I was simplifying today…going through old papers to minimize the amount of clutter I have stuck in cabinets. One of the things I ran across was material from when I taught English as a Foreign Language to students who came to the US for the sole purpose of learning or enhancing their English. I kept the materials in case I ever taught again.
We had five levels of efficiency, I remembered, from newbies to those who had a good command of the language, and I have to admit that some of my favorite classes were those I taught to improve the skills of those who already knew English.
In fact, even with a Master’s degree in English, some of them knew our grammar better than I did because they studied it so thoroughly in their own countries. But what I really could help them do was speak more fluently, and understand more readily. And I could love on the them.
There was one particular year that my students in each cohort were incredibly lovable. I had students from Japan, Korea, Belarus, Columbia and many other corners of the world. We wrote and produced films (Our Mission Impossible script was one of the best! The students even took the camera out on the ski slopes and acted out some of the scenes there). We studied Shakespeare, and I took them on an outing to see Taming of the Shrew at a local community college. I told them not to worry; practically no-one understands anything Shakespearean actors say for the first 15 minutes of a play. They really got into it, much to my pleasure and surprise.
What I found tonight was a newsletter we had produced in one of the writing classes. There was a hilarious ad that one of the students placed in the newsletter, giving himself up for adoption, at 33 years old. There were jokes and a cartoon, and all kinds of articles, each written by the various students themselves. As I read through the newsletter, so many wonderful memories of those connections flooded my mind.
We were together on 9-11 and one of the Muslim students wouldn’t come out of his room for nearly a week. Experiencing that event through the eyes of all these international students was especially heartbreaking, and some of them couldn’t return to their home countries fast enough, soon as the airports opened again.
We had groups of girls come through sessions from one college in Kobe, Japan. Oh such sweet girls they were! And, the latinos always lit up my classroom with their gregarious personalities, and a willingness to make anything a party. I learned, through the few years I taught in this program, to break through stereotypes as I learned about different cultures and met such a variety of people…no two alike, yet all with the same human needs…to be loved, accepted, and respected.
I’m thankful I hung on to a bit of the clutter, just for the walk down memory lane tonight. I hope, somehow, that each student whose life I touched somehow was better for it. I know I was.
DAY 246 HOMEWORK: Simplifying your life is really a worthwhile project so pick a cabinet and go through it today. You may find something that takes you down memory lane. Linger a while there with those kindreds of your past and remember the footprints on your heart from earlier days. (And then, don’t hang on to the clutter…just hang on to the memory!) 🙂