Normally teachers teach. That is the idea of teaching. This term, however, I have been taught a lot. Over the last 11 weeks I have not only been completing my normal teaching load but I have also been learning how to teach English to migrants. From teaching the big ideas in literature I have had to move to teaching sentences in the simple present tense. After using the complicated meta language of English I have had to use simple descriptions and definitions. It has been hard.
I speak too fast. My writing is unintelligible. My words are too big … for me it has been a head spinning time of redefining my teaching.
But I have learnt much more. I have learned about courage, hope, resilience, persistence … human qualities that we, in our comfortable lifestyles, have forgotten about. The stories that the refugees and migrants have told me of their past lives have reminded me of the best we can discover in human character. Last month I mentioned “Ahmed” who had to wait five years to be reunited with his wife and children. I didn’t mention another man whose eyes welled with tears when he told me about his wife and eight year old son. His son was one year old when he last saw him. That waiting requires courage and patience.
I have learned about other cultures and attitudes. To be honest, I have learned more than I have taught.
One final thought. According to polls Australians seem to love the “turn the boats back” policy held to by our major parties. Maybe it has saved lives by stopping drownings at sea. My challenge to our politicians and the general public is to rub shoulders with our migrants and refugees. My wager would be that our nation would have a far more compassionate policy. A policy that actually reflected the best of our history of taking in the alien and stranger into our midst.