Yesterday was # 15 in a still very new school year at WCS and like all days, it came with a few surprises. Even though I'm teaching the same two classes I did when I came in 1998, the ever changing nature of our student body lends itself to an ever changing landscape. I really like my third period class which is made up of juniors. We spend the year on the Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The roll book during that time slot is made up of several international students. Our pupils from other countries tend to be very conscientious in academics as well as very respectful. There is the built-in language issue, though. These kids are often very good in their English skills but there are inevitable glitches. And usually, I learn valuable lessons from my miscues.
Take yesterday. If you read my entry from two nights ago, you know my classes trace their hands and turn them into works of art that will be prayed over by our Moms In Touch. Jessica, a wonderful young lady from China, turned her hand in yesterday. She is a terrific artist and has some of the best tennis shoes I've seen anywhere! As I mentioned, the kids can decorate their hands with a great deal of latitude. Jessica's work was predictably amazing and ornamented with this gem:
"My favorite teacher is Coach Charlie!"
Guess who she was referencing? ME! Now, obviously, that's not how name is spelled but it makes perfect sense when spelled phonetically based on the rapid fire pronunciation of her American peers. Jessica apologetically offered to correct it but NO WAY! I like it! After all, I am her favorite teacher so how she spells my name is immaterial! After all, I am Mr. Steve in Vietnam. And speaking of Vietnam, let's turn to Ethan, my only Vietnamese student this year.
You may not know it but tomorrow, September 2, is Vietnam's Independence Day, marking the day in 1945 when the nation broke away from France. I only am aware because he asked me last week what I was going to do on September 2 and when I expressed confusion, Ethan educated me. So, on Wednesday, I told Ethan, "Only two days until Independence Day!" And he replied, "No, Coach. It is not today. It is Friday!" Well, based on what I said, I was right. But based on what he heard, Ethan was right. To a non-English speaker, the difference between two days and today is so subtle as to be indistinguishable. And what did I take away from our fifteen second exchange? Slow down when you speak to international students, Charlie. I mean, Steve!
Communication is always a two way street. What I say does not matter if it is not clearly understood. Sometimes, the fault might lie with the hearer but too often, at least in my case, with the speaker. In both teaching and coaching, it typically is not what I say but how I express it. What did Paul say about speaking in the tongues of men and angels? Just a bunch of noise without love. I better love my students enough to make sure they have a chance to comprehend the lessons I proudly, and maybe mistakenly, believe are simple enough for any hearer to hear. Or they might as well just keep calling me Coach Charlie.
"To have another language is to possess a second soul."
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org