entire lives in refugee camps.  Coming to America often means leaving part of the family behind, “for now,” which might mean years.  They come with nothing, largely because they had nothing to bring. 

These students work hard and are so grateful for any help or kindness they receive.  They diligently copy everything written on the board, even when they have no idea what those words mean.  The learn a great deal by observing the other students.  Amazingly, they have a way of knowing which behaviors should not be mimicked.  These students are so well behaved.  Many of our American students, born with every advantage possible, could learn a great deal from these students. 

I know they are very fortunate to be here, where they are safe and will have a chance at a good life.  However, my heart breaks for them.  The challenges they face every day must be exhausting.  The good news, I have no doubt they will be successful.  They have tenacity, perseverance, and an incredible amount of courage. 

While I am tired and seriously ready for a day off, I jumped at the opportunity to work with these students.  If there is any little thing I can do to help them get through this arduous “testing season,” then I will turn my schedule upside down to be there for them. 

If your school has ESL students, think about volunteering to work with them.  Even one hour a week can make a difference.  You don’t need to be able to teach.  Read a book to them.  Play a board game.  Do anything that gives them a chance to practice their English.  More importantly, let them know that they are valuable enough to be a part of your day. 

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4 Responses to "…And Then There Were Five"

My hat goes off to you. I have witnessed students and programs like this before even in Germany. As a matter of fact, I myself was such a student. When my father was diagnosed with lung cancer, I had to come live in the US with my grandmother. I hated the town and school, and begged my parents to get me into a german school. My counselor set me up in a transfer student program. I was given tutors, and after school lessons with german students. It was a very difficult time for me, because I could not read or write the german language, and they were so much more advanced then the american schools. I even had to go back and redo two years of high school. I studied most nights until midnight trying to understand all the latin and german words. I was determined to get passing grades, determined to stay, and very grateful for the chance to be with my family. I rode my bike about 4 kilometers each day to get to school, and I had no social life whatsoever.
So keep on doing what you are doing. It probably means the world to these kids, and I think it is great that you blogged about it.

For several years I volunteered with our literacy/ESL service here. They are hard workers and dedicated to making a better life for their families. And serious about doing well.
I bristle when I hear people criticize newcomers for not speaking our language… they are trying to learn as fast as they can! We had *four times* as many applicants for tutoring as we had tutors. They need help not disapproval.
Hooboy… guess I have a soapbox with that issue. Thanks for helping those kids out. I know they appreciate it.

Good advice, and a good heart you have.

We’re officially out of school here as of yesterday. Sort of bittersweet since it means that DS#2 only has one more year of high school school ahead. He’s still snoozing upstairs, so it’s definitely summer break. LOL! Although next week summer football workouts start and he won’t be sleeping in any more.

We have a group of Burmese refugees here, too, and it is a truly challenging situation they face. Good for you for helping.

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