Friday, August 12, 2011

Putting Trust in this Stranger

  It takes an incredible determination and perseverance to come to a country where you can't speak the language.  I can't imagine how scary it is to put your trust in strangers to guide you through everything in life.
     This week a woman brought her six-year-old daughter in to register her for 1st grade.  She didn't speak any English.  I had to tell the little girl what her mom needed to show me to register her for school, like "proof of residency."  Then the little girl explained it to her mom in Spanish.  Her mom handed her documents and the little girl asked me which ones would work.  I was in awe of her maturity and also sad for her.  It's hard to be a kid when your family needs you to be an adult.
     Another couple came in.  The gentleman spoke a little bit of English, but his wife didn't speak any.  The woman at the desk tried to explain a legal technicality to the man.  He was confused and frustrated.  I interrupted to tell him that I had been in the same situation for several years, but it had always been okay.  They just had to tell him it could happen, but it probably never would.  He looked relieved, smiled, and signed the papers.
     In education, we talk about students who speak another language as their first language.  It is usually with the words "low" or "lack" as if these kids are less than other people.  We often complain about their low test scores or low grades, their lack of motivation, their poor attitudes.  I don't see them as less than, I see them as greater than.  As an adult, I could not go to any foreign country and get a new job, find a place to live, enroll my kids in school, open a bank account, get a driver's license or any of the other things that life requires.  I was a pretty good student in school, but I know I wouldn't be able to have done much in an another country where I had to not only learn the content, but learn the content in a language I didn't understand.  I admire my students immensely.  I couldn't even come close to what they manage to do every day.  And that's before you add their responsibilities at home like translating for their family, babysitting while their parents work multiple jobs, and working to help support their families.
     It is humbling to be a person who hold so much trust in her hands.  I hope I am always worthy of their faith in my ability to help and not hurt.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Knock, Knock, New Guy

     Today I tried something new.  I spent an hour and a half with the autistic students attending summer school. It was their last day of summer school and they had earned a party for their hard work the past four weeks.  There was coloring and Wii games and flying stuffed monkeys and giant cardboard box houses and tornadoes in a bottle.  It was total chaos and total bliss.  The kids pretty much ignored me until we went to lunch.
     As I stood behind them in line, they began to realize I was there.  They started petting me and hugging me and touching my nose.  I sat by a boy who told me my name was "new guy."  When I told him my name was Tiffany, he said, "Okay, new guy."  Then he started to tell me a knock knock joke.  It made no sense, but I laughed anyway.  When the kids saw I laughed, they all started telling me knock knock jokes over the top of each other.  Then the first boy grabbed my face and turned it to look at him.  Then he told me the joke again.
     This little guy was suddenly my best friend.  He held my hand and held on to my arms the rest of lunch and recess.  We played in the wood chips and made paths, giant dragonflies, and letters.  It was a great day for new guy and her new friend.
     Being around kids who were so full of life, without the socialization most kids have, was refreshing.  Every emotion was felt honestly and fully.  They picked flowers that were off limits because they were so beautiful.  They ran with their faces smiling up at the sun.  They debated the way dragonflies talk, and they played together because they both wore green.  They welcomed me with hugs and kisses and held my hand the entire time.  In my world, it's rare to be loved so openly, and I fell in love with them just as fast.
     Today, these cute kids taught me how to embrace life, to live honestly, and to live in the moment.  That hour and a half gave me balance, love, and lots of joy.