Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I'm one of those people who doesn't subscribe to the newspaper but faithfully reads it online with my cup of coffee, though I miss doing the crossword puzzle in the mornings and my daily dose of Pearls Before Swine.

And this morning, I see some familiar faces in an article about Joseph Gallagher School. They're the kids I see every Saturday, and two of them were in the tutoring program I was a part of earlier this year.

I got frustrated with the structure of the program and the bureaucracy of the education system in general because I'm still convinced that the best way to teach kids how to read is to work with them one-on-one and not put them in front of a computer, but it did give me a chance to get to know the families and understand where they're coming from. What gets me is that some of them speak more languages than I do, local dialects, Swahili, French. I wish I could speak that many.

Now they call me sometimes when they're stuck on homework problems, and I love when we're there and I'm showing the parents what they're doing so they can learn too and help them. The last time I was there, she gave me an ABC book and I began going over the basics of the alphabet with the little guys who aren't in school yet, hopefully to give them a jump before they get there so they know what's going on.

And to all those people out there who want to complain about people not speaking English, I'd like you to think about where your grandparents and great-grandparents came from and how hard life was for them. It's easy for you to say "just learn it" when you've had all the opportunities handed to you and you never had to pick between going to school and helping feed your family.

I can't remember not being able to read. I never realized until recently how much I've taken that for granted. I'm overwhelmed sometimes trying to explain something that I just kind of know.


urbanmonk said...

Amen to those thoughts!! I work with a woman who came to Australia from Ethiopia via Switzerland of all places. She learned German b4 she learned English, and when she landed here, basically taught herself and had no help at all from anyone. And still there are ignoramuses who work in the same building who complain about queue jumpers and the inability to speak English as if its a failure to assimilate.

Randal Graves said...

Learning a new language is hard as hell. Then to have to LIVE while learning? Very few Murkans could pull that off.