I LOVE IT WHEN GEORGE SMILES!


There’s this kid. – His name is George. [Well… I guess he’s not technically a kid (he’s 20) and I guess I’m probably the only person who calls him George (because it’s not REALLY his name).] This not-a-kid kid whose not-really-his-name name is George is my student. He’s not a good student. He’s majoring in English, but he can’t really speak English much at all. Why would he major in English? It wasn’t his choice. It was decided for him by his college entrance test scores and his parents. This happens a lot in this part of the world. Choices are limited and sometimes your choices are not ACTUALLY yours to make. {That’s always hard for me. I was taught to think for myself. I was always very free to do so. I try to teach my students to think for themselves and to think in ways they’ve never thought before. I always hope it spills outside of my classroom and into their lives but sometimes it feels like that is swimming against an entire culture’s current.} {Note to self: Write more about that later.}

For the first few weeks of school, George got in trouble in my class a lot. I often found myself saying, “GEORGE! WAKE UP!” “GEORGE! I told you to get in a group.” “GEORGE! I am not kidding! Follow instructions!” “GEORGE! Put away your cell phone!” “GEORGE! I don’t care if you don’t like talking to girls. This is your group. You must talk to them!” “GEORGE! Why are you late to class – again?” “GEORGE! You haven’t come to class in 2 weeks. You must come to class!” Then one day I said, “GEORGE! Come here. Let’s talk!” It was a difficult conversation because our ability to understand each other is limited but I’m pretty sure I somehow communicated to him that I was concerned for him. “George. I want you to learn. I want to help you. I know you do not like English, but you are in school studying English and you need to TRY. I can not help you if you do not TRY. Please come to class. Please pay attention.” He stared at the floor. I sighed. Did he understand that I was not trying to be mean but that I actually really do care? Then I saw him, with his phone out. AGAIN. I almost called his name again, “GEORGE!” but instead I walked towards him and looked to see what he was doing. He was using his phone’s dictionary to write me a note. I said nothing and let him work on that the rest of class, wondering what he had to say. At the end of class, George walked to the front of the room and handed me his note while saying, “Teacher… I am sorry.”

Thank you. I can’t speak anything. because I don’t understand clear. But thank you give me care about, I just say. I will let you down. Your kind teacher. but I’m not good student. so I’m very sorry.

I read it and tears came to my eyes. George cares. George knows that I care. He just doesn’t understand. Anything. Ever. He’s bored out of his mind. But he knows I care. I want to help him. But he’s sooooo far behind. He needs to start at the basics, but this is not a basics class. Sigh. It broke my heart. Teachers have just passed him through. No one is helping him. The other students have written him off and don’t care to even be his friend. So I determined I would try – to help, and to be his friend.

George showed up for class almost every week after that but when it came to the end of the semester, I couldn’t give him a good grade. He barely passed and I was generous with that. I wanted to give him encouragement and tell him to keep working. I wanted to tell him that I am proud of him. But I had no way to do so for a while. I think he was discouraged by his low marks and so this semester… George hasn’t been coming to class.

Yesterday, I was out walking with a friend and I saw George on his bike. I stopped. “GEORGE!!!! GEORGE!!!!” I ran towards him, waving my arms like an idiot! He stopped. I smiled and stepped closer. “George! You haven’t been in class! You need to come to class!” He smiled and responded – not in English – saying he’d come. Today I had George’s class. I called roll. No George. I was disappointed. 15 minutes later… in walked GEORGE. He snuck in the back. It’s movie week. I saw him and smiled big and waved. He smiled big and waved. I pointed to his seat and to the movie. He sat down. 15 minutes later, George was sleeping, and I didn’t care. I was just happy he came. [Plus, I used to sleep in class – all.the.time. – so I can’t get too mad. But don’t tell my students that.]

George didn’t come to class today because he’s a student and it’s his job. George didn’t come because he wants to learn. George didn’t come to stare at the white person for an hour and a half. George didn’t come to socialize.
George came because I screamed his name when I saw him riding his bike. George came because I showed him that I notice when he isn’t there. George came because I reminded him that I care about him.

One of my goals as a teacher, and as a child of God, and as a human being is to pay attention to the people that most people do not pay attention to… to find and stir up the potential in people that others give up on… to make people smile who don’t smile all that often smile

So, while I do hope George grows as a student, and I will do all I can to help him do that, one of my goals as his teacher is just to show him that I care and that he matters and that I enjoy his presence. He smiled a lot today. I think he got the message.

I LOVE IT WHEN GEORGE SMILES!

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3 thoughts on “I LOVE IT WHEN GEORGE SMILES!

  1. Pingback: 7 random thoughts « … this grace in which I stand …

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