Time for a shocking confession:
When I’m at school back home and we’re reading out loud, I never pay attention. When it’s my turn, I just find my place and can read it perfectly first time every time. I’ve always been an excellent reader but it’s never been something I’ve thought about. I guess you could say I took it for granted. It was just something I expected; that I could look at a piece of paper – any piece of paper – and be able to read and comprehend what was written on it.
Earlier this year, I trained to be a Peer Reader and did a TAFE training course so I could learn how to teach people to read. I’ll be honest, even though my mum’s a special ed teacher and I’ve always been aware that some people have great difficulty reading, throughout much of the course I found myself almost laughing at the sheer basicness of it. I know that’s awful, but in the back of my mind all I could think was “these people are in HIGH SCHOOL! How can they not know this?!”
Then, on Monday, in my first hour of my first day at a French School, I had to read aloud. I had given the reading until that point more than my full attention. I had focused on every word. I had followed along without skipping a beat. And still, my legs started to shake… I broke out in a sweat… I could feel myself blushing and worst of all, despite my hardest efforts, I stumbled on every word. The majority of the ones I did know I mispronounced, and some I had never seen in my life before. The piece of material wasn’t exactly rocket science – it was the school rules – and yet, after three sentences my teacher stopped me out of pity and moved on to the next person.
And then I got it.
I finally understood what it was like for all those kids who can’t read back home. The migrants. Those with learning difficulties. Those with illiterate parents. I finally understood what they go through Every. Single. Day. A moment which now ranks for me as one of the most embarrassing that I’ve ever experienced is just waking up for them.
When I go home in four and a half months I’ll be able to go back to my old ways. Back to not paying attention and back to being able to read anything given to me word perfectly first time every time. They don’t have that option. I have never been so grateful for something in my life.
A few weeks ago Erica posted a Short and Sweet about tough times, and it included this paragraph:
But life’s like that; without the tough times, we wouldn’t build character, perseverance or a healthy empathy for our fellow human beings. We would be so far up ourselves, so blinded by our own shiny, bright excellence, that we would never move past that egocentric toddler phase when we think even our poo is great. We would be completely unrelatable, robotic and probably unlikable. And smelly.
This just sums up what I’m trying to say perfectly. Right now, I’m going through a Tough Time. After two days at school I’ve realised the two years of basic French I completed before coming which taught me such things as Introductions and Rooms of the House are actually totally useless in The Real World. When it comes down to it, I know next to nothing, and that makes my life extremely difficult. The only class in which I can understand things is Anglais and that’s only because they speak nothing but English in it (side note: we should adopt that teaching method for languages in Australia). Their basic level of English (most have done six years, but it’s still not much better than my French) combined with my level of French makes communicating pretty much impossible, and leads to many moments where I just want to sit down and cry.
I will go home with an amazing empathy for all those who live moments like the aforementioned as their regular life. I will have a new respect for those people who have recently moved to our country, and also for those who have lived here for years but still haven’t grasped the language. Not only that, but I will also understand and have empathy for all of those who struggle with reading and writing, for now I have truly experienced what life is like on that side of the coin, and it sucks, and from now on I want to do all I can to help them.
This momentary Tough Time has lead to a whole new part of my character being built, and I will come out of it a much stronger person. Even if my language skills stay stuck in Neutral, I will go home having learnt this truly important lesson, and for that, I am thankful.
frangipani princess xoxo