This spring semester, in preparation for my summer abroad studying in Spain, and as my meager contribution to the Oklahoma Public School System, I decided to sign up to be an ESL tutor at a local elementary school.
I did so for two distinct reasons: first, based on the age-old principle that “the best way to learn is to teach” and second, because I can only imagine how difficult it would be to not only be expected to learn a second language at the age of eight, while simultaneously being expected to learn the other various concepts taught in the 3rd grade.
In the end, both of these goals were thankfully achieved and my expectations of the ESL Tutor program were not only met, but far exceeded.
I discovered that it is true what they say — you do not fully understand a concept, until you are able to teach it to someone else. And, as it turns out, I do not know nearly as much about the Spanish language as I originally thought. In fact, I think that I probably learned just as much from the 3rd graders I tutored as they learned from me.
If nothing else, I believe that tutoring showed me my weaknesses in Spanish, and so enabled me to work on the aspects of the language that I was struggling with prior to actually going to Spain.
At the same time, I discovered how extraordinarily gifted and talented these young students are, despite the fact that they oftentimes struggle in the classroom due to the language barrier between themselves and their teachers.
I think that it is oftentimes easy to discount the intelligence of these children as opposed to investing in their educations and providing them with the resources necessary to succeed. It is all too common that we view these children as a burden on the system, instead of as the future assets that they will be in our societies.