Meet Claire, the extraordinary English teacher
Claire is a kind, unassuming woman who works as an English teacher in the UK. When she found out that we offer English lessons to refugees at our distributions, she thought her experience might mean she could help there. And she was right.
As she talked to people who were hungry to learn, you could see her energy and warmth inspiring them. Some had pretty basic English, and she’d start just teaching the alphabet. With others she’d explain how sentences work.
At one point I noticed Mohammed, a young man from Sudan, shyly waiting for her. He seemed ok, but he was on his own, and quiet. Eventually he got his chance, and soon they were deep into a lesson about singular and plural, about how you change the verbs and adjectives if you’re talking about more than one person. Often, he didn’t understand the first, second or third time she explained, but he persevered and seemed to get there in the end – at which point he beamed with the widest smile.
When he got up to left, you could see he’d been taken out of himself, and felt like he’d really achieved something.
When I talked to Claire later, she was incredibly modest and just said she’d been “overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the people I’ve met here.”
It was a million miles from the media stereotype of refugees who come to the UK for what they can get and don’t bother to learn English. “The desire to communicate with other people in English is palpable. They want to progress, and they know language is a big barrier to that. There was a hunger to learn, and a willingness to work hard. One thing you learn as a teacher is, lazy people don’t want to learn.
“Now I just want to come back and do it again!”
English lessons and other services we offer refugees are vitally important. To volunteer or donate, go to care4calais.org