Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Yesterday I subbed at a primary school. I subbed for an ESL/special ed teacher. It was an interesting day. Hats off to teachers who do this every day...because I couldn't do it. Among the children I interacted with yesterday were twin girls. They are in first grade and know almost no English. I believe they are new to the district by only a month or so. They came accompanied by a young man whose job it is to attend to them on a 1-2 basis, helping them do pretty much everything. He is fluent in Spanish so this helps teachers with communication barriers. It was painfully obvious that these little girls are not nurtured and cared for the way that everyone ought to be. They are dirty and unkempt. The ESL teacher told me that she has spent time brushing and fixing the girls' hair in the morning...as it is usually snarled and matted. What broke my heart also, was noticing that it is far more than a language barrier that these little girls face as a challenge every day. I had worked earlier in the day with a little girl from Puerto Rico. She had just moved to the USA over the summer. She is bright eyed and eager to learn and can already speak and write surprisingly well. She was a delight to work with. By contrast, the other two had dull eyes and seemed uninterested in interaction, barely making eye contact. Their aid told me that they seem barely able to even speak their own language. They were difficult to keep on task, they were frequently getting up and wandering about the room. They did not seem to understand boundaries-touching, picking up or opening things around the room. We had to keep saying thinks like, "No. Don't touch. That is not yours. Come sit down." They seemed like toddlers. I feel bad because they have been dealt such a bad hand in life. I wished that I could start it over for them with a better hand. I am thankful for people like Christine and John who have helped do this for so many. The aid and I tried to engage the little girls in play. We brought out some dolls for them to play with, trying to get them to interact with us verbally in either Spanish or English. We got almost nothing in return. I drew pictures for them of small animals. If they would repeat the English word for the animal, they were allowed to color it. I drew a frog and one little girl said, "coqui," which is the word for frog in Puerto Rico. (interestingly, the word "coqui" is not used in any other Spanish speaking country-"rana" is.) We allowed her to color it. This sad encounter made me think up a whole new list of things that I take for granted. I thank God for the following:
-a wonderful family
-a sharp mind.
-a nice home
-people who have loved and nurtured me all of my life.
-the ability to love and nurture others.
-clean hair and clothes
-a warm coat
-the ability to communicate and interact with others
-smoke free and drug free environment
-stability in the home I grew up in
-discipline, direction, guidance, instruction
-things to eat today
In light of my story, what can you think of to add? Please add to my list in the comments.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress