she stands about 5 feet tall and weighs about 100 pounds. i’m guessing on the weight because she wears the same long blue winter coat everyday be it warm or cold. her head is covered with a hijab but i’m pretty sure her hair is grey. her face is wrinkled showing the years of a hard life and somehow she doesn’t look her age of 51. she doesn’t speak any English but her smile says “hi” and it’s a smile that would make any crotchety old coot find one, too.
her life has NOT been a life of luxury. while she was pregnant at a young age, her husband was killed in a country where unrest is a horrible way of life. she raised her son with the help of family but one could never get back the years that should have been spent with a father. she is kind but shy. a new country, a new way of life, new food, new experiences. who wants that at the age of 51? but a war ravaged country is not the place for anyone and she was one of the lucky ones to have been chosen to come to a country with open arms, love, and protection.
it’s hard to learn a new language, let alone when you’re past the spry age of a good brain without any trauma that has set in. as Siham struggles with learning, i struggle with the feeling of failure as day-after-day i say “good morning” to her and she just smiles. where am i going wrong? why won’t she even try? i know that repetition is the key to learning so i preserver with her.
she can only stay in class for half the day because she has constant back pain and i’m pretty sure lung issues. she smokes like a chimney and coughs so hard she gags. but physical issues aside, as she leaves the classroom each day, she raises her wrinkled little hand and gives me a smile and a wave.
one morning as she was walking down the hall, i passed by her and gave her my usual “good morning, Siham” and she did it! she responded with a weak, yet coherent “good morning” back to me. she had gained confidence over the many weeks we had been together even though i couldn’t see it.
as an ESL teacher, any little step is a huge victory!
i don’t see Siham on a day-to-day basis. she’s very discouraged and with her health challenges and her struggle to learn a new language at her age. she comes periodically.
but a victory is a victory – for her and for me!
keep working at it, Siham! you’ll get it!
This is Siham