Friday, July 01, 2011

Little By Little

I visited my "adopted" family for the fourth time today.  Jamali has made excellent progress with his writing, I am happy to say.  I had given him a tablet with lined paper and a chart of the printed alphabet, both capital and small letters, and told him to copy the alphabet on a sheet of the paper, each time I visit.  He has done so, and I am amazed how much he has improved, in just two weeks.  I wish I had a "before and after" to show you.  He is slow with his reading, but I am optimistic, because he tries very hard.

One thing I have been reminded of, in my experience tutoring third-graders, is just how difficult and complicated English spelling is.  It seems that for every rule, there are exceptions, and the only way you can dependably learn to read and spell is by memorizing.  The letter "c" always makes Jamali hesitate.  Who knows whether it is to be pronounced as "s", "k" or "ch"?  How about "...ough" at the end of a word?  Is it "uf" (as in tough) or "o" as in "though"?  And don't get me started on the vowels!

But what I really want to talk about now, is my blunder in a conversation with Jamali's mother, Tunza, this morning.  I had done a little research on Burundi, and saw that there are people of the Hutu and Tutsi tribes there.  I asked Tunza if she and her family are from one of those tribes.  She said yes, they are Hutus.  I asked if the tribes are still fighting and she said yes.  Then, like a big, thoughtless dumbbell (it just popped out), I asked if that's how her husband died.  Tunza burst into tears, which she tried to hold back, and she looked so terribly distressed that I would have given anything to suck back my stupid question.  I kept apologizing as she kept saying it's okay, until I was ready to run for the door.  Fortunately, Jamali came back into the room then, and we were able to switch channels, back to reading.

So...I learned a lesson today that is as important as how to pronounce "antidisestablishmentarianism."  And that is, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!  I just hope I will pass the test, if one is given.

7 comments:

Harry said...

I think truthfully, you are enjoying being tested yourself. And why not? Life gets stale. You are gaining as much as you are giving and that is a beautiful thing. Very happy you've found this outlet to share all that is Madam Z. Glad you are sharing it with us too!

Bukowski's Basement said...

Sounds very fulfilling Madame Z... You're doing a wonderful thing.

Gorilla Bananas said...

Your "mistake" was not as bad as it seems, Madam Z. Although it was painful for her to be reminded of her bereavement, asking her the question showed you cared about her life. I'm sure she won't hold it against you.

Madam Z said...

Thank you, my dear "virtual" friends, for your encouragement. I wish I could invite you all over for a cup of tea. Or a beer. Or a glass of wine. Or mango juice.

Breezmeister said...

If you want to know what it's like in Africa, rent the movie Tears of the Sun or Hotel Rwanda. If you have seen either, then you have had a snap shot of what it's really like there.......

Jodi MacArthur said...

Sorry I'm getting here so late, Z. Love reading these updates. What you are doing is a wonderful thing, and despite Tunza's tears, perhaps deep down it means something to her that someone else knows her tribes and even about her husband. She isn't quite as alone anymore, you know what I mean. Lots of hugs.

John Wiswell said...

English spelling is a mess and I could easily be pushed into supporting sweeping reform and streamlining of it. But sheesh, how to get the authority to even start that rather than creating yet another divergent dialect.