Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why don't they learn English? Because you won't teach them.

Posted By on October 26, 2010, 8:45 AM

click to enlarge blog4471widea.jpg

I get really angry when I hear the lie that immigrants don't want to learn English. At the school where I tutor English, there's a lengthy waiting list for students to enroll and never a waiting list for English speakers to begin helping immediately.---

At almost no cost to them, students spend two nights per week--usually after work or caring for children--receiving English instruction in small groups.

The vast majority are immigrants, naturally, and though this opinion isn't based on science or surveys, it's clear to me that most students attend classes hoping for career or educational opportunities that are open only to those people lucky enough to read and speak English. Tutors' motivations are more varied, but a general desire to do good and love thy neighbor seems to underlie most everyone's reason for being there.

Below is the recent graduation speech of David Alexandre, a recent graduate of Guadalupe Schools' adult education program. I had to convince David to let me publish his speech without editing. Naturally, he wanted all the "errors" removed, but I convinced him to allow people to read his English--which is a work in progress--as it exists today.

(below the speech I'll include more details for people who may be interested in becoming tutors).

Since my wife and I arrived into US, I started a battle with myself because this is not my country, my culture, my language, my life, but I am here for the same reason that most people here.

I came after my dreams, I was tired, and I came to get a new life.

My wife just came to get a post graduation in architecture and I came to accompany her for this period.

I did not speak too much English and I did not want to stay in home doing nothing.

When the plane touched the ground in New York and I had to talked to immigration officer at airport I realized that my life here would not be easy, because I did not understand any word that she said, but I still had my dreams in my mind, I thought “I will overcome this barrier."

Six months later I met Guadalupe Schools and I started this program, many faces here still are the same, many others just gone.

I did not believe that this school would be able to teach enough English because it seemed like fragile and not good enough.

But I was wrong.

Guadaluppe School is good enough that I thought.

School couldn’t make any miracle and I felt disappointed.

The world fell over my head.

Guadalupe School can’t do anything if you don’t want.

Your progress at this school depends on how much you really want to learn English.

After 5 years I saw many people starting and many other giving up because they thought the same. I am sorry to disappointed you but Guadalupe School cannot do miracle, help yourself, I mean read a lot whatever you like, it can be Shakespeare or Lady Gaga, watch videos and try to talk with less accent, talk with people in English, remember you are in US and the first language here is English.

I learned much more here than just English . I learned how important is the friendship.

Few years ago I met a guy and some day I was talking to him and he told me “I do not see any reason because I should speak English because when I come to the bank, groceries store, health center and all the places around, they speak Spanish."

I said “you're all right, but if you want something else better for you here try to be among the English speakers."

I do not have words to describe Guadalupe School but if I make a guess I would describe like a nest.

All we are is little birds trying to get feathers and than spread our wings and just fly over the world.

All over these years I got feathers on my wings, year by year little ones grew up on it.

Many times I thought to give it up, but I said to myself "If I do that I don’t live what I preach."

I tried to do everything that I could to help this School to be alive and keep teaching many other people, I know that I could make more because everything that I did was not enough.

Many people here really need a free school but many others don’t.

On my last day I would beg to everybody here: Help to keep this dream alive, help your School.

Think about!!

My first and second years were worse than other, but I overcame this barrier, I met lovely people and those people helped me to become what I am. People like Temma, Bryan, Scotch, Diane, Emily, Melanie, Rachel, Mark, Chris, and of course, Kate. All they were my inspiration. All you guys have a little space in my heart and I will never forget you. I know that you guys made your best, and I am thankful.

My preferred hobby is watch videos; it is my personal English teacher. I learned a lot and I would like to share.

Now, I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly
I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky
And I'll make a wish, make a change

But, I won't forget all the ones that I love

Wanna feel the warm breeze
Sleep under a palm tree
Feel the rush of the ocean
Get onboard a fast train
Travel on a jetplane, far away
Keep moving on, moving on.

Though it's not easy to tell you goodbye.

But now my wings already have feathers, our period here came to the end for me, it is time to fly.

I will be back to my country and I am sure that I made lovely Americans friends here.

Thanks so much for all of things that you gave me, for all English pages, for all lessons.

To become a tutor, know this:

  • You don't need any foreign language skills as all classes are taught in English only.
  • You don't need any teaching experience as the volunteer coordinators do all the lesson plans.
  • Training is just a couple hours and easy.
  • You can tutor as once per week and still get your "own" class. If you can't regularly commit at least one day per week, you can still volunteer as a substitute tutor.
  • But if you can commit, you'll be assigned to a particular class of two to five students that you will instruct long-term.

From Guadalupe Schools website:

The VIP [adult] program focuses on providing services for working families with young children and income below the poverty line. The majority of these families earn less than $15,000 per year, working primarily in construction, light industry and the service sector. In addition to economic barriers, many students have not had ample opportunity for education either here or in their homelands. During the school year, VIP served 265 students and maintained a waiting list of approximately 105 potential students.

I still remember that my first impressions of Guadalupe Schools in July 2008 were that it was so well organized and both students and teachers were so friendly. I've also learned that merely being blessed with an education of any sort, much less an English-language upbringing, is a privilege you can't fully appreciate until you share your skills with those who were not so blessed.

For more information, visit Guadalupe-Schools.org or call 801-531-6100.

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Jesse Fruhwirth

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