Monday, August 18, 2008

The Whole World in His Hands...The Whole World in My Classroom

My sister, Geri, lives in Alaska. You might remember her Hollyhocks and Hula-Hoops Guest Post a while back. This summer, Geri embarked on a new adventure; volunteering as an ESL tutor. While Geri has been a religious education teacher at her church, she is not a teacher by training. When the idea was first presented, she had some reservations. As she has kept me up-to-date on her experiences, I knew a Guest Post was in order, and she was happy to offer it....
Geri (in pink), surrounded by her ESL students.

You may wonder why I feel so blessed; why I can't stop smiling, why I love my new students so much. That's easy to explain. This spring, I trained to teach English as a second language, volunteering at the Anchorage Literacy Project. I am so glad that I pushed past my fears of being "bored out of my gourd" teaching beginners, or not being able to remember their strange-sounding names. I was cautiously assertive in communicating to staff that I wanted to (1) teach an interesting course, and (2) have intermediate or higher level students. I got one of my top three choices of courses, and from the minute the students entered the classroom, I was hooked! It just keeps getting better.

What fun; applying commonly-used idioms to the featured stories, to my students' lives, to their time in Alaska, and sharing a bit of my own life and family as it relates to the lessons. Plus, an added bonus is that since two of my students are nuns (from South Korea), they bring up Jesus sometimes, so there's even a bit of evangelizing going on (not that I preach.)

I feel like I am in the Olympics, with students from China, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Brazil, Cambodia, Thailand, and South Africa. Only this Olympics stretches me mentally, spiritually, and emotionally; not physically. Prior to teaching English (which I've wanted to do since grade school), I would not go out of my way to communicate with immigrants or foreigners beyond basic pleasantries. Now, I can't get enough of digging much deeper, beneath the surface, and learning who these foreigners are! A much richer world has opened up to where, for instance, a Chinese waitress asked me to write down the name of the place that ESL is taught. I'll learn their names, and they move from being a smiling face to a real person who can't wait to see me again and who I look forward to seeing again, also.

God has put me in the "marketplace" the last six years or so, and even though the positions (volunteer or paid) have been secular, He shines through me and uses my talents, which He has been refining for many years! I am over 50 years old, and the cliche is so true; life really does seem to begin after forty.

Thanks to stepping out of my comfort zone, the record-breaking, most dreary summer in Alaska has turned into the best summer of my life!

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