Multi-Culture ESL

Describe a setting in which you have collaborated or interacted with people whose experiences and/or beliefs differ from yours. Address your initial feelings and how those feelings were or were not changed by this experience.

The school day is over, which means it's time for ESL American Social Studies. Spread all over the table are primary sources from the Civil Rights Movement. Sitting across from me are Carlos from Mexico and Durgam from Iraq. As a peer tutor, I was supposed to lead the discussion and be the most knowledgeable person in the room. I could count on being organized and well-read, but I couldn't predict that these two students would have so much insight to share about their experiences, their lives, and why they came to America. Insight doesn't know a language barrier.

When I signed up for the peer tutoring position, I expected mostly to be working with students who just happened to be a little behind in English. Perhaps they had recently come to America because their parents had found new jobs, and thus had gotten a late start on the language. As a son of immigrant parents, the only immigrant experience I know well is my own: my parents and some of their friends hail from less-developed countries and came to America to pursue higher education. What I heard in my ESL room were not stories of the pursuit of prestige and advancement, but of escape from harsh realities.

Carlos was one of my students, and someone with a story I'll never...

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