About this sample
About this sample
Words: 471 |
3 min read
Published: Jul 18, 2018
Words: 471|Pages: 1|3 min read
The school day is over, which means it's time for ESL American Social Studies. Spread all over the table are primary sources from the Civil Rights Movement. Sitting across from me are Carlos from Mexico and Durgam from Iraq. As a peer tutor, I was supposed to lead the discussion and be the most knowledgeable person in the room. I could count on being organized and well-read, but I couldn't predict that these two students would have so much insight to share about their experiences, their lives, and why they came to America. Insight doesn't know a language barrier.
When I signed up for the peer tutoring position, I expected mostly to be working with students who just happened to be a little behind in English. Perhaps they had recently come to America because their parents had found new jobs, and thus had gotten a late start on the language. As a son of immigrant parents, the only immigrant experience I know well is my own: my parents and some of their friends hail from less-developed countries and came to America to pursue higher education. What I heard in my ESL room were not stories of the pursuit of prestige and advancement, but of escape from harsh realities.
Carlos was one of my students, and someone with a story I'll never forget. He was from Juarez, Mexico, and his parents moved to Portland after a mass disappearance in his neighborhood. Apparently, drug cartels frequently cause large numbers of people to simply vanish. Durgam was another student from an area of chaos and uncertainty, this time Iraq: his family finally moved overseas because they were constantly surrounded by bombings. He had shifted from house to house in his home neighborhood as explosions destroyed each one. What struck me was how plainly these students told about where they came from, as if the incredible circumstances they had escaped were just typical facts of life. I can’t imagine being in that type of world, much less moving to a completely different society just to survive. Hearing about their cultures and experiences, I understood my luck in life for the first time. I used to take for granted the vast opportunities available to me -- cultural acceptance, and the peace of mind that comes from living in America, far away from war and widespread violence. Carlos and Durgam ended any and all shortsightedness on my part.
The students I tutored were completely unfamiliar with American history: they would frequently stop to ask about words like “discrimination,” “segregation,” and “liberties.” We came from such different cultures, but we worked together to unpack complex ideas and, ultimately, open each other's eyes by absorbing each other’s experiences. My resume may say "peer tutor," but I learned just as much from my students as I taught.
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