This I Believe:
Educating immigrants will benefit them as well as American society.
I have been teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) at a Houston community college since 1999. When I first started, I wondered whether I was fully qualified for the job, having formerly only taught children. I wondered whether teaching immigrants English, some of them illegal, was the right thing to do. Was I not aiding in making it easier for immigrants to stay here, thus having them encourage more of their friends and family to come to this country? I wondered about immersion English versus bilingual education. This and many more doubts plagued me until I came in contact with my first class. I met people from all over Mexico, Central- and South America. They were most eager to learn, the most diligent students, some of them working 2 jobs and still making time for 6 hours of instruction per week plus homework.
The more these students taught me about their cultures, their daily routines, their learning styles, the more I wanted to become the best teacher I could be for them. It has become clear to me that immigrants are here to stay and if I am to be a spoke in that wheel of reality, I want to be a useful one in our mutual learning process. Yes, indeed every day that I am in the classroom teaching English to about 20 immigrants, I benefit so much from what they can teach me from the perspective of their diverse lives. I often have students from five different continents and the interaction between them has become as important as their language acquisition. I see myself as a facilitator of their total learning process. To that end we use English as the common instrument of understanding and respectful listening, social, and communication skills to encourage mutual open-mindedness and acceptance.
Often when immigrant students first come to our intensive English program, they are riddled with fear and self-doubt. Well-functioning individuals in their own language and culture, they face multiple hurdles before they can feel some measure of competence and confidence again. In that sense, I have the utmost empathy, having come here as an immigrant myself a long time ago. My goal now, along with teaching language skills, is to foster hope and a can-do attitude, pride in being bilingual and becoming valuable members of American society.
I have come a long way in my teaching skills since that first class in the fall of 1999. Also, I believe now without a doubt that we must educate immigrants in order to integrate them more fully into our American lives, and I am happy to be an ESL teacher.
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