My mother and English Language Learners

April 18, 2015

I found myself going on at a length beyond what I think is appropriate in some news comments I was making, so I decided I’d better bring my discussion over here.

The topic was teaching English as a Second Language and my mother.

My mother taught ESL as a volunteer through a local public library when she was older.  She enjoyed it.

It occurred to me when I was writing about my mother and ESL that my father was an English Language Learner.  He came to this country when he was fourteen.  My parents knew each other in high school (Erasmus Hall High School).  My mother was a little over a year younger than my father.

When my parents were visiting for my younger son’s high school graduation, I asked my dad about my parents’ courtship — I had heard my mother’s angle many times, but I hadn’t heard my dad’s and I was curious.  One thing he mentioned that was apparently a highlight for him was being invited to and attending my mother’s Sweet Sixteen birthday party;  I’m not sure I had been aware before this that she had had one.  It was apparently a big deal for my father.

I think my father had been in this country approximately three years when my mother had her Sweet Sixteen.  My father claimed to have learned English with The New York Times and a dictionary.  He said that spelling was the most difficult part and had no patience with my spelling mistakes:  “If I could master English spelling, you can, too,” was the substance of his reaction to seeing my repeated misspelling of “burry” for “bury” in a third grade report on animal hibernation.  I don’t know what state my father’s English was in when he met my mother.  I think they met through after-school school clubs and societies.  My mother told me that despite their losing touch with each other for nine years after high school, she knew she would either marry Kurt Moses or not marry at all.

So I want to say that my mother fell in love with an English Language Learner and I want to put that together with my mother’s teaching of ESL much later in her life.  I think for my mother, that later experience — her formal teaching of English as a Second Language — was also was wrapped up in a positive feeling for English Language Learners.

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2 Responses to “My mother and English Language Learners”

  1. jimmy Says:

    This is news to me after so many years. All I recall is my Dad coming home one evening when Aunt Marjorie was perhaps well into her twenties or and announcing that she was engaged.

    • Diana Moses Says:

      They reconnected in something like 1953 and got engaged within weeks, I think. But they had known each other in high school, that I knew from both of them. The Sweet Sixteen was news to me, but it really had meant something huge to my father. I had heard my mother’s story so many times and that party did not figure in it. They reconnected through a fellow whom my mother met with Cousin Harriet. He knew my dad (not as well as he apparently claimed) and they reconnected the year my mother was teaching Latin at an Episcopalian girls school on Long Island. They got engaged within weeks of meeting again. My mother told me she would have continued teaching at St. Mary’s another year, but she couldn’t get there from my father’s apartment in Fort Lee (which was where they first lived after they got married).


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