Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Another Way To Get There

Last December I posted a story or two about the local Latin stores in town, and I showed you a picture of the baby of one of the Guatemalan immigrants I met during the interviews. The mother is a young woman who lives with her parents who run one of the stores. She goes to high school during the day and returns to the store in the afternoon where her husband and baby daughter are waiting for her, where her parents need her to help with the store and help translate should a fast-speaking American like myself coming barging in and asking all kinds of silly questions. The girl can speak English, Spanish, and Q'eqchi' (her mother's native language) all in one sentence if she needs to.

The parents were so proud of their daughter because she is the first person in the family to attend high school. In the more remote areas of Guatemala, schools are difficult to get to—of course there is no bus service and there are no enforced laws keeping kids in school up to a certain age. You're on your own, and too bad for you if you live too far away from a school to even learn the basics of reading and writing and arithmetic.

This morning, I learned the young woman with the smiling baby has been dumped by the school system because she is too far behind. It was a bit of a blow to her father, but he has been able to get her into our English classes where I volunteer. It's the long way around to getting your high school diploma, but with hard work and patience, she'll get there. The next step after our program is the GED program, and from there, she'll only be limited by her imagination.

Of course I know that's not really true. It's quite possible this girl will be hindered by all kinds of circumstances, and life might be hard for her regardless of her education, and she might never catch a break. But I'd like to think that won't be the case. And next week when I will be assigned to helping her learn to read better, I hope that recognizing me as a familiar face and seeing other immigrants succeeding might give her enough encouragement to not give up.


lynn said...

Oh she WILL be encouraged, Robyn, by YOU! I've had students like that before. I know that your enthusiasm to help her will build her own enthusiasm and confidence. Good luck to her!

dive said...

Lynn's right, Robyn. She's already speaking three languages, working as a translator and helping run a shop, plus raising a child, so she's obviously neither dumb nor lazy.
She will learn at the pace that is right for her and with a teacher as helpful and patient as you I think she has a great chance.
You really do give people hope, Robyn.

Gina said...

I'm sure she will be able to get her GED, and she will have you to inspire her!

Sassy Sundry said...

You are doing a good thing, Robyn.

Shazza said...

Good for you Robyn.

My partner is from Puerto Rico and even though it's a commonwealth of the US, English is still her second language. (Although she had some Nuns who really tried)

She face a lot of barriers living in the states and people like you helped her through it!

Kudos to you and I hope your Guatemalan friend makes it through!

Scout said...

Lynn, this girl will study four days a week, and I'll only be around for two of those days. We're hoping she'll connect with the other students even though they are older.

Dive, I think there is a gap between speaking and reading/writing. That's what she'll need to work on.

Gina, she's got other Guatemalan students to inspire her if only they will.

Sassy (it's so good to have you back), I thought of you when I first started this program because you spent some time in Guatemala, didn't you?

Shazza, there is a Puerto Rican couple in my class, and as American as they are in some ways, they still struggle with the language.

lynn said...

If the reading is where she struggles, give her really exciting stories, simplified, which you can start by reading together. If she's interested, it'll spur her on more than boring exercises, which come a bit later to fine tune things. I still have some well worn, battered and loved copies of the classics, by Heinemann Guided Readers. Once I'd bought some (you can prob buy them online)of these, my students used to be queuing outside my classroom at lunch for more! I ran an unofficial library at one school I taught! Basically they are shortened versions of the great stories in literature, in simple language of varying levels with vocab glossary at the back. Ignore all that if you know about them already! good luck!