For the last 7 years, this place has been my second home. I’m blessed to have a job that is so much more than work. Teaching English has been my most practical way of loving and helping the international population that stole my heart as a teenager. And though I have taught in several programs and schools and even once overseas, Americana World Community Center is unique and will forever hold a huge part of my heart.
Americana is the place where…
-I quit my social work practicum mid-semester because I realized I wanted to be in the classroom. I got my Masters in TESOL and came back a year and a half later because I knew that this place was special.
-my first ESL class laughed at me when I told them I was their teacher because I was so young.
-I learned to never take resources for granted as students shared their favorite parts of America being- the streets, the hospitals, that women can come to school, that there’s always enough food.
-students fall asleep during class because they’ve worked 3rd shift but still want to learn English.
-I learned that you have to be careful not to step in elephant poop while you’re walking around Africa.
-I learned how to manage the masses, usually from standing on a chair.
-I learned to interpret broken English and communicate in body language. For example, “kay kay caw” was a student’s response when asked why she didn’t go to school when she was a child. She “take care cow.”
-I’ve been graciously given numerous pieces of clothing from Somalia, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Iraq, China, and Burma.
-I can drive down the side streets and know many of the folks walking down the road.
-I received my first marriage proposals (not from Seth).
-I’ve seen the most beautifully random, cross cultural friendships blossom.
-A student brought me a broken boombox to repair since I can always get their pencils sharpened with the electronic sharpener. It’s a difficult task for many students.
-I experienced/taught a student how to ride an elevator for the first time. It was a nerve-wrecking yet joyful experience.
-I received my first child, a fake baby doll that the student named John.
-I’ve celebrated multiple weddings, baby showers, house warming parties for new homeowners, and iftars to break the fast during Ramadan.
-I celebrated my own wedding because I wanted my students to be invited to an American wedding.
At Americana, I’ve mostly taught the Literacy level of English otherwise known as the ABC level. From my classroom I will remember:
-that EVERYONE is capable of learning. It doesn’t matter if they’ve never been to school or cannot hold a pencil correctly. If they’re not learning, then you’ve gotta step up your teaching creativity.
-meeting new students for the first time. They are nervous and quiet and will hardly make eye contact. By the end of our orientation, they’re smiling and telling me about themselves because they realized that we can communicate without help from any family/friend interpreters.
-the first time I ever heard my students sound out words and READ. I cried at the white board.
-the broken English conversations:
“Me, teacher nurse. Nurse help doctor. I help teacher. Me… teacher nurse!”
An old student to a new student, “little English no problem. Every day practice.”
“Everyone everything?” as she mimicked me saying “Does everyone have everything?”
-weird, weird things that happened in class due to them not knowing what is and isn’t acceptable behavior at school. Please ask me about them 🙂
-the day I set up my classroom as a community with streets and buildings so we could practice address. All of a sudden, all of my African students started dancing down the streets.
-diffusing several screaming arguments in the middle of class because why wouldn’t you scream at someone when you’re angry if you’re unaware that this isn’t what is acceptable in the classroom.
-teaching students how to work as a group. They didn’t understand sharing a paper, so I taped it down to the table so they couldn’t move it.
-playing with adult phonics curriculum creation until it actually worked. I will publish it one day in honor of my students because now many of them can read.
-my students becoming students. They have a routine. They are confident in that routine and enthusiastically volunteer to come to the board. They love homework. They literally sit in class and smile at me for 2 hours as they learn. They have completed so many higher critical thinking activities and asked some questions well above their initial level, and I am SO proud of their progress.
This week was the end of an era for me. I told my last group of Literacy students goodbye. My sneaky, thoughtful coworkers threw me an amazing surprise goodbye party with roughly 75 students and staff. Next school year I will be moving into a different leadership role for the entire program. I’ll still come by to visit and check on classes, but it will be different. Words and stories cannot fully express how much this place and the people inside mean to me; this blog doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. Just believe me when I say, Americana is a place like no other.