IF A CHILD CAN’T LEARN THE WAY WE TEACH, MAYBE WE SHOULD TEACH THE WAY THEY LEARN. MICHAEL J. FOX
Our family has been hosting French kids in our home for four year now between private lessons with the kids in our village and as a Linguistic Sejour. We have had nearly 200 students through our home in that time.
We have amazing memories with wonderful kids from all over France. It has become a passion of mine, and I only wish I started teaching sooner.
The best experience for us came in the form of a student named Erwana. She arrived for a three-week stay during our first summer season. She was 15 going on 25, and fashionable with all the devices. She was determined not to make friends but keep her nose to the books to bring up her English grades in her private school. She had a fierce desire to learn, but it was very hard for her. You see she has dyslexia.
Her learning disability came in the form of a constant fatigue while learning, her brain worked twice as hard as other students while trying to unscramble the letters, and often she got frustrated during the oral portion of class. Her brain was working simply too fast, trying to the get to the end. She had to learn to slow things down to understand them.
The first two weeks she was with our family we had three other girls all around 16 years old. It was a house full of energy and estrogen and in all honesty it could have gone either way; a complete disaster or a glorious experience.
Three of the girls were staying for two weeks, another a week and a half, and an 18-year-old girl made five for the second week. The weekends for these girls were during our August festival, and another local C.A.C. 34 band event here in the village of Capestang. It was a very fun time for these young ladies between the beach, horseback riding, kayaking and the festivals! I took them shopping, but really they took me shopping! I was learning new words in French as they were learning new words in English! Some words I really didn’t need to know!
The girls formed a special bond. One in particular bunked with Erwana, who was one of those extraverted children that the world seemed to orbit around, and Erwana as determined as she was, tried to stay quiet and alone. Eventually, no matter how hard she tried to resist, her flat mate inevitably whisked her away into a tornado of fun.
The next 10 days they worked together, side-by-side inseparable. Both very serious to improve their second language but they also became new best friends.
They were two peas in a pod, kindred spirits in pure silliness, and together they made our lessons fun and interesting.
Erwana had a very special talent of her own. She played the piano and the emotion she poured into her songs could make me cry. It was her gift. And she shared it with us everyday for hours while I made dinner, during down time, and whenever I asked to sing with her.
We completely fell in love with this child; her vulnerabilities, her sweetness and every member of our family felt the same bond. Angelina especially worshipped Erwana, and when the big girls let her join in, they would do each others nails, dress her up in mini-me versions of themselves, and Angelina loved feeling like a teenager, if for only a moment.
We had to give Erwana extra lessons and help with her homework, and each of us in turn gave it to her in different forms. All trying our hand at teaching her lessons from different angles; some worked, others did not. I watched her nearly give up, get frustrated and very fatigued during her stay.
By the middle of the second week, she became very sad. It was time to say goodbye to her new BFF. She would remain for another week and half without her, and that’s when something remarkable happened to Erwana.
Erwana stayed to herself and reworked her entire workbook from beginning to end meticulously organized every page, learning every lesson, every song, and every vocabulary word. It took the remainder of her stay, however, with diligence, and repetition, English finally sunk in.
It was something you rarely see. Complete focus. The same she has for her piano. Her intensity had a sheer willingness, a strong determination to succeed. She left with all her basics firmly patted down.
She made new friends during her last week too, but it wasn’t the same as her long lost soul sister reunited, but that’s ok too.
I was proud of Erwana and I learned a lot about how to deal with the special needs of a dyslexic student. Our biggest tools were music, dance, and song, all in English of course. These students arrived knowing the words to so many songs without ever understanding the meaning of them. After their stay, they knew them all and to celebrate, on that last Friday we had a karaoke party!
These are the moments as a teacher we are reminded why we do what we do. These are those worthwhile moments that make every minute of extra help trying new approaches until something finally clicks for a child.
And the next year when she came back for another 2-week stay, it was like a family member had come home for a visit.
Best job I have ever had!
Eva Hamori, Hamori family Capestang, Daily English