“Education is the Key to Success”

posted by Alicia Harper

“Education is the key to success,” became a phrase I grew to loath when I was younger. My teachers and parents would incessantly repeat this phrase as if to hammer it into my brain, though unsuccessful with their attempts. After growing older, getting my act together and maturing in many ways I know now that my elders were completely correct, a good education is a valuable and necessary possession.

On Thursday afternoon I casually strolled into the JWOC English class with thoughts of what I would eat for dinner and how good I would sleep clouding my mind. Class began and I was immediately brought back to Earth through my first interaction with a Cambodian student. The sudden reality of the moment hit me, and I realized that I could actually help these people.

As a high school and college student I studied the Spanish language for some years. Even after all the hours of studying I still would not call myself fluent in the language. The English class at JWOC challenged students with a more rigorous workload than any of my college Spanish classes. The teacher, an American, spoke only English to the class for the entire hour. The students were delightful and eager to learn, but many did not know English as well as I expected them to.

As the class went on I began to form a new found respect for teachers. It is a hard job to be patient when you feel that your student should know something that they don’t. Teachers must have a light heart and an understanding for others that some would not be able to muster. My regard not only grew for teachers but for the students, trying to their hardest to carry on a conversation with me and at the same time being very careful as not to embarrass themselves. The effort they gave in that hour was, in my eyes, inspiring. Their huge smiles, awkward giggles, and intense effort to understand was unlike anything I’ve witnessed before.

The class came to an end, and as they packed up their things, filed out the door and thanked me, I watched as the students hopped onto their motorbikes and drove away. Standing in the room empty of students I felt a lump in my throat filled with things unsaid. I wanted to tell them that their hunger to learn was inspiring to me. I wanted to tell the ones that were struggling to keep pushing through until it came easy, because they were improving their lives by just sitting in the class and learning. I wanted to tell them that they were more courageous than I have ever been. I wanted to thank them for introducing me to something I have not seen in many people, a true desire to be better for themselves and for their families.

A non-profit organization like JWOC is so important to this community because a price cannot be put on the value of a good education. It opens doors to all who have the ambition and put in the work. A twinge of ignorance and juvenility pulses through my body as I look back on my attitude about the importance of learning. The students in the English class will never know this, but they taught me a lot about life that day.

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