February 17, 2017
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Freshman Jack Dugan stands in front of a whiteboard where he has scribbled a variety of past and present verbs. Around him in a semicircle are folded up tables scattered with notebooks and pencils. Behind the tables sit sixteen immigrants from a variety of countries, trying to learn English.
Dugan, a ninth grader at Arvada West, enjoys culinary nutrition because “it has food,” and is fond of lacrosse and spending time with his friends. Dugan is also involved in a few community service projects. “[I] volunteer at the homeless shelter when I can.” He also says “I teach English to immigrants.”
Since late August of 2016, Dugan has also been teaching English at Westminster Public Library every Monday night from 6:30 to 8:00p.m. Dugan had a desire to give back to his community so “I searched up community service and this seemed like a pretty interesting, stable volunteer work.”
Dugan serves as a teacher to the immigrants and instructs a wide range of students. “They are, 25-60 [years old], there’s a very wide age group, but I’ve taught kids there before too… [and] there’s an equal gender division.” These students come from a diverse range of nationalities; approximately 60% come from Latino backgrounds, while others come from the Congo, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. Most of these immigrants are taking the class to pass a citizenship test, and become US citizens.
English, a difficult language for even native speakers, is even more demanding for immigrants. One of the reasons the class is so strenuous is because there is no “English I, English II, English III class,” but rather a “Speak English Class,” so knowledge differs from student to student. The class contains a variety of skill levels with people who “…are trying to learn things that I’m learning right now in Honors English, and then you have people in there who are learning how to say hello.”
Dugan is in charge of his own curriculum and “whether it’s gonna (sic) be verbs or adjectives or present tense,” but “the hard part is finding materials that I can communicate with other people pretty easily.”
He has to take into account the varying experience of his students when crafting his lesson plan. “What really helps is when two people who speak the same language come in because if one of them understands and the other one doesn’t, then they can just tell them what it means in their native language.” When all else fails he resorts to the universal language of charades to try to get his point across.
Although Dugan is currently taking Spanish II Honors, which helps him with the two thirds of people who do speak Spanish, but he doesn’t like using it because it may confuse the other students.
Dugan has constant contact with immigrants from many different countries, and when asked about the people that he deals with he says that “they deserve to be Americans more than some people.” He elaborates by saying, “I’ve not met one person in that class who isn’t a great person who, like, has more drive.” They go to an English class every Monday just to improve their lives, and they are really good people.
Since the class is only taught Monday nights, Tuesday mornings, and Tuesday nights, Dugan leaves with the thought that “If we could get some more Speak English classes going…that’d be great.”