There was a moment tonight that gave me the absolute reminder of why I do what I do. I am drowning in the sea of almost finishing grad school, juggling multiple jobs, and coping with the stress that comes with working with children in so many different capacities. The moment that I will describe here is one of many kinds of moments that always seem to come at just the right time to reassure and re-motivate. I am eternally grateful for these moments.
I was working with a 7 year old boy whose family moved from Columbia to our city just two months ago. This boy's family enrolled him in school and into my afterschool program on the same day a couple of weeks after they moved in. This boy came to us without having lost his social personality, bright presence, and playful demeanor, regardless of the hardships he faced before, during, and after moving.
This boy came to our city with the most fundamental, and strictly academic, understanding of the English language. He could struggle through reading grade-level text, with completely erroneous pronunciation and nonexistent comprehension. He did not demonstrate that he could listen to or speak with English in any capacity. This was not the case for long.
This moment that I mentioned came when this boy and I were having a conversation this evening. I alternate evenly between using English and Spanish sentences and phrases when I work with learners in his lingual position. At one point in our conversation, I asked him about a difference in his Columbian school schedule in English. And then, the moment began.
I listened patiently as he produced one word at a time, one English word at a time. As he looked up at me with his determined yet unsure gaze, I watched the gears behind his eyes turn and churn as he translated each idea or find alternate ways to express if the translations failed him. For the first time, the first time ever, he felt comfortable enough to take an enormous risk with me after having known me for five patient and productive weeks. Whether he was considering this risk or not, the fact is that he trusted me to receive his first major attempt at communicating a complete and elaborately detailed idea in a foreign language.
In the pensive moments between each word, I reflected on all of the factors in his language development worked together to make this happen; his experience at his school, his time in our program, his own cognitive development, the support from his family, and most immediately - the moment, the conversation itself, where it finally happened.
I am surprised that I held myself back from tearing up during that moment. This boy, this moment, and every child and moment that has come and all that is yet to come, are the reason that I am what I am.
Some part of me knows without a doubt that this conversation, however spontaneous and arbitrary it may have been, represented an important point in this boy's transition into his current life situation. Some part of me knows that he walked away from our conversation feeling the legitimate and heartfelt love and pride that I praised him with afterwords. And that part of me also knows that some day, when he reflects on his childhood and how he transitioned into this new place, there is a chance that this moment will be as important to him as it was to me.