I’ve made some observations and intriguing findings as an English as a Second Language teacher for the past few months. As some of my classes come to a close, I’ll share with you what some of my students have taught me.
One exercise that I had many of my students do was to write sentences describing things they do every day. A, a man from Tanzania, wrote:
I like to thank our God every day.
What I like about this sentence is that he says he likes to thank God and he acknowledges that God is here for us all when he says our God.
A and his wife J have an infant son who they sometimes dress in pink clothes or clothes with shades of pink in them. I would imagine that in their country, pink is not a color assigned to only girls. Also, I saw A wearing a pink wrist band the other day. He didn’t seem to think anything of it. I’ve seen some of the other boy children wearing colors like pink, lavender, and some other fashions that were perhaps meant for girls. I’m sure a lot of the clothes were given to them and they simply don’t care what color the clothes are, as long as they keep the children warm. These are little babies and toddlers. What difference does it make what colors they're wearing?
E, a student of mine from Moldolva who is studying ESL for Citizenship, created a sentence during one class that mentioned “the war between Germany and Russia.” She was referring to World War II, but she sees it through the eyes of a six-year-old girl from Moldolva. That’s how old she was when she experienced the trauma of the war. I asked her, “What do you remember?” to get her to talk more in English. She talked about the bombs, the friendly soldiers who gave them food, and hiding in a basement-like section of her house. Then her voice faltered as she talked about how German soldiers killed her father when she was six. She actually saw it happen. As she was talking I knew she was close to crying, but I encouraged her to talk anyway. I had never heard her speak so well in English. I hugged her when didn’t seem to be able to go on with the story. We all sat silently for a brief time and continued with the lesson. Isn’t it amazing how a memory that’s so old can trigger such emotion? Of course, this particular memory was probably her most vivid and traumatic.
This week I started teaching a student from the Congo — F, a soon-to-be French teacher for Charlotte's public school system.
F is also studying metaphysical science. I’ve learned some profound lessons about natural laws, auras, and some other topics like karma—-a pretty universal concept that says you get back what you give. In other words, what you put out there comes back to you—-sometimes twice as strong. F said that God will not say, “Oh, it’s OK. You didn’t know that was wrong.” You’ll get the thing back anyway.
He also talked about the concept of Ra and Maa. Evidently Ra is the male energy and Maa is the feminine energy. He said that I’m congested because I have too much Ra right now. Hmmmmmmm. I’ll have to look more into that. (Actually I’ve started doing some Maa chants. I hope it'll clear the congestion in my chest.) Let’s see what happens.
And finally, here’s a quote that was left on the board in the room where my morning class is held. It’s really quite profound.
“Our lives begin to end the day we stay silent about things that matter.”
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.