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.