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Thu Jun 13, 2019, 01:25 AM

Tutored a Man from Chad Today

I work as a writing tutor at the community college. Most of my tutees are foreigners, so I get to read a lot of interesting stories...

This man brought me an essay he had written for his Philosophy class. He wanted help with grammar (the usual complaint.) We finished going over that paper, and he brought out a second one for me to look at. I'm not supposed to check more than one paper per session, but he was the only other person I had today. I just went ahead...

His second paper was a cover letter for a scholarship application. The prompt he was responding to was "What was the biggest obstacle you faced in your education and how did you overcome it?" You've probably seen a similar, mundane prompt at some point in your life. It's the kind of prompt that makes you wonder if the people awarding the scholarships have any creativity at all.

Well, the man began his essay by pointing out that he had grown up during a time of civil war in his country. His biggest obstacle was acquiring access to any kind of education at all. He went on to mention that he and his uncle were arrested by the government and beaten; his uncle later died from the wounds he had received. The rest of his story was about coming to America and working his way through school to finally be where he was now: in college.

His was not the first horror story I've read from the students who attend the college. For the decade I have taught and tutored there, I have heard dozens of such stories from across the globe. All these stories I read and hear from students have had an impact on me. How could they not?! I could give you some sort of message that I take away from a story like this, but I feel like telling you the message would render it much less powerful and I would sound like one of those people creating prosaic prompts for scholarship applications.

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Reply Tutored a Man from Chad Today (Original post)
ProudLib72 Thursday OP
MLAA Thursday #1
KY_EnviroGuy Thursday #2
ProudLib72 Thursday #4
True Dough Thursday #3
ProudLib72 Thursday #5

Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2019, 01:44 AM

1. Wow. I am in awe of what so many go through to survive and try and improve their life.

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2019, 05:06 AM

2. Thanks for sharing this story! How fortunate you are.....

to be exposed to this level of international diversity and your students are fortunate to receive your kind help. I admire these young people's grit and determination as well as your dedication to giving them a great head start with life in America.

It's a crying shame so many conservatives want to block access for these great folks to our country. They're too short-sighted to understand that in order for us to remain a healthy society, we need a constant fresh infusion of that hunger for survival and strong need for advancement out of destitution.

Our own kids need that inspiration, strong competition and exposure to diverse cultures!

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Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Reply #2)

Thu Jun 13, 2019, 12:43 PM

4. This man I was tutoring was not young

I would guess him to be in his early 40s. That's not to say I haven't had other students who were much younger and had dragged themselves up from adversity. What I admire about someone like this man I was tutoring yesterday is that, while he is older, he is content with working hard to overcome the setbacks he faced earlier in life. I'm the kind of person who looks back and thinks, "Oh, I should have done this or that!" It's so easy to do, when the real challenge is to face what's in front of you.

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2019, 06:39 AM

3. Great post

This reminds me of two situations from yesterday. The first: I was listening to talk radio (not right wing) on my drive yesterday and the guest was an education expert. A caller wanted to know with the influx of so many immigrant students over the years, are they creating a drag on marks and impeding the learning of their classmates because some of these immigrants have very poor English skills when they arrive. The education expert flipped the script and told the caller that he has encountered countless immigrant families in his many years of analyzing the school system and they are invariably the hardest working and highest achievers in the room. If anything, their presence helps to elevate the level of learning. And, undoubtedly, lots of them have gone through harrowing situations like the one you describe in your OP.

But it's a funny (unfortunate is the better word) thing how some people automatically assume the worst when it comes to immigrants.

On the other hand, my wife and I were comparing notes late in the day. She told me about being in the waiting room at the physiotherapist's office and a client of Middle Eastern descent was arranging to make payment for services rendered. He was extremely rude and condescending with the female receptionist to the point where other clients in the room were looking at each other and shaking their heads. "Can you believe this guy?" sort of reactions. Meanwhile, I was across town at a hospital, where I'd taken my father in for day surgery. As often happens in the medical system, my dad's appointment time came and went. He was called about 35 minutes late, but it's pretty routine and he made no fuss, of course. However, a man of Middle Eastern descent (wearing business attire), who had just arrived in the waiting room, approached the female health staffer who summoned my father and he forcefully told her -- loud enough for the rest of us to overhear -- that he had a 1:15 appointment with Dr. So and So and it was now 1:20 p.m., while occasionally glancing at his watch with an annoyed look. The staffer explained that doctors often run late and she asked the man to take a seat in the waiting room and he would be called ASAP. The man proceeded to put his overcoat on one of the seats and then made his way over to the reception desk to complain some more. Very entitled and very snarky with the female staff.

Now, those anecdotes don't encapsulate how all Middle Eastern men interact with all females. My wife and I generally don't make a habit of including other people's ethnicities when recounting our stories from the day. That said, we've both noticed that a disproportionate number of Middle Eastern men tend to treat females in a rude manner and we do chalk it up to cultural practices (another disclaimer: yes, we have both seen "white" men treat women in a patronizing fashion as well).

Anyway, I guess my point is that we're both pro-immigration and we love to hear stories about newcomers to this country who have overcome the odds and persevered in the face of great adversity. They are admirable. Then again, we feel like there may be occasions when cultural values clash such as the way we've witnessed some Middle Eastern men, in particular, look down on women. It's the yin and the yang of it all, I suppose.

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Response to True Dough (Reply #3)

Thu Jun 13, 2019, 12:54 PM

5. I am in complete agreement with the education expert

I had a Hispanic student a few years ago. He was in his mid to late thirties. At some point in the semester, he said that he had been working a lot during the week. It turned out that he co-managed a restaurant, and he was working around 50 hours a week. I asked him how many classes he was taking this semester. He told me he was taking 12 hours. I was dumbfounded. He was a great student. He always had his work done on time. I just couldn't imagine how he ever had time to do it!

Another student I had when I was first beginning to teach at this community college was a Somalian guy in his early 20s. He told me the story of how he had grown up during the civil war in Somalia. One day, when he was about 11, he and his best friend were out messing around when they heard gun shots. They started running away, but his friend got shot and killed. That story has stuck with me all this time. How does someone go from living in a war torn country, watching their best friend get killed right in front of them, to being in an American college? And how does that happen in the space of a decade? I mean, how can someone deal with the trauma to achieve so much?

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