Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Quick Thought on Immigration

So I've started waiting tables at a fairly upscale Chinese restaurant here in Philly. It's a nice place with great food and honest people running the place. There are ten employees. I only have one coworker who is not of color and only two who were born in the United States.

Of the seven that have immigrated here, there's a 22 year old kid who washes the dishes (Am I old enough to call a 22 year old a kid!?). From what he told me, he's been in the States for about a year. He's a quiet guy. He gets a bit short with people when the pace of the restaurant picks up, but I think that's because his English is limited and he has trouble expressing his thoughts. But he's got a good energy.

Tonight we were REALLY slow because of the NFC and AFC Championship games. So to kill time, the kid comes out into the dining room and brings his ESL (English as a Second Language) book and starts asking the other server and I how to say certain words. Since I spent an entire year in Toronto training as a voice and speech teacher, my first response was to put on my instructor hat and give the kid a hand. I hoped he would humor me for a few minutes to give my ego a boost.

Instead, I spent practically the rest of the night helping the kid with English speech sounds and syllable emphasis. He had tons of questions. Apparently, he wants to go to school here and it looks like he's been teaching himself English so he can get in. As I was helping him, he seemed to have make some real discoveries. We were having a great time.

I haven't taught tons of people in tons of courses. But I've taught enough to witness a worrying sense of apathy towards education. There are too many kids in this country who don't care to learn and think good grades are either overrated or a foregone conclusion. It's disheartening. But here's a kid who dove head first into a completely new world with more hunger and determination to grow and progress than most of the students I've ever instructed.

Maybe it was just tonight and he's really a slacker. But I don't think so.

No one can tell me this country can't use more people like that. If the American dream does exist (that's a whole other post) then it should be available to ANYONE who wants it.


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