Thursday, October 16, 2008

Poverty: Blog Action Day 2008


80 Ways to do something about poverty #14: "Share your skill or knowledge, so they can improve their knowledge to increase their life/prosperity."

ESL/EFL teachers can do something about poverty. for instance, i will never forget volunteering as a teacher in a rural area, teaching ESL classes for migrant farm workers. some students had very bad experiences with formal schooling and were hesitant to try. some students couldn't read or write, yet they were there. some students didn't have a babysitter, let alone extra money or reliable transportation, yet they were there. students. workers. families. they came to class each week, hoping to learn English. my mentor told me that teaching students English meant not only that they could seek better opportunities for themselves, but also that they could reach out to their community and become a part of something bigger. education truly empowers people and can lift people from extreme circumstances. it helps people not only to help themselves, but to help others.


Carla Arena said...

Dear Marysita,

I just loved what you said, and you certainly did your share.

In my school, in Brazil, we have sister classes. We kind of "adopted" two schools in rural areas near Brasilia and we help them improving their school, reading to kids. All kinds of support teachers and our students can do. It's empowering.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Mary!

The many facets of poverty. Kate Foy's post showed me aspects of this I had not truly envisaged. What a gift you made to lessen poverty.

You are to be thanked and congratulated.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Dennis said...


My apologies for the slow response to your Blog Action Day 2008 post.

I was touched by what you had to say about what ESL/EFL teachers can do to combat poverty; my own experience, particularly in the last six years that I taught, was very much like yours.

In my classes at Estrella Mountain Community College, most of my students were similar to those you had when you worked as a volunteer in a rural area.

My students, however, were city dwellers, not migrant workers, and they ranged in age from some who were barely out of high school to others who were grandmothers and grandfathers. Some of them had been professional people in their native lands and a few were barely literate, but the great majority had one thing in common: the desire to acquire more English in order to have a better life. Often, they were working mothers who somehow managed to balance the full-time jobs of being a wife and mother with some kind of part-time (or occasionally full-time) job while the kids were in school with their classes. I don't know how they did it!

Only a few of my students went on to enroll in "regular" classes after they finished the ESL program. Their goals were not to get an AS or AA degree or a vocational training certificate and/or then transfer to a university; instead, they wanted to get a better job or to be able to talk to a doctor or teacher on their own instead of relying on one of their children or friends to translate for them. Occasionally, they also enrolled in ESL classes to help them find an American husband or wife or to communicate better with the American spouse (or his/her family and friends) that they already had.

I'm not in touch with many of my former students, but I do hear from some of them from time to time. Whether I hear from them or not, however, I know that I had the opportunity to help them make a difference in their lives by helping them become more "at home" with and more empowered in dealing with an alien culture. This was (and is) an awesome responsibility as well as a precious opportunity. I'd like to think that I did, indeed, make a difference, but I suppose that in most cases, I'll never know one way or the other.

That doesn't matter, though, does it?

All the best—


Mary H said...

Carla, What a great idea to adopt a rural school! That would be a great way to get everyone involved in helping; they could donate school supplies or do volunteer work there.

Ken, Thanks for pointing out the great post by Kate Foy - I read it with much interest.

Hi Dennis, Thanks so much for sharing your experience teaching at the community college. I was really interested in reading about your work with students there. I'm sure you made a difference in their lives and helped them move towards their goals. After moving to Japan, I realized how it felt to have to rely on someone else to help me do even the simplest of tasks - language learning can truly empower us in our daily lives!

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