Thursday morning I woke up to my alarm at eight o’clock. It was difficult to get up, especially since I have no classes on Thursdays and also due to having slept late at night for “not a very good reason.” But, I knew it was worth it to slowly coax my “tired” limbs into arising from the deliciously comfortable bed. It was worth it because there was a child at Provo Peaks Elementary that needed my help. As part of a mentoring program here at BYU, I am “assigned,” for lack of a better word, a child to aid in their specific needs. And so that morning I dragged my resentful body out of bed and into the shower, knowing it would all be worth it. As I pulled my brown turtle neck over my head and slowly put one leg in and then the next into my casual black pants, I couldn’t help feel a little nervous to meet this little boy whom I would be spending some time with this semester. Would he like me? Would I be able to help him? Will we become friends? All of these questions ran through my mind as I finished brushing my very non-cooperative hair. Finally giving up on it, I put the brush down and looked in the mirror.“Well Amy,” I whispered, “wish yourself good luck. I’m sure everything will turn out fine.”
A few moments later, I arrived at the classroom and finally met him. Shazer, a seven year old second grader who has recently moved from Mexico with his family needs help with the universal language—English. It is not that he does not know the language, but more that he is a very shy boy afraid to speak it out loud. He is intelligent, as he proved to me while doing math exercises, but when I softly asked him a question, he simply swiftly glanced at me with his dark almond shaped eyes, looked down at his desk, and gave the tiniest nod. At first, as I continued to sit next to him and observing him, I thought, He is just really shy.
But then, he spoke his familiar tongue and I realized, Ah-ha! Not only he shy, but he is afraid to speak this unfamiliar language. And so I couldn’t help smiling and asking him in a quiet tone,
“Do you speak Spanish, Shazer?”Shyly, he nodded. Then hurriedly and excitedly I exclaimed, “I speak Spanish too!” His eyes gleamed and brightened in the same familiar manner that so many others have done so when finding another “compratiota” “y otro de la raza.” I smiled even wider and raised my hand in a high five, and as our hands slapped together, Shazer gave the tiniest smile.
For the remainder of the time until recess, I sat there, looking at Shazer—his creamy, light brown skin, his straight black hair, and his beautiful dark eyes—thinking how it must be for him surrounded by this strange new language. Even now, I am not sure how I can help him gain the confidence to speak out loud. How can I help him accomplish this when I see how his face lights up when I or his friends talk to him in the language he was first taught—in the language that is apparent he loves so much?