By Jeannie Chambers
SMILE starts in 2 weeks and I am excited to reconnect with friends after a long, hot summer.
I'm often asked how I start a conversation with new SMILE students. For many who are considering joining this wonderful ministry, that is the thing that worries them the most. It was one of my biggest fears too! SMILE volunteers are called 'teachers' but we don't have ESL classrooms. The SMILE 'students' want to practice their English in everyday conversations. They want to feel more confident when talking with their child's school teacher, ordering at a restaurant, or telling an apartment manager about a problem that needs to be fixed.
When I meet a SMILE student who is new to our country, I've discovered that the quickest way to help feel at ease is to ask them about their country. The first thing I do is pull out one of the large folding maps that I have purchased. I have maps for individual countries/regions and also a world map. You can see the happiness on their faces when a map of their home is unfolded! We talk about where they grew up, where they went to college or got their first job, and where they were living before moving to the US. This always leads to them in turn asking me the same questions, so I pull out a map of Texas and one of the US. We talk about our favorite vacation spots, the best beaches, important historical places, famous landmarks, and the list goes on. Time flies by and soon we are no longer strangers.
We make our little corner of the world a better place when we share our lives with people from different cultures. This is why I have been part of SMILE for so many years and I am looking forward to another great year.
If you would like to learn more about SMILE, contact the SMILE Director, Phyllis Waggoner.