It has been a long time, I know. Since I'm now living in England, it's hard to think of good things to write that would be interesting for you guys. My dad and I were talking and he suggested I share a few of the stories I told him about teaching this week, so here goes. I will try, also, to do some posts in the coming week -- during which six of my very good friends (OK, I will be meeting two of them here but am confident we'll become friends) will be adventuring through Ireland and England, celebrating Thanksgiving, and doing some other fun things. But first, some stories about classes this week.
First, I was at Bible English on Wednesday where a group of us teach mostly asylum-seekers (called refugees in America) English and use the Bible as our text. It is an interesting class with a wide spectrum of English levels and abilities. I ended up with an Afghani lady who has a lot of trouble understanding in the class. It is doubtful that she has ever had formal schooling and it is really difficult to help her understand basic concepts. I admit feeling frustrated as we went through our lesson and prayed that I would have help to love her better.
As the lesson wound down, she started talking to me out of the blue, and was able to communicate quite a bit in English. She told me about the difficult situation her family is in because they are not allowed to work here and the money they are given by the government is not enough for her to buy coats for her three children. It is cold here so I understand this would be a major concern! They can't go back to Afghanistan and don't have much hope for getting different papers any time soon.
The next day, I was at the other English class I help with. This one is a general TESOL class and is made up of about 20 ladies, mostly Pakistani, who live in this city. Many have been here for over ten years and don't speak much English. They are wonderful and enthusiastic learners, and a joy to work with.
For the first time, my friend Elizabeth and I were asked to take a group of the more advanced students upstairs in the church we use for the classes to work on the computers. We were to start making a CV (like a resume) with them. I knew in my head that they didn't know how to use computers. But I wasn't prepared...
When we got up to the room and each lady sat in front of a computer. I asked if they had ever used computers before, and they all said no, NEVER. One said that her family has one, and she has never used it.
I started working with one of the older ladies who has lived here for over 30 years. She speaks English very well but is just learning to read and write. She worked in a school in Britain for 25 years as a lunch lady. This was clearly her first time working on a computer. It was amazing to teach someone what a mouse is -- it seemed as difficult to her to learn how to maneuver it as it would be to learn to drive a car! And things like how long to push a button to make it register once, not 8 times, were terribly difficult.
Anyway, these experiences this week have me thinking more about the immense need within the refugee and immigrant communities all over the world. I also realize more how difficult it is to be a teacher (I admire my teacher friends so much), and how blessed I am to have had opportunities for education. To be able to read and write in itself is a blessing I take for granted all of the time. And it is wonderful to get to work with these incredible women who, although they have not had the same opportunities, are fun, loving, proud of their families, and have amazing life stories.