“Vacuuming children”–is that a mistake in English vocabulary or a practical solution to messy kids?
Angela is a stay-at home mom of three, metal artist (pictured left in the workshop) and has been volunteering as a teacher’s aide at ReWA for eight years. When asked for an anecdote from the classroom, she recalled this line.
“We were discussing New Year’s resolutions and one student said he ‘was resolved to vacuum his children.’ We all cracked up–it wasn’t the right word exactly, but we understood—especially the parents among us.”
Angela said she used to volunteer at a film festival, but I decided, “”If I’m going to invest my time, I should spend it on something more meaningful to me.” When the covid-19 pandemic cancelled ReWA’s in-person ESL classes last spring, several volunteers stepped up to contact students weekly for conversation practice.
Another ESL volunteer, Annie, is a theater wardrobe coordinator who also wanted to get involved in the community. She started with ReWA in 2019 and has been calling six to eight students each week for conversation practice and homework help.
“Some are also studying for the citizenship exam and learning about the structure of the U.S. Congress. When the insurrection happened in January, we had talked about how history is still impacting current events. For students from countries with a history of colonialism, they understand this very well.”
She said some students are also curious about indigenous people in America, so she did some research and shared the Native Land App which helps people learn about local history by identifying the indigenous groups living in the area.
Both volunteers agree: they miss the classroom interactions. But these one-on-one conversations allow them to get to know the students better.
Angela said, “One student from the Central African Republic used to be very shy in class and rarely spoke. But now we talk on the phone every week and she is becoming more comfortable trying out new English words.”
Many of ReWA’s ESL students arrived as refugees, fleeing violence. Some have lost family and friends, so even simple questions about their families and where they come from can bring painful memories to the surface. Angela said she has learned to ask more general questions and go from there. She said she admires these incredibly resilient people and their desire to learn and work hard to support their families.
Annie said, “Volunteering with ReWA this past year gave me a real measure of connection and I’m really grateful for that.”
Angela recalled a poignant moment in the conversation about New Year’s resolutions, “One student said, ‘This year I want to have a home.’” She sighed. “Thinking back, it has been a difficult year, but for me, it has also been very rewarding.”