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Thu Jun 15, 2017, 07:40 PM

Tutored a Muslim Woman Last Week and Yesterday

Besides teaching English composition, I tutor. My college has one of (if not the) most diverse student populations in Colorado. It's not unusual to see Muslim women walking to class in their hijabs. However, the two tutoring sessions I had with this particular woman made me particularly happy with my college.

Last week, I met a new tutee. It was her first time attending at tutoring session, so she was a little nervous about what to expect. We sat down, and I asked her what her paper was about and how I could help. She explained that she was writing a classification essay about her identity and that she needed help organizing it. She showed me her notes that listed the three most important things she uses to identify herself: Djiboutian, Muslim, and a mother. I went over how she could organize each body paragraph with a topic sentence, explanation, and example. As we covered each of the three identities she wanted to discuss, I asked her to give me examples that would demonstrate how important each one was. She had no problem coming up with an example for how proud she was of being from Djibouti, but when it came to being Muslim she paused. I offered a suggestion. "Isn't it still Ramadan," I asked her. "What if you describe fasting every day as a way to show your devotion to your faith?" She liked that idea and jotted it down.

Yesterday she was back for another tutoring session! She had written her essay as best she could on her own, and she had included the suggestion about Ramadan that I gave her. She was very excited to have me read through her final draft. Of course there were a few issues here and there, but she had created a good paper overall.

It wasn't until last night that I started thinking about this woman with her paper. Here she was trying to communicate in writing in a foreign language. She came to me for help. There I was, some middle aged white guy who couldn't possibly understand her culture, her religion, her background. And yet she trusted me enough to let me give it a go. I think that my knowing about fasting during Ramadan helped allay some of her trepidation, but I just can't imagine what it must have been like bringing in an essay that could have exposed her to criticism or worse. I also think that the climate of tolerance and safety my college works so hard to maintain creates a space where such meetings can occur. And that was part of the realization I had later that evening: If I had met this same woman in a different part of the city, I doubt she would have been so open with me.

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Reply Tutored a Muslim Woman Last Week and Yesterday (Original post)
ProudLib72 Jun 2017 OP
lapucelle Jun 2017 #1
ProudLib72 Jun 2017 #2
Xipe Totec Jun 2017 #3
Amaryllis Jun 2017 #4
ProudLib72 Jun 2017 #5
Amaryllis Jun 2017 #6
CurtEastPoint Jun 2017 #7
ProudLib72 Jun 2017 #11
Bernardo de La Paz Jun 2017 #8
bluecollar2 Jun 2017 #9
luvMIdog Jun 2017 #10

Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Thu Jun 15, 2017, 07:43 PM

1. You're an ambassador

for everything that's right with this country.

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Response to lapucelle (Reply #1)

Thu Jun 15, 2017, 07:45 PM

2. That's what I've come to understand

It's a big responsibility, and I did not appreciate that fact until this year.

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Thu Jun 15, 2017, 07:47 PM

3. Here is a story I posted here, twelve years ago:

I used to work in Houston's oil patch. There were two women I worked with from Iran. I remember going to lunch with them in a group fairly regularly. The mall was a good seven blocks away. Invariably, these women would stop along the way to give alms to the homeless. Not just sometimes. Every time. They would smile at them, make eye contact, and hold their hand when they gave them some money.

Whenever I saw them do this, I thought to myself: This is the real spirit of Islam. It always put a knot in my throat.

And it still does today.

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Thu Jun 15, 2017, 08:20 PM

4. I taught ESL to college students in 2012 and one of my Saudi students said that the first

month he was here, he didn't go outside at night because he was afraid someone would shoot him because he was Muslim. And this was 2012.

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Response to Amaryllis (Reply #4)

Thu Jun 15, 2017, 08:32 PM

5. If a student had told me that a year ago

I would have told him/her not to worry. We aren't like that here. But nowadays, I would tell that student to be careful. I don't think that this episode with the woman would have had the same impact if the Portland killings hadn't been so recent. Heck, in February one of my former students told me some ten year old kid in her neighborhood called her the "N" word. She is American born to American parents who lived here all their lives. If that happened to her, I can't begin to imagine how being foreign and wearing a hijab compounds the situation.

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Response to ProudLib72 (Reply #5)

Thu Jun 15, 2017, 08:42 PM

6. THere was a lot of anti-Muslim rhetoric during both the 2004 and 2008 elections. That was

certainly noted in the Muslim world. Remember how McCain had to come out against it? and how Palin fanned it?

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Thu Jun 15, 2017, 08:47 PM

7. People like you ( and her ) give me hope. Well done, sir.

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Response to CurtEastPoint (Reply #7)

Thu Jun 15, 2017, 11:10 PM

11. Thank you, but it wasn't just me

I've taught at the college for ten years now. In that time I've come to appreciate its diversity; in fact, I'm proud of its diversity. I know the school goes to great lengths to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible. Maybe I had become habituated to this aspect of the college, but it just never hit me before how important that really is.

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Thu Jun 15, 2017, 09:43 PM

8. I tutored English to a Muslim man & sometimes his wife 4 hours a week for 8 months


It was very rewarding personally. I enjoyed it a lot.

Now I am tutoring a Chinese man and a Kazakhi Russian-speaker two hours a week each. It's great!

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Thu Jun 15, 2017, 09:48 PM

9. Thank you for helping inject decency

In our world. Every effort helps.

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Thu Jun 15, 2017, 10:05 PM

10. I was moved by your story. Thank you.

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