For teachers, it’s delightful when a past student calls to say, “thank you. I did it with your help.” As a teacher of English as a second language, I got that call from a past student today. She’d done an interview and got a job, not just any job but one in her field with a good salary. This is the goal of most of my students. They come from all over the world only to find out that their degrees and diplomas mean nothing, that extra schooling is required, that no professional jobs are available and as silly as it sounds, they must have Canadian experience before they can get a job. It can be most disheartening.
I remember my past student well. She shed tears when I asked her to do a presentation, saying that she had always been very shy. I coaxed and encouraged, refusing to let her return to her seat and told her that the first few times I did readings, my legs were shaking. I had a good rapport with her as I do with all my students. This could be because I’ve walked in their shoes. I remember my years in Norway, learning the language, sending out at least fifty résumés and getting no response, and feeling like no one around me understood my homesickness and culture shock. I didn’t stay. I felt that there were greener pastures elsewhere. But, for many of my students, there are no greener pastures and the pastures here that are supposed to be green are white, cold and frozen. There’s no other choice but here. Many are determined to one day return to their native land.
About six years ago, I realized that if I ever returned to Jamaica to live, it wouldn’t be the home I’d left. I’d be disillusioned. My children, completely Canadian now, probably wouldn’t follow me. I realized that if I couldn’t be happy here, then chances are, I couldn’t be happy anywhere. These white pastures can be cold but there was one solution for me and that was to throw myself into life here without abandon. I joined a writing group, took up belly dancing, danced at work, released the fear, spoke my mind, went tobogganing, made lots of friends, etc. It’s about enjoying the pastures whether they are cold and icy or warm and green. Life is short and time goes fast so it’s the only way.