Friday, March 21, 2008

ESL Literacy - A Tibetan Student's Autobiographical Poem

With the recent unrest in Tibet, my thoughts go back to about a year ago when I was visiting Harvard University's "Bridge to Learning and Literacy" program. While there, I attended a reception where ESL students and their tutors who had participated in the literacy tutoring program the previous year were recognized, and their writing was distributed in published form. One particular student I met who really stood out to me was a student from Tibet. His literacy level was quite low, as expected of a student who comes from a non-literate background, as well as a culture and native language that employs a distinctly different writing system than English. His published writing that he'd worked on all year with his literacy tutor was in the form of an autobiographical poem. He had spent a lot of time and effort to produce this poem (not to mention his tutor), so I'd like to share it:
Funny, hard-working, friendly
Has four brothers
Lover of hockey, running, and action movies
Who feels happy when he thinks of his mom
Who gives happiness to his friends
Who fears war, speaking English, and earthquakes
Who would like to see his mom, Tibet, and India
Who lives in Somerville
I appreciate the teachers and tutors in the world who work with our non-native English speaking students to share their life stories through literacy...or autobiographical poems. These students have seen and continute to see much in life, and their potential to enrich and inspire the lives of others by sharing their life experience through literacy is immense--or at least it is for me.
I wonder what this Tibetan student is thinking and feeling now as he is thousands of miles away from his home land where peace is foreign. I hope he writes another autobiographical poem about it...

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