In the movie “Gladiator”, the opening scene is quite powerful, but relevant to my overall experience in Costa Rica. In the movie, the Roman soldiers are attacking the final strong hold of a Germanic people. The violence of the battle is contrasted by a miraculously light and delicately powerful music. The duality of the scene captures the essense of my overall experience of walking the footsteps of an English language learner, minus the carnage of course. Despite the stressful nature of the experience, I was surrounded by the peaceful cinematography of mountains and clouds forests. While walking in the footsteps of an English language learner, and the enormity of stress that accompanied me every step of the way, the geography of my footsteps was soothed by good food, friendly people, and a sense of community I have not felt in many years. I often found myself searching for fragile connections to comfort with people I did not know in order to ease the tension. We talked about soccer, food, politics, and other things, but I was always limited by language. The conversations always felt inches away from success. My future students will experience this same duality.
English language learners are held captive by the promise of a better life, but at the same time, they are held captive by the limitations of language. It will be up to me to soften their stresses and build pathways to learning that are relevant to their experiences. I have walked in their shoes; I have felt the duality of promise and frustration. I have felt the tiny victories that occur when in a word a connection is made. I have also felt many defeats along the way.
Whether my students are form Central America, China, Europe, or the Middle East, their footsteps are similar, their direction the same, they want to learn. Costa Rica has often been described as a cultural, economic, and physical bridge between two continents. I will have to use my experiences of walking in the footsteps of an English Language learner to bridge the divide between frustration and learning that language can create
In a few months, I will be traveling to Kuwait to teach social studies to middle school kids. Although the nature of my experience will be different, the duality will still exist. Despite this, I will have stories to share, about Costa Rica, the United States, and all the other places my feet have taken me in the past. I will be learning and teaching at the same time.