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2013-08-09 10.23.40

I had the amazing opportunity to teach English this past week at our organizations very first level for adults. This section of 100A was opened at the beginning of June, composed of all native Somali -speakers, extremely few who had any formal education at any point in their life. Most of the students started off unable to recognize more than a couple letters, were unable to write their names, and knew only a handful of English words. Since then, everyone can write their names, most recognize all the letters, they've learned a fair amount of vocabulary, and there are even some students who can decode words.

That's the general summary of the students I was able to work with this past week. Now to talk a bit about the woman whose writing I've shared here. S has been a member of the class since its first day and had 0 literacy skills when she came in. A month into class, we got a little more information about her from a couple of the workers at the temporary housing there S (and most of the class' students) lives. They confirmed that even when speaking Somali, there's something distinctly different about her, so they suspect she's had something like a traumatic brain injury or perhaps has some sort of developmental disorder. The heartbreaking/heartwarming story they shared, though, was that she went to them and said, "I went to school for months at [another school] and never knew how to write my name. I took class for four weeks here and I can write my name!"

The picture of S's writing is an example of some of her best work. The teacher writes directly in her notebook (the red) and has S trace or copy from that instead of the board. S did a wonderful job this week, usually the only major errors being a "b" instead of "d" and an everlasting trouble of writing s sideways. So this picture with the nearly vertical s? Holy crap. I had missed that until I looked back at the photo and I am so impressed. S often writes her letters sideways or upside down - which is not a typical error from students at this point. Watching S work, it seems like she genuinely sees things differently or at least her reproduction of it gets twisted around. She's not lazy or inattentive, she's the most regular student in class and she watches avidly as you show her the process, but there's some sort of disconnect or wires getting crossed. She's absolutely fascinating to work with.

All of the students are amazing. Honestly I am going to miss them like crazy! I volunteered in the class two days the other week to prepare for subbing and in those seven days I feel so connected to the students. I'm so proud of them as I see their improvement, hear them practice language, and watch the light of realization spark. I know the prep work for teaching this level of class is exhausting (I was lucky in that I got to sub from prepared material) but I'm starting to wonder if maybe I'd like to teach at this level. It's really phenomenal... makes you think... and wow, it's a rather humbling experience.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 9th, 2013 07:58 pm (UTC)
Aw, go S! That's a very inspirational story.
Aug. 9th, 2013 08:09 pm (UTC)
They are such a freaking awesome group. And really funny a lot of the time - there's lots of laughter and smiles. Which, when you find out some of the stories of things they've lived through, is amazing. So much admiration. :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )