The excitement of a new term
Every year there is a sense of curiosity about the people whose names appear on my class list, and this, my tenth September as an English tutor in Spirasi, is no different. Every year I look at the list, 25 plus names, many I struggle to pronounce in my head, and I think about who these people might be. Can I guess their nationality from their name? Sometimes I can. I’ve found, after ten years, some surnames and first names are common for certain countries. Abdullahi, often Somali. Rahman, often Afghani. But my preconceived notions are often incorrect. In fact, for the first week of the term, I am regularly surprised by those who sit in from of me. Surprised and curious; curious and amazed.
In one classroom in Spirasi you can find up to eighteen different nationalities. In one week it’s remarkable how much of one person’s story can actually surface during an English lesson. At the end of the day, this is English for life, not for the purpose of an exam. This is English to get on in the outside world, to make one’s life easier to navigate, to ultimately achieve a sense of strength through confident communication. So people talk, even the quiet ones, and as a tutor, it’s often a pleasure to listen.
Another term begins and the first week comes to an end. Thirty five more weeks to go. We are all a little more relaxed after one week. There is already a comfort in the room, and I know from previous years, this comfort will grow and people will feel at home; a feeling I believe is crucial in English language learning and literacy development. Like every year, we will have our challenging moments, but Spirasi brings people together. It’s good at that. Here the common language is English, and I’ll do my best to help those in front of me learn it, as I will also learn from the many stories that fill up the classroom daily.
Angus O’ Riordan
English Teacher Spirasi