Teaching ESL classes inspires a change in perspective

We all have our prejudices. I will admit I have some of my own. However, I was recently reminded we need to continue to be open-minded about those who we meet throughout the course of our lives.

I teach English as a Second Language classes once a week at St. Monica’s Church for one of my classes. After teaching for the semester, it has unraveled some of my most intense and unfounded prejudices.

Week after week, I show up at St. Monica’s at 6 p.m., to teach English to immigrants from various countries. Normally, they are Hispanic and most are from Mexico.

This past week, as I showed up to teach there was a large family I had never seen before in the classroom. A different tutor from my class worked with them during the time.

After asking my students about the family, I was informed that they had emigrated to the U.S. from Libya just four months earlier. I was struck by the profound determination of this family. I watched as the father encouraged his five children to go up to the board and spell out the words the tutor was teaching them.

After seeing this, I vowed to drop all childish prejudices I may have.

This family has put forth an immense effort to assimilate to their new home. Whether it is because of the conflict in Libya that may not allow this family to return to their original home or not, I do not know. I do know the fact that this family is making such a concerted effort to learn our language deserves much acknowledgment and encouragement.

The father of this family explained to me how he wished to learn both Spanish and French after mastering English. I was floored. Most Americans don’t have that kind of drive to immerse themselves in the cultures of countries around the world.

The encounter I had with this family has inspired me—and I hope others—to have a more open and accepting world view.

I spent years around others who believe that all immigrants to the U.S. are lazy and that everyone should learn English. After teaching this ESL class, I have seen that such a theory has been flipped on its head.

These immigrants are anything but lazy.

I have seen the hardest work come out of the students I have been teaching. They are eager and determined to learn, but what is even more impressive is that they rarely get discouraged. They are determined to learn and are convinced that they can do it. These students have shown me skills that I think we all need to embody in today’s day and age.

In a country where we are so quick to pass judgment and stick with stereotypes, no matter how ridiculous they are, I find these ESL students to be incredibly inspirational to me and to the type of person I want to become.

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