I've previously talked about Ubuntu in South Africa. This philosophy means, "I am because you are." I've seen this in action in the poor areas of Port Elizabeth. There is so much love and support between the students and the youth, but I'm also aware that this needs to extend past our own communities.
Today I had a moment of feeling very isolated while I sat in on a staff meeting at Emafini Primary. The group was discussing the passing of a family member and how they would go about collecting money. The 14 of us visitors came in and spread out among the teachers. They were discussing this topic in Xhosa, their native language. After about 10 minutes of watching the conversation bounce around, I felt very alone. Although I had my own coworkers with me, I felt as though I was on my own and I became defensive. I started feeling as though the group was talking about me. I wanted to hide or join my English speaking counterparts to feel safe again.
In America, we are surrounded with people from all over the world and we expect them to always learn English. This is not an easy task and it doesn't become easier when you feel backed into a corner.
There was never a moment when I was in danger during this meeting, but I couldn't help how I felt. We need to be more sensitive to the people around us. We need to attempt to learn the language of the country we are in but we also need to accept that not everyone will be fluent. If the teachers at Emafini took a second to share what they were discussing, I would have felt more at ease, but they were not aware that we were struggling. They were focused on trying to come up with a plan so that they could begin their day.
I can't help but think about this non communication in the classroom. The most obvious is the English language learners. I need to do more to make sure they are not just holding on to my words, but that they also have a solid understanding of what I am saying.
More than that, for the students that do not have the same life experiences as others. We need to know where our kids come from. What do they know? What have they read? What have they cooked? We need to build a common language so that I can teach to their knowledge. We need to add to our language by experimenting and researching and talking.
We also need to think of where the people around us come from. What they know, what their family is like, where they've been. Without taking time to learn about the people outside of our own community, how can we build new relationships, furthermore, how can we build others up?