Living Language – Gonzaga’s Summer Program


Let’s say that you’re an immigrant or a
refugee to the Spokane area. You might be the only kid in your class who
doesn’t speak english as a first language, so it’s incredibly
isolating. Even in the language camp, especially in the beginning, they don’t talk very much and those same kids in a regular K-12 setting would quickly be assumed
that their English was non-existent. One of the reasons that they might take time coming out of their shells is because their English is not very strong or
they don’t feel like it is, but another reason is you know cultural background.
So you went into a classroom Thailand for example, you wouldn’t see anything that
would be interpretable as a challenge to the teacher. So when the teacher
explains something, if a student says you know I don’t really get this, what
they’re saying is you’re not a good teacher. So then they come here and
they’re expected to interact with other students, they’re expected to ask
questions when they don’t understand and they don’t have the background to do
that. I used to think that a teacher is someone that is the center of the
classroom. You shouldn’t get related with your students and then I saw Mary. I start
talking to her and I start getting to know her better I learned that you have
to be more than a teacher, you have to be friends with your students. So one of the
things that the language camp does which I think is one of the most beautiful
things about it is that you get this concentration of kids for whom English
is not their first language. I think it’s difficult to overstate what that means
for them because you know, finally they’re the majority and you can see
that just the transformation in the first couple of days.
I was sworn in as an American citizen yesterday and one of the things that the
judge said, “We recognize the need for the diversity and distinctiveness that you
bring. Differences in culture, different perspectives, different world views, is
actually what makes this country stronger,” and I think the same could be
said of any institution, the fact that these kids keep coming back year after
year, and we need those kids. I want some of those kids, I want all of them to, but
I want the least some of them to think of Gonzaga as an option, and I want
Gonzaga to recognize you know the distinctiveness that they bring too.

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