This photo is a picture of my old high school. Though the buildings may appear similar, the students I work with and I had quite different experiences in school.As I have stated in previous posts, I am from a town that has a significant Spanish-speaking population. This means that while I was in high school, a large number of my classmates were in ESL programs like the one I work in at Central High School. It was not until working in this classroom for an extended period of time that I came to the realization that the high school experience I had, along with the majority of other students, was and is drastically different than the high school experience of English Language Learners.
My high school experience, and the experience of most people I know, was that of doing the bare minimum to get by. I received straight A’s in high school, but the work was not difficult for me. Even the people who did not receive the best grades still only did what was necessary to get by. When work was assigned for in-class, there never was a second thought to how or when it would get done. When homework was assigned, I never really worried about whether or not I would be able to complete it. In fact, most of the time I had the homework assignment finished before the class period was over.
In high school, I always knew the students in the ESL program spent the majority of their time in school in this classroom. However, I never realized what a commitment to learning they had to make here. Working at Central, I have come to realize that these English-learning students commit so much of themselves to the language and school. Every day, students rush to eat their lunches in five to ten minutes so they can come into the ESL classroom and work on assignments, quizzes, tests, etc. that they did not have enough time to complete earlier in the day. Also, Monday through Thursday, numerous students stay after school, sometimes for up to two hours, in order to receive additional help with their work. Sacrifices such as these can mean that some students are not able to participate in all of the extracurricular, social, family, or relaxing activities that other students have time for. Perhaps the most admirable quality of this sacrifice is that these students are choosing to give up their free-time on their own accord; no one is telling them they must come to the ESL classroom during any time of the day and their sacrifice is very rarely acknowledged.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to be a high school student who is not only learning algebra and biology, but is also learning to live in a new language. When I was in high school, and perhaps a bit now, I could not fathom going so far out of my way when it was not “required,” “necessary,” or going to be acknowledged by anyone. But the students I work with at Central have shown me what true dedication means. The students that have achieved the most in terms of their English and academic achievements are those that are willing to go the extra mile. Seeing their dedication to learning, even when it is difficult and seems they will never get it, makes me want to achieve more. They have inspired me to work harder in seeking opportunities to strengthen my Spanish skills. They have given me the drive to push for more in school; if I put in more effort, I can do more than simply just receive a good grade in a class. These students, some of whom are living without their families, know practically no English, and feel scared and nervous to be in a new environment, deserved to be looked at as heroes and role models. They work twice as hard as other students and do not care if anyone recognizes their efforts. I have learned so much from having the opportunity to work with them, and I hope I can have some success in emulating their outstanding work ethic and personal drive.