I was teaching an ESL class to about 20 students. One man, a Cambodian, had worked hard all semester but seldom volunteered to talk in class.
One day, he was moved to speak and tell his own story. He had been in Cambodia during the terrible years of Pol Pot. One day a group of men with guns had come to his village, lined up all inhabitants, and methodically shot everyone. Either reflexively or cannily, my student, though miraculously not wounded, fell down when everyone else did. He lay there, perfectly still, among the dead and dying until finally the men went away. Then he started walking ...
That trek away from the scene of carnage, a path that ultimately led him to a new life in the United States, was vague in his mind. But the description of mass murder in his village moved everyone in the classroom. Some students cried quietly as he spoke. No one said a word when he ended.
There was a long silence. Then he said, "Now I come to United States, and I think my life will be perfect here. But I have big problem."
Tentatively, we asked whether he felt comfortable sharing it.
After a long sigh, he said, "Now I have three girl friends, and I don't know what to do. I going crazy."
After a few moments we gave ourselves permission to laugh. Our laughter was explosive and uncontainable. Here he was living the American dream--and experiencing American problems.
-- Francine Jamin
My students and I in my 8th grade Literature class were reading "Raymond's Run" by Toni Cade Bambara from our literature textbook. It's the story of a young tough African American girl, nicknamed Squeaky, who is a runner and watches over her mentally disabled brother. One of the conflicts in the story deals with three girls who she sees walking toward her and who like to tease her brother. The author, through Squeaky, describes the potential meeting as "Dodge City."
All of the kids in the classroom, although many have read Louis L'Amour, had no idea what "Dodge City" meant. I thought I could relate to some of their experiences by mentioning old cowboy movies (I forgot, of course, that old cowboy movies were a part of my growing up in the 50's and 60's, and not theirs). And, as I sometimes do, I became a part of the drama.
"It's high noon!" I nearly bellowed as I walked slowly down the center aisle, pretending to be a cowboy. "There are a couple of gunslingers. They're in the middle of town, and they're walking towards each other. WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO DO?"
Nick, who was probably ready for lunch and was caught up in my little drama, YELLED out excitedly, "THEY'RE GOING TO RING THE BELL!"
The whole class erupted into laughter, and it took us all a few minutes to settle down. It was a moment to remember.