On the first day of a new class session, one of the learners told me that she was afraid to speak in class. I told her I was too. There was a mix of new and familiar faces, but after the lesson, the class ended like they always do, with a room filled with conversation and laughter.
The learners form a community of engagement, encouragement, and teamwork, and I am so grateful that I get to be a part of their class. When I applied to be an intern at Blue Ridge Literacy, I didn’t think I would be teaching classes on my own, because I didn’t plan to ask for the chance. The opportunity came anyway. The first class I led was difficult because I spoke too fast, a nervous habit, but the learners stayed with me. The second class was better because I knew what to expect, a room full of welcoming, compassionate learners. Their smiles and greetings make my nerves go away every time I teach.
Each time we meet for class, I get to know the learners better. We talk about life in Roanoke, what we do for fun, and how our weeks are going. I’ve found that when I leave a good amount of room in my lesson plans for conversation, the learners share stories related to the new vocabulary words and the room starts to buzz.
We’ve talked about the pros and cons of zoos, different places people live, formal and informal clothing, entertainment in town, and the differences between mammals and reptiles. No matter the subject, the learners greet the topic with an eagerness to engage the new vocabulary and make it their own. They turn the class into a meeting of friends talking and listening to one another. Newcomers, like me, soon realize that you don’t have to be afraid to speak up in a classroom so full of kindness.