Teachable Moments at My Home Away From Home

By Jacqueline Boratyn — There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being home.

Although Marquette has become my primary home away from home, when I think of other places I feel connected to in a similar way, my first thought is Dąbrowa Tarnowska, Poland.

This little town where my mother and her family grew up is a place I enjoy having the privilege going to as much as possible; this time, with my friend along side of me…unfortunately, not a friend who knew a lick of Polish. As a person who knows fluent Polish, it was really interesting to me to see how much I just take in without knowing it.

My couple days in Poland reminded me why I wanted to become a teacher in the first place. As Marie struggled through the language barrier, I spent every minute translating and teaching her key Polish phrases. It was really fun to talk to her and see her perspective on Poland as well as see her laugh and smile just as much as I was, even if my translations were a bit off.

This trip taught me the importance of communication when it comes to the world of education. I’ve always been fascinated with languages, and hope to one day get certified in ESL. In doing so I know I will take on a number of ethnicities and languages very different from ones I currently know. However, a great teacher knows the key to doing so is patience. It’s okay to be wrong, and it’s okay to be frustrated, but truly inspiring teachers don’t get angry or upset, they take a step back, take a breather, and try again…sometimes using different methods or rewording things 4 or 5 times; something I found myself doing a lot as my family tried to talk to Marie.

This trip also showed me how outstanding the idea of communication is. It was amazing to me that even if I would step out of the room, my great-uncles would find ways to communicate with Marie to make her feel at home. Whether it was pointing, drawing, or giant hand gestures, in one way or another they were going to make their point. To them, her not knowing Polish wasn’t a bad thing, it was just something they had to work with…kind of like helping a little kid through a book he or she is trying to read. As a future educator, I need to always remind myself that struggles students have aren’t set backs, but instead, learning opportunities.

In Italy one key we learned was to make every situation a teachable moment. Instead of letting off frustrations through our students or colleagues, it is important to turn the situation around and think ‘how can I resolve this so that the subject learns from it.’ In my case, the language barrier wasn’t a bad thing, but it did take the extra time for me to translate. This became a teachable moment for me as I remembered that an extra step can ensure that I was putting a smile on the face of someone I care about.

I’m going to miss my family and their silly tactics of communication, but I will never forget what they taught me: never give up when you have something to say, try-try again, eventually something will work!

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