I teach in a small town of about 18,000 people. We are about 45 minutes from three larger metropolitan areas. In the past few years we have seen an increase in ESL students in our schools. It amazes me how well children adapt and learn language, especially in a kindergarten setting. The burden I have in my heart is for the parents. We do not have support for parents to learn English, and they struggle with the language.
In recent years I’ve been able to travel with my husband on several business/pleasure trips. As we’ve traveled in Europe we’ve had some amazing experiences. We’ve always stayed in hotels where the staff spoke English. We’d often take side trips with English speaking guides and occasionally we’d venture off alone confident we’d find many helpful people who speak our language. Although the day we got on the wrong bus in France, we weren’t sure this was the case. We did learn if you stay on a city bus long enough you eventually get back to where you got on! And if all else fails, we can pull out a MasterCard and buy our way back to comfort and security.
Even traveling with few frustrations and fears I’m always struck with the relief I feel when I return home confident in my knowledge of the customs and communications I face. I’m very aware how difficult it is for parents when they don’t have communication skills or anyone to readily assist them. I’ve seen parents pull their child out of school to interpret when they go to the doctor. I see the stress on parent's faces when they struggle to make themselves understood. While our school does have an Instructional Aide who speaks Spanish she is only available for conferences and other informal communications. For the majority of their lives the parents who don’t speak English face many struggles. Our small community does not have a resource for parents to learn English.
I’m free in the summer, and I really do better when I stay with a schedule. Work with a purpose keeps me energized. In past years I’ve worked with a student or two needing reading help. Am I crazy to attempt, as a non-Spanish speaking person to attempt to teach English to adults? The Instructional Aide said she has a list of people who want to learn. I don’t need compensation. Our public library has space; I might even be able to use a room at school. I guess I just need courage, and the confirmation that it is possible for me to do a good job.