Ok, I knew all the names of the letters…and I just assumed I knew all of the sounds… No gat (Bislama for nope!)
I mean for heaven’s sake! I am a fluent English speaker with a master’s degree! Still…No gat!
When did I learn this harsh reality? The two months while in training?…No gat … That’s right, while assessing 8 year olds on their English… talk about a self-esteem blow…Luckily, at the time, Marc was still here and if I was unsure I could write it down and ask him after I finished. He was a teacher in both ESL and developmental English. That is probably why I never thought to question myself on any of this earlier.
When he left, one of the biggest things I was afraid of was not being able to provide what the students needed most – phonetics. The area of English I knew very little ( felt like nothing!) about.
Sometimes picking up the pieces in one area of your life grows you in other, unexpected, areas. Here I was, alone, with no idea how to help the students I pledged to serve for the next two years. I did what every other respectable human does. I went to YouTube. There I found a video to teach me all of the sounds of the alphabet. I also found some fun phonics songs for children.
Fast forward a few weeks, here I stand in front of 90+ students making every sound of the alphabet and having them copy every sound and mouth movement. Talk about a stressful but rewarding experience! What was a weakness, is becoming a strength. I just had to humble myself and admit there was an area where I could grow and seek out resources to strengthen my weakness. That is basically Peace Corps service once you get to site. Let’s be real, that’s basically life.
For some reason or another, you are confronted with a problem or personal weakness. You realize you must find a resource that will give you the knowledge or skill you need to tackle this situation. If you are smart, you work through the awkward uncomfortable stage and just go for it, knowing that failing is possible, and often part of the process. In the end, you come out stronger with more knowledge and with either a victory or a lesson learned.
Every day I sing these songs with my kids; I have a great feeling of personal victory. I know that if Marc would have stayed, I probably would have let him lead the kids and I would have helped in another way that used a strength I already had. Now I stand in front of nearly 100 kids singing with confidence my ABCs and all their magnificent sounds.
To all my education volunteers that have come to this same harsh reality during service…I feel ya…we take our fluency for granted. We forget our building blocks from MANY years ago; when we were first learning how to read and write. Do not be ashamed! It is a lot more common in your group than you think.
I have also found that sharing this with the teachers at my school helped open up a discussion on which teachers did not know all the sounds, or were not confident in the sounds they were teaching. It is far better to admit your human side than to teach lots of students something incorrect. Realizing my weakness made it possible for me to help others grow in theirs.
Now I know my ABCs! Next time won’t you sing with me?