Guest opinion: English in Action changes perspective
I have been a volunteer tutor with English In Action for almost two years.
My student, Elmer, and I spend one hour a week together. During this time, Elmer does the majority of talking to work on his English speaking skills. We chat about his time working on a ranch, his children, and his extended family in El Salvador.
Our meeting is one of only a handful of hours Elmer may have during the week to speak English with someone. I have come to feel a responsibility toward him, as the hour we spend is among the most crucial of Elmer’s English-learning tactics.
Since we started working together, Elmer has become more comfortable with his own skills, enough so to attend ESL courses and take on extra work at home. He recently got a second job working in the hospital cafeteria. He even works the cash register now where he has the opportunity to speak English to many people. I can see his excitement as he talks about these new challenges and interactions.
“The old people talk a lot!” he says.
Our time together has also opened my eyes to a world where many people struggle on a daily basis. From stories about his childhood and more recent dangers in El Salvador, I have discovered just how easy I have it.
Elmer and I have something in common — our fathers are in bad health and may only have a short time left. The difference is my father lives in Illinois, and at a moment’s notice I can easily drive to see him. Elmer, on the other hand, does not know when or if he will see his father again.
Personally, I have grown to understand the struggles of a culture I previously dismissed, because of the simple world we live in. There are times I’ve come home and reflected with my wife upon stories Elmer has told me. Tears have been shed. My wife understands the importance of our time together. She knows that the hour I spend with Elmer each week is one I will not miss.
Professionally, wearing this uniform, I have discovered a new respect for the Latino population I serve. Many of the immigrants I come into contact with are hesitant to talk with me — let alone report crimes in which they may have been the victim.
As a result of my friendship with Elmer, I am now better able to build a rapport with every person I meet. In turn, I hope they will trust me to do the right thing, for the right reasons, all of the time.
Aaron Munch is a sergeant with the Basalt Police Department.