Moving to a new state is difficult. You have to find a new place to live, make new friends, move all your stuff, find a new coffee shop that makes the good cappuccino and start a whole new life in a new place. Now imagine a moving to a whole new country. That’s a life change that all of our students have all gone through. Learning English is just one battle new immigrants have to try to fight.
One of my students in my level 3 Lincolnia ESOL Class moved to America this past December. She started out in a lower level class because her English was very minimal. As the semester went on, her teacher came to me and told me that she needed to be in my class because her drive to learn English was too large for her class, that she needed to be pushed more. I asked my student if she liked the U.S. and she told me she hated it. “Everyone is mean! No one listens to me try to use my English. I hate it here. I hate my apartment. I hate the food. I hate that I am away from my family. I have no friends. I hate everything!” She could not find a job because everyone that she applied to said that her English was too bad. She was extremely depressed and it only got worse as the weeks went on. She lost weight and was not sleeping.
As the semester went on, her English increased tremendously. She was always asking questions, participating in class discussions and was always asking for extra homework. She even started an English group outside the class where students from Level 2 and Level 3 got together to practice their English every day that the class didn’t meet. They called it “English group.” They would ask for different materials and worksheets to practice in their English group. I tried to give them as much stuff as I could. When the semester ended this spring, she graduated our classes with a Student Performance Level (SPL) of 7, which is very high on our Basic English Skills Test (BEST) Plus assessment. From where she started in her English ability to now is amazing. She can hold full conversations with full sentences. She understands English speakers and conveys her own ideas in such detail that you would think she has lived here for over 20 years.
I ran into her this past week on the street near the classes and she looked great. She did not look depressed anymore and had a smile from ear to ear. I asked her how everything was and she said, “Life is great. I am so happy. I reapplied to a job and they said my English had improved so much and I got the job! Thank you for everything.” She also made some really great new friends at the job and they are getting a new apartment together when her lease is up. She even is dating a student from level 2. Before she left she told me that learning English changed her life and she would not be where she is now without it.
This isn’t a grand story or even a glamorous story, but it’s the little things that count at LCNV. We hold these stories dear to our heart because they are the fuel that keeps this organization going.
Katherine Lee, AmeriCorps Instructor
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Rd., Falls Church, VA 22042