This is an average day for me:
8:00 AM – 1-hour bus ride to ministry (other than my teammates, no one speaks English, so I pop in my headphones and listen to a sermon)
9:00 AM – Arrive at ministry. Host gives instructions in Spanish
9:10 AM – I ask someone to translate
9:10 – 12:00 PM — cleaning / construction
12:00 – 1:00 PM — Lunch
1:00 – 5:00 PM — Children’s programs ( Kids come up to me asking questions and I resort to my 3 phrases: “No se”, “Gracias”, “No hablo Espanol”.
5:00 – 6:00 PM — 1-hour bus ride back to casa (other than my teammates, no one speaks English, so I pop in my headphones and listen to an audiobook).
6:00 – 7:00 PM — Dinner
7:00 – 9:00 PM — Church service ( I look at the person’s Bible next to me to match the scripture reference. I then put my phone in my Bible to give the appearance of high spirituality while the preacher gives the sermon in Spanish and read a book or edit photos on my phone. Lastly, the pastor asks us to pray for one another, so I look left and right and wait for someone to come up to me. I don’t know what they say, but I’m sure they’re asking to pray for me, so I smile and say, “si!” More Spanish until I hear the one phrase I’m vividly aware of: “En el nombre de Jesus, AMEN!”
Repeat in a similar fashion the next day.
As you can see, there’s a lot of Spanish throughout my day. Don’t get me wrong…I practiced my Spanish last year and up until the race, but it was only when depending on it I realize how much I lacked. I can say the correct words, but no one understand. I’ve been told my “American accent” is very heavy. Therefore, I resort to Google Translate…A-LOT!
I’m drained by the end of the day.
I began to think differently about the ELL students in my classroom. 8:00 AM — 4:00 PM of a language you only vaguely comprehend. Or even if you understood, couldn’t perfectly communicate.
The student who fell asleep…they weren’t disrespectful; they were tired from pulling from their reservoir of words they knew.
The silent kid who never raised his hand…he was just drained of repeating himself, and saying the wrong word or being misunderstood.
The chatty girl in the back…she was excited to have someone in class who could help translate for her!
Oh, and the boy always taking out his phone…he just wanted to figure out what the paper said on his own without asking for help or disturbing the class.
It’s funny how you don’t realize some things until you’re actually in it. I’m the first to believe you don’t force your culture on someone else. I am in South America and they speak Spanish. I need to speak Spanish, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get EXCITED when I begin my broken Spanish and someone asks, “You speak English? I do, too. You can speak English.” **sigh of relief**
If someone speaks for too long without a break, I am the first to ask, “What did they say?”
If I want to have a conversation with someone, I will whip out my phone before asking someone else to communicate for me. Why? Because I want to be personal. The translator doesn’t have the same mannerisms or tone as me. I want to be relational.
And, yet, you may see me curl into my turtle shell because I’m tired of being lost in a conversation. I’m tired of trying so hard to just receive a smile with no answer.
So this is an open apology to my students who struggled in my classroom. I’m sorry for being so hard. I understand, now. Yes, my class had order, but did it have understanding?
To my future students, I promise to do things differently.
Until Heaven or Sooner,