icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle


The Promise of Education: Luis

Luis works in a laundry in my neighborhood, a laundry where the machines work well and there are comfortable chairs to sit on. Short, with long hair, caramel skin and a ready smile, Luis saw me reading my students’ papers one day and, in his elementary English, tried to start a conversation. Was I a teacher?

“Yes,” I said, “I teach writing at a university.”
“I would like a book,” he said.
“What kind of book?”
“To help my English,” he said.

Luis is forty-four and once had been a good student with ambitions to become a teacher himself, but there was no money in his large Mexican family to continue his schooling. He married, had two children, and migrated to America to earn money for his family. I didn’t dare ask when he last saw them. If he is illegal, he can’t leave the US and get back in. So many complications.

“This is my life,” he said, sadly.

Then I returned to his request for a book. Had he ever taken ESL classes? Yes. Would he consider trying to improve his English as a first step to more education? Yes. And I told him about other immigrants and refugees I knew who had to restart their lives late in their lives. It’s difficult, but not impossible. “Go back to the ESL class,” I said. “Study hard. Make effort.”

Luis smiled. Then Elena, his co-worker, came over and smiled. And we cooked up a plan. I would talk to them and correct their English every time I came to do my laundry and, in the interim, Luis would be a teacher of English, correcting Elena, using his dictionary, and talking to customers whenever possible—in English. No Spanish language soap operas on the TV as they folded laundry. Only English language soap operas. Okay? They agreed.

I found this encounter very touching. The impulse to learn, to improve, to study, is universal, even among migrant workers. To deliver some hope—that made my day.  Read More 
Be the first to comment