I have tutored ESL kindergartners for many years. The first year I was tutoring ESL students from as near as Mexico and as far away as Uzbekistan. Many of these children had never been to school or away from their parents before. There was a lot for them to learn, and it wasn’t all letters and numbers. But there was also a lot that they taught me.
One day it was raining very hard. I had two girls, one after the other, who wanted easy work. Perhaps there was something about the rain that made them want to retreat, to not push. It is like comfort food, the easy work.
I was surprised that these two fairly advanced students both wanted to work on their ABCs that day. They had gotten past that level a month earlier. I was amazed, and a little frustrated. I wanted them to work, to push, to grow – not to take it easy and go backwards. I was surprised when the first one asked to just work on her ABCs, but thought it was just an anomaly. When the second one asked to do the same, I inquired as to why. What was different? “Why do you want this? This is easy. You can do more than this.”
And this tiny girl, this 5 year old, who had learned English just this year, looked at me with her sad midnight eyes and thought about it. She figured out how to express herself with the few words she had so far. She said “It’s easy for you” with the emphasis on the last word.
I’d forgotten. I wasn’t seeing it from her perspective. It is easy for me. But it is hard for her.
She reminded me that not everything is always easy for everyone. Sometimes we need a break. Sometimes we need to retreat to old standbys. Sometimes we need the simple stuff. And sometimes we forget that just because it is easy for us doesn’t mean it is easy for someone else.
The marathoner may not know how to encourage the person who is just starting to run. The master gardener may not remember how hard it is to get the mix of fertilizer right to keep the plants alive. Sometimes we have done something so often and for so long that we don’t even remember how we got to where we are. It is times like that when a child can teach us.