My Student Sam
Let me call her by a different name—Sam. I don't think she'll take kindly to being identified on cyburbia.
Because of Sam I broke a university rule, something I feel half guilty of. I will do it again—off campus, if necessary.
Sam had been having difficulty in my subject. She always had furrowed brows when I lectured. She stuttered when she was called upon to discuss an issue.
Reading her first exam paper one day, I was appalled that she had no understanding of the topic we had discussed and debated ad infinitum in class.
My confidence in my ability to teach took a nose dive. Where could have I gone wrong?
I talked to her in private after class. "Sam, tell me how I could be a better teacher to you."
"Miss, it isn't you. It's me. I am not very good in English."
"You mean, you are not very good writing in English?" I said, holding up her test paper.
"I mean, I am not very good in understanding spoken English, especially when there are strange terms. The high school where I graduated from spoke mostly Chinese and Filipino."
I quickly looked around. Students were busy doing their thing, unmindful of the two of us.
As a gut reaction, I decided to break the speak-only-English-in-campus rule! With best effort, in my less-than-perfect Filipino (I am an Ilocana), I explained the topic in question.
Her furrowed brows went back to normal and her lips broke into a big smile. Then, after thirty minutes of my Filipino soliloquy, she echoed back to me exactly what I said—in better Filipino! And with examples of her own to illustrate every point.
She was not as dense as I perceived her to be. She was smart, very smart, in fact.
"Now that I clearly understand everything," she said, "I will re-do my exam, if you will allow me."
I allowed her.
What I read later made me proud; proud of Sam, proud of being given a second chance as a teacher.
It made me think of how grace seeps into our lives through every person sent our path. It made me marvel at how we are moved to see things more clearly than we ever did before.