My classroom reminder that life is simply good.


When I started writing this blog, I had a few goals in mind. One of which was that I just wanted to be writing. But more than that, I wanted to throw out into my little piece of the world a bit of optimism or hope or something good to remind myself and whoever graciously reads this that life actually is good. When it's hard or not what I expected or heart-breakingly sad, I want to remember that there were and are times that are, simply, good. Perhaps not so profound, but good, nonetheless. If you're looking.
Just trying to send a little warm fuzzy out into the blog abyss.

In light of that, I offer you this for your consideration:

One time I was eighteen. I went to college. I decided to study elementary education and Spanish. I studied some. I learned some. Then I graduated. After that, I did what all grads do when their loan repayment kicks in: I volunteered and deferred my loans. And then, eventually, I got a job. 

And actually, I still have that same job. And more actually, I love that job.

Lucky, right?

How many 26 year olds really love their job? Not too many. And I do consider myself lucky. For a few reasons (you know I love my lists):
1. I have seriously awesome co-workers, one of which is like my midwest Mom. She's been ridiculously supportive and has let me cry like 6  or 7 times this week. She constantly reassures me that I am a decent teacher despite lesson failures and misunderstandings and frankly, just some bad ideas.
2. My boss has her priorities straight. She puts family ahead of anything else and is completely understanding when things inevitably happen. She puts me at ease and reminds me that family is most important. 
3. My students... well, not all my students, but the vast majority of my students are superb.

Superb. Seriously. My students (again, the vast majority) are immigrants from Mexico. Some came recently. Some have been here for a long time. But all of them honestly want to learn English. They each have their own reasons, including but not limited to wanting to: talk to the doctor without a translator, help their children with their homework, integrate themselves into society and be able to communicate with co-workers. Noble reasons, right? 

But, surprise! English isn't easy! It's difficult. And some students do give up. (Can you blame them? How many of us quit Spanish or French before mastering the language? Uhhh...like 93%??). But lots of students don't. In fact, we've had some students who have followed our classes from one location to another, from one schedule to another and from one teacher to another. Many of my relationships with students have lasted longer than most celebrity marriages.

Indulge me, if you will, and let me tell you about one such student. Let's call her Maria, most common Mexican name ever, for anonymity's sake. Maria has been in our program longer than I have. She's among our most committed students. 

She's also 78 years old. Since September, she has missed two weeks of classes. Seems like a lot? She fell down the stairs and hurt her shoulder and was out until she was able to dress herself again. Then she was right back in classes and hasn't missed a class since. This woman is serious inspiration to the rest of my class. The other students have taken it upon themselves to look after her. They walk her to and from school even though she lives the farthest away. She's brought a real sense of community to the class.

But more than that, Maria brings unbelievable humor. 

The other day, we learned how to express daily routines. You know, the things we do every day. I wake up. I take a shower. I get dressed, etc etc etc.

I explain to my students the conjugation of "to take a shower":
I take a shower.
You take a shower.
He/she/it takes a shower.
We take showers.
You takes showers.
They take showers.

And I further explained that when the subject becomes plural, so too do the showers. And foolishly I commented, "You probably don't want to say 'We take a shower' because it sounds like you're taking a shower with someone." I know, I left myself wide open...

Maria, my 78 year old student, promptly replied, "And? What's wrong? You know, when my husband was alive, we had to take showers together. We had one bathroom. What could we do if we were in a hurry?"

Cue the crickets. Immediately followed by huge bursts of laughter. And blushing (mostly on my part). See, when you're 78, you can say whatever you want. And she sure does. And, really, I don't mind.

Maria takes classes because she wants to communicate with her son-in-law. He doesn't speak a word of Spanish and, from what I gather, has zero interest in learning. She says he tells her that he can't understand her. So she has been coming to class three days a week for five years. 

And she's made progress. On our test, she now consistently scores an eight out of ten (the highest score I've seen). Though she has an accent and misses words here and there, she is not difficult to understand. Her son-in-law, unfortunately, continues to tell her he can't understand a word of what she says.

So she keeps coming. Eight blocks in the Chicago winter. In hopes of some day communicating with a son-in-law too ignorant and stubborn to try to understand her.


But I'm not complaining about her returning each year. I adore her.



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