Guys I know it seems like it, but I haven’t always been an amazing writer. Back in college I had a really ancient professor grade my paper with an F and the question if “English was my second language?” I don’t think it was one of those moments when a teacher is terrible and pushes you to find yourself, he was just a mean old guy.
I never forgot that day and how it made me feel. Honestly what I felt is nothing compared to what T.K. felt when he was in the tenth grade. He had just moved to Los Angeles and he was getting adjusted to school in English.
On his second day ever, his biology class was having a quiz. Since he hadn’t been there for the material, his teacher gave him the quiz to at least look at.
The thing was, he understood what the quiz was about. He had learned about photosynthesis back in seventh grade in Korea!
T.K. experienced a horrible feeling of knowing the answers but not being able to do anything about it because he didn’t know the English words to prove it.
What an awful feeling of not being able to prove your knowledge.
But instead of just staring blankly at the quiz, he decided to at least try.
T.K. wanted to at least prove to himself that he knew the material, he didn’t care that his teacher wouldn’t understand. It didn’t matter. But what happened after he handed that quiz in would be permanently engrained in his memory forever.
Ms. Gallagher is the real MVP for this one, but there are many Ms. Gallaghers out there that do this everyday. I think that’s the real takeaway from this story.
She had gotten help from a fellow teacher to translate T.K.’s quiz along with a translating dictionary. She really went the extra mile.
This was a turning point in T.K.’s life, he would never forget.
If this hadn’t happened, who knows what T.K. would have done. But he believes it set him on a trajectory to where he is now.
He kept working at school, always learning and eventually graduated at the top of his class.
In a version of America that is pretty divided about immigration, it’s important to see these nuggets of truth for what they are. AMAZING. I believe this next point he made is very true too.
We all ended up here in America somehow, and it’s important not to forget that. Whether you are 5th generation American or 1st…you are still American.
People responded so positively to T.K.’s story:
This tweet resonates with me. I moved to and live in Japan as a software developer. My 10 years of prior experience was nullified on my first day because I was speaking like a 5 year old. My empathy goes out to all second language learners out there, it is frustrating af.
— Brian Jones (@mojobojo) May 12, 2018
I lived in Canada my whole life and for some reason they still taught me photosynthesis twice, in grade 7 and 10.
— tassaron.com (@tassaron) May 12, 2018
I am an ESOL teacher, and I see what you experienced quite often in my school. I feel bad for those students to have to sit through a basic math or biology class for the entire year just because their English is not yet proficient.
— HJ Cho (@hyocho) May 11, 2018
So next time you see someone struggling to read a menu or directions, stop to help you never know if that moment will stay with them forever.