Teaching English to Refugees

at the refugee picnic

HOW DO YOU TEACH English to someone when the ABCs won’t stick
and no matter what letter you point to, she answers “K?”
because K is the first letter of her name,
though, if asked to spell her name,
she doesn’t know the names of any of the other letters,
though we’ve been through the alphabet together many times?

She isn’t the first student I’ve had to show how to hold a pencil.

Some come with university degrees.
Some have secondary school diplomas.
Most have at least enough schooling to know the basics.
But some few,
you can’t help but wonder
if they’ve ever had any schooling at all.

What will I do with this mother
whose preschooler is surpassing her already?
I am near the bottom of my bag of tricks.
More will come to me, I know.
I am not easily turned away from a challenge.

I think of my ancestors
who came at different times
with their Dutch and Irish and Welsh and Russian and Yiddish,
and sat, awkward, and tried.
Who sat and helped them?
Someone. Many someones.

Maybe tomorrow
I’ll find the magic key
and together we’ll open the door.

* * *
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“Nothing beats seeing that light in their faces.”

About Marilyn

Reading, thinking, listening, writing and talking about faith, creativity, ESL for refugees, grief and finding the story in a story. Student of Spanish. Foe of procrastination. Cheez-it fan. People person with hermit tendencies or vice-versa. Thank you so much for reading.
This entry was posted in intentional relating, languages, people, perseverance, refugees. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Teaching English to Refugees

  1. pastordt says:

    I didn’t know you did this, Marilyn. Very, very cool – kudos to you! And yes, i believe you will find the key. You’ve got that stick-to-it-til-you-get-it quality, which is such a gift. Yiddish, eh? that’s very, very cool, too. My own is completely United Kingdom – English/Scottish/Welsh/Irish. That’s it.


  2. Pingback: Working with Refugees | MarilynYocum.com

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