‘my parents is pass away’

23 Nov

I asked my students to write a short biography. The purpose was to have them write about themselves and to correct their grammar. (and to be honest, mostly so I could have a better shot of learning their names). For the most part, this entails correcting the sentence: “I have 4 brother and three sister family.” No problem.

Then it gets difficult: “My parents is pass away.” Or, “When I was a one year a my father was killed by SPDC soldiers…I feel sorry about my mother.” I am not yet at the point where I can, unfazed, continue correcting. It takes a few seconds for me to get my bearings. And in that time, the student sees my discomfort clearly, and I assume, becomes embarrassed. That’s the worst part. Invariably embarrassing students for something they are brave enough to tell someone they barely know and in a language that they can’t yet master. This comes up a lot in a place where most people have lost their homes and many have lost their families.

I guess the point here is a simple one. I’m not trained for this and should be. It is easy enough to think you should just be compassionate, listen if they want to talk and to avoid topics that will be difficult for them…but how can you avoid talking about each others lives, and if you avoid certain topics is it worse? Should I just pass over the difficult passages…pretending no grammatical mistakes were made? Or do I say ‘I’m sorry”? I really don’t know.

If anyone has any good tips or links about working with individuals who have faced significant trauma please share them!



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