As part of my commitment to trying new things, I signed up for an ESL tutoring program about a month ago. Originally, I just wanted to get my feet in the door of volunteering. Yet, the moment I actually began tutoring, the moment I realized how much I truly enjoyed it.

Upon first arriving, I felt a pang of worry. What if she doesn’t come? What if she doesn’t like me? What if we don’t… click. What if I suck?

Now, as mentioned before, every ‘what if’ must come with a ‘so what?’, before retiring the notion:

So what… if she doesn’t come?
Well, clearly that would have been her loss, being that she is the one who needs to be educated. I would simply have to find another way to spend my two hours.

So what… if we don’t click?
Upon my sign up, I was informed that it is not at all uncommon for some pairing to be poorly matched. Sometimes, two people just do not mix. That would be neither her fault, nor mine; it would simply just be reason to reevaluate the match made.

Now, although this was what was told to me, I still found myself feeling as if that would suggest – in some way – that I was giving up on my pair. I did not like the sound of that, at all. Before even committing to the plan to tutor, I decided that no matter how difficult I found my pair to ‘click’ with, I would not give up. They needed help; I offered it, so it was my responsibility to see that though.

So what… if she doesn’t like me?
I am by no means a person who believes that every single person in the world should like her. In fact I embrace the notion that some people do not. I do not like everybody. True, I try to see the good and bad in all, but once I’ve assessed these traits, I then go ahead to draw my own conclusions of their character. As I do this, it would be ridiculous for me not to assume that others do not think the same things of me.

So what… if I suck?
I – like everyone – have both my strengths and weaknesses. To have both creates a much required balance. If one person was good at everything, they would never strive, or feel the need to try, as everything came naturally to them. Similarly, in the event that someone be good at virtually nothing (which, I do not think is possible), both their esteem and worth would be greatly affected, causing a great number of negative ramifications. Therefore is it imperative that individuals have not only strengths and weaknesses; and furthermore, all individuals must accept both equally and come to peace with them. In the even that I did truly ‘suck’, I would just need to learn to accept and move forward; or, try to improve the skills should it mean enough to me.

These were all the thoughts that came passing through my head the 20 minutes proceeding the first session. Along – of course – with circular breaths and many smiles to my neighboring tutors (being that I was the only new tutor, they were all wondering who I was, I am sure), trying to feign pure confidence.

Finally, I saw a young woman with blond hair approach the room. Something told me that this was my match. Okay, it was nothing magical; the coordinator told me. Along with her came a taller man with salt and pepper hair. He informed me that he was her husband and wished that we had a very good experience. I found the whole thing to be very endearing and sweet. I thanked him, smiled and he left the room.

Not sure how to initially begin, I smiled and introduced myself. Which, in return, she introduced herself. I then immediately asked her why she came to the program, and she told me to just learn more about the language. Immediately, there was a shot of panic.

What next? I’m out… crap. Alright. She hates me; it’s over. 

Mellow-dramatic, I know. 

Finally, I spoke: “Tell me about your family”.

Before I knew it, our conversation was rolling. I learned about her interests, her dislikes, what she does for fun… the two hours went by so quickly, I could not even imagine it. 

Finally, I looked at the time, since I heard tutor around me say their good-byes. I told her our time was coming to an end, so I wanted to give her a few things to do over the week in preparation for next week’s meeting. She agreed and told me to have a very good day. 

I could not believe how good it felt to be helping someone grow into themselves this way. Even explaining the small difference between ‘cooking’ and ‘baking’ was a great success for me. Seeing the light bulbs hovering over ours heads, made my day a slight bit brighter.

There was one moment that I loved more than anything. After hearing her say a word in her language, I attempted it. She looked at me and smiled, then told me that that was in her language, not mine. I told her that I had known, but I wanted to learn, too. Not only did this moment make laugh, but also become immediately more comfortable. She was almost shocked that I did not want to be the only teacher in the room. But, for me, there is no way to suggest that I was.

Both her and I are intelligent in our own regard, with the ability to learn and teach each other an equal amount. This is something so often forgotten in life, I find. People immediately think that rather they are to learn from someone, or to teach. For me, this could not be further from true. Everyone, no matter age, sex, status, relation, is owner of a vast amount of knowledge which is theirs to share. Learning will never be a one-way street, but rather a bridge of passing lanes: requiring both support and equal exchange. This philosophy is one I will carry throughout my life, without doubt and today’s meeting only further solidifies the importance of it to me. 

Learn and live, and live to learn.




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