When I retired five years ago, I started searching for meaningful retirement activities. I saw a notice at my church for ESL tutors and so began my journey. It was a smooth and natural transition for me as I had taught children from preschool through high school.
I have had many wonderful students, but there is one that stands out in my mind.
My student was from Sierra Leone and had lost both her home and members of her family in attacks by rebels. She herself was tortured and will always carry the emotional and physical scars.
Her dream was to become an American citizen. This was a real challenge since she had no schooling and spoke only an obscure African tribal language. Her cousin accompanied her to tutoring and translated while I worked with her. It still makes me smile, when I remember her triumphantly saying, “I love America!”
Although English was challenging for her, she did learn to write her name, address and phone number. Because of her special circumstances, a translator was allowed to accompany her during the citizenship test. I can only guess that the tester was absolutely charmed by her because he passed her right away. After the test, I was invited to their home to celebrate with cake. When I arrived, I discovered that “cake” was actually chicken stew.
My hope is that my students come to appreciate and enjoy all the United States has to offer. I also hope that our country recognizes the benefits of each person’s unique talents. So many of these newcomers have amazing strength, determination and resilience.
I get a lot of satisfaction seeing my students’ progress. In my current group, the students have become so comfortable with each other, they requested group conversation time. They have formed their own little community and I am honored to be a part of it. I’ve formed some very close friendships with both students and other tutors. Tutoring has widened my circle of friends.