Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's My Pleasure

In the midst of trying to eliminate time away from home, I was offered a summer teaching assignment at a community college I have been trying to get into for several years.  After discussing it with my family, we decided that taking the assignment was a good idea even though it means I am away from home every Saturday and Sunday morning throughout the summer.  Long term it will allow for hours that will work best for my family's schedule.

I have to admit that I have loved this assignment.  I have been teaching adult ESL (English as a Second Language) for 12 years and this is one of the most interesting groups of students I have ever taught.  First of all, most of the students are 50 years or older and they come from a variety of countries: Vietnam, Albania, Russia, Pakistan, India, Mexico, and China.  I have two married couples which is always fun. Along with being the most diverse in countries and the oldest group I have ever taught, this group is also the lowest in their English proficiency skills.

One of the amazing things about this group of students is their ability to work cooperatively.  One self made group  consists of women from China, Vietnam, and Russia.  Watching them explain assignments together is unbelievable.  They struggle, they laugh, and they work it out - often doing a better job of teaching the content than me.  They speak very little English but keep a watchful eye out for each other and are very generous with the knowledge they do have.  Giving exams is not easy because they really want to help each other and tend to let their partner know if they have made a mistake.  I just love how my student from Albania sits alone at his table until he sees his friend from Vietnam show up and immediately his eyes light up and they start talking.  What they talk about I have no idea, but they often have their translators out and find pictures in their books to get their messages across.  Plus, they are both very proud of their drivers licenses and often have them out showing them off since they are fairly new!

As my students pack up their books to leave for the day I always thank them for coming to class.  They always respond back, "No Teacher, thank you."  (Gratitude from my students is a nice bonus that comes with my job!)  What I have started saying to my students is, "It's my pleasure."  I said this one day out of the blue because I truly feel that way.  I was pleasantly surprised at how happy a few of the students who understood "pleasure" looked when I said it.  I think it is important to know that the person who is motivating you wants to be there.  I certainly do.  I love my job and I feel thankful each semester that I am given another chance to work with such beautiful people.


  1. Your job sounds so rewarding! Shane and I have often thought about taking a class to learn Spanish. I think it would be a worthwhile activity on our part, but like so many other things around here, it keeps getting pushed to the back burner. :(

  2. How lovely, Cathy! It's fascinating to be close to so many different people and cultures, all with the same goal--communication and friendship. I took a German language class at the local Volkshochschule, or people's high school, when I lived in Germany. It was, without a doubt, the most valuable--and efficient--class I took while I was there. The teacher was German and the class was taught in German. The workbook was in German. And the students? I was the only American, in a class with people from Romania, Turkey, Kenya, Hungary... everyone wishing to learn to speak German. German became the language we all had in common, which was amazing and delightful. It was fun trying to communicate with one another, and incredible because after a few classes, we actually COULD.

    I can see how and why the class you teach is so rewarding, Cathy. Bravo!

  3. I think it's neat that you do this. How did you get into doing it? I work a few foreign co-workers, many who do not understand much English. Some have taken the two (I believe) classes, others have not taken any courses. Some have mastered, most have not. I do like when I can teach those a few words here and there. I do enjoy working with them. One even brought me a thoughtful gift after her visit back home. Sometimes the small human connections transcend the culture/language barriers.

  4. What a wonderful experience. I come from a family of teachers (three generations!) so I understand the great fulfillment that comes with making a difference in people's lives. Bravo to you (and your family) for making this happen.

  5. In addition to RA, we have another thing in common. I am a teacher, as well.

    One of my many teaching stints was teaching Adult ESL. I have such fond memories of that time. In fact, I just received a lovely postcard from a student I taught 20 years ago.

    Congratulations on this well-deserved award, Cathy: http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/best-rheumatoid-arthritis-blogs#23 .