Chapter 7: Mr. Bridge’s English Class

(Lakatos, “The Lark”)

 I have always wanted to be a teacher. When I was a student in junior high school,  I would gather my friends together to arrange a study group for final exams.

Continuing my love for teaching, while In college, I majored in Foreign Languages and minored in Education. And as I went on to graduate school to study French Literature and Comparative Literature, I earned extra money by teaching in the neighborhood elementary school and high school. Upon completion of my degrees, I taught college French and English for many years.

Since 2001, I have been teaching English-as-a-second language for diplomats with the United Nations’ Hospitality Committee. We have 12-15 students each semester and our diplomats come from many countries. When we discuss a myriad of subjects to elicit conversation and improve pronunciation, I feel as if I am the one learning the most. What a thrill it is for me to hear well-traveled diplomats discuss such topics as capital punishment, euthanasia, censorship, environment, abortion, and other controversial subjects.

The basic premise of our class, is that our door is closed and at our round table many of the students can speak their heart for the first time. The Ambassador from China commented on “censorship” – “What’s that?” The military attaché from Syria said he had never thought about “euthanasia.” The Ambassador’s wife from Egypt confessed that  “abortion” is absolutely forbidden in her country. Punishment is prison. And the African diplomats marvel at the opportunity to discuss openly any topic.

Recently, I have added to our class, my film curriculum that I have implemented over the years to New York high school students who participate with my N.G.O. at the United Nations. After we screen the film, we discuss at our Round Table the scenes from films like, “Osama” from Afghanistan, “Water” from India, “Beijing Bicycle” from China and other foreign films. We usually have a student in our class who comes from the film’s country or who has worked there, and that person becomes the moderator for the session.

Last week after screening an Afghan film, the Ambassador of Tajikistan spoke of
his country‘s relationship with its neighbor and its role in the northern Alliance. And our colleagues from China, Holland, Germany, and Iran, shared with us how their countries
are also active in Afghanistan. What we hear inside our closed door is unknown to most journalists and I feel very privileged to get such information first hand.

When Mr. Bridge is teaching his E.S.L. class with Mica and her Eastern European refugees, his lessons are mine. Since my university days when I studied in France, I have always wanted to organize a salon. Now, my salon is at the United Nations with my diplomat/students at our Round Table. The best part is that each semester there are different students and I can travel with them around the world as they open doors from their country.