An Excuse, An English Lesson, and Memories Shared

It’s been a little quiet here recently.

One reason for the lack of posts is my volunteer job. I teach English as a Second (or Other) Language at my church twice a week. We have a fantastic lead teacher who prepares all the lessons, and all the rest of us have to do is show up and work through the lesson with a small group of students.

Well, our fantastic leader is on vacation and she left me in charge. She gave me some lessons from a couple years ago (she’s recycling) that I could use – but they “need some work,” she said. I knew that any changes I made would not improve her lessons, so I decided to write my own instead.

I am not a trained teacher – I just stumbled my way into this. Preparing a lesson takes me a lot of time. So I’ve been writing lessons rather than blog posts.

I think I’ve found a way to recycle a blog post into an English lesson and then recycle that lesson into a blog post. Lazy?  Or brilliant?

The Spit-Up Chair

If you are a regular reader here, you know that I have a few posts that I refer to as “Chair Memories.” I decided to use my cousin’s poem, “The Gold Recliner” as the starting point for yesterday’s ESL lesson. Then I took an excerpt from my memory of “The Spit-Up Chair” to expand on the idea of an object that evokes a memory.

I was concerned that the sadness of the poem could be upsetting to some of our students who have suffered losses. A few of our students are refugees from war-torn countries. Others have grieved the loss of loved ones, as we all do. And I didn’t want the morning to be depressing, so I tried to “soften” things a bit by adding discussion questions about memories elicited by music, or a smell – and whether or not one has a good or bad memory…. that kind of thing.

The last part of the lesson asked the students to write about an object that holds memories for them and to share the story with their group.

I am sorry to report that I made Mrs. Li cry.

As Mrs. Li, an older woman from China, told us about the china tea cup (a real Chinese china tea cup) given to her by her younger brother who has since died, tears began to roll down her cheeks. I wasn’t sure if she could finish, but she did.

A woman from Mexico, here in town to visit her grandson, told us that her grandson reminds her of her son when he was a baby and that her wedding ring brings back many happy memories surrounding her wedding.

A young woman from Korea read her story of a pair of white athletic shoes – a gift from her boyfriend (now husband)… how the left shoe was too tight but then stretched to fit perfectly; how she would not wear the shoes in the rain or on unpaved surfaces; how she met her fitness goals in these shoes; and how she lost the left shoe. No longer in possession of the left shoe, she threw the right shoe away.

I think I saw tears begin to well in her eyes as she talked about a pair of athletic shoes.

A woman from Russia related memories of her first days in school and the kindness of her teacher.

A man from Mexico told us about his first watch – a gift for his 8th birthday. He was so proud of his watch with the Roman numerals on the clock face that he was constantly reporting the time to anyone within earshot. Eventually the watch needed a new wristband – and his mother accidentally lost the watch.

A young man from Spain told us about summers spent at his grandmother’s house in a small village and the good times he had there.

A young mother from Japan told us about a trip she took to Cambodia with her American friend (he was just her friend!). They visited the Killing Fields. They volunteered at a school where they taught a little Japanese and English to the children. To thank them, some children reached up and picked leaves from a coconut tree and formed them into two rings, then placed the rings on the ring finger of her left hand and her friend’s left hand. It was then that they knew they were to be more than friends. Now they are married with one child and another on the way.

An older man from Vietnam arrived very late to class. The other students were already writing so I gave him a quick summary of what he had missed and what the students were doing. He sat and thought while the others wrote. After the students had shared their stories, I asked if he wanted to share a memory. “No. I try to forget. Not good for me to remember. Like her (nodding to Mrs. Li), I would cry,” he said.

Photo Credit: Coconut Flower by Mohammad Mahdi Karim/Wikipedia/Creative Commons Licence


11 thoughts on “An Excuse, An English Lesson, and Memories Shared

  1. Sounds like you have a very interesting class. Good for you, for taking the time to teach the class. I’ll bet you will learn a lot also.

    • Our students are wonderful people and I learn so much from them! I’m not well-traveled, but I know people from around the world. Lucky me!

  2. Tears can be healing, so maybe you don’t have to regret that Mrs. Li cried! With all that wonderful sharing, I think you can say that your lesson plan worked well. Thank you for using my poem.

    • Your poem was a great way to begin a lesson about memories – some good, some sad. Since the poem referenced “You Are My Sunshine”, I included the words to it in the lesson. A couple of our teachers were reading through the lesson as we all gathered in our big room and burst into song. And they knew additional verses. Once that happened, I thought it might go okay. Thank you for allowing me to use your poem!

  3. Oh Gosh, do you get teary eyed hearing the stories? I did in your retelling. Your volunteer job sounds wonderful and I know you are very good teacher.

    • Yes I do! I have been thinking about Mrs. Li and Jimmy (the man from Vietnam) since class let out. One day we were talking about hugs for some reason – or maybe something about being parents – anyway, that day Mrs. Li shared that her parents did not hug their children. She learned how good a hug is from an English teacher she had during a short time she lived in the U.S. previously. That got me too. Some of our students from Iraq, Iran, Burma, and some African countries have been through some very hard times. Other students have lived rather privileged lives. They all bless me in one way or another. I love it!

    • I so enjoy teaching our students and I have learned a great deal from them. I helps me keep my brain young too (I hope!) – I never know what question I’ll be asked! Thanks for reading and your kind comments!

    • I didn’t know if anyone would read this since it doesn’t fit any blogging categories of the day – so thanks for reading! We had a 3 week break at the end of the summer and as I was driving home from our 1st fall class, I noticed how happy and energized I felt – then realized it was due to teaching that morning. I think maybe I get more from it than the students!

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