I think the first duty of society is justice.
I’ve written before about my delight in my English as a Second Language students. These classes are something I stumbled upon by mistake, and has blossomed into my teaching students from over the globe how to master the English Language.
I’ve added a Citizenship class to my agenda. I prefer citizenship to ESL. With Citizenship, I used to complete the N-400 form (the application needed for a Permanent Resident to become an American Citizen), make photocopies if needed, and then send the person on their way armed with the 100 question book. After an unsuccessful attempt at an evening class, I decided to take two hours daily to help residents learn the history of the United States.
The Civics exam is four parts:
• An interview to ensure the application was completed correctly and the information provided is true.
• A reading test.
• A writing test.
• The dreaded Civics test
Most people concentrate on memorizing the 100 questions, which I fully encourage. Answering six out of 10 questions correctly is what lies between Permanent Resident to Citizenship. In my opinion, I think the first three parts are more important. As one daughter whispered to me about her mom “She failed almost immediately because when they said ‘Good Morning’ she answered ‘Obama.’ “ Memorization is easy. The ability to actually have a conversation and communicate in English is the hard part.
When I teach, I plan around the four ways to learn English.
I begin by asking people to identify their current leaders. Everyone knows Obama is the President. Filling in the rest of the information is not difficult, but getting students to wrap their tongues around Boehner, Biden, Toomey, or Casey is the real test.
For another lesson, I take a map of the United States. Starting north, we cover the states that border Canada, where the Statue of Liberty is located, the Atlantic Ocean, states that border Mexico, the Pacific Ocean, the longest rivers in the United States, and U.S. Territories.
I use a picture of President Obama, then list all of his responsibilities. Using this as a foundation, the students and I review his Cabinet, discuss his term limits, and the rules for leadership should the President not be able to fulfill his duties.
By far, my favorite lesson is the American Flag. Feeling like I’m back in grade school, we solemnly recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Then we cover the colors of the flag, discuss why there are 50 stars, and list the 13 original colonies in order in the stripes.
A copy of the 100 Questions can be found here. Most Americans would NOT be citizens if they had to take this test. During high school, The Teen’s civic class failed the test miserably. When Coke showed the commercial with America the Beautiful in different languages, people were up in arms. They thought America the Beautiful is the national anthem. It’s not. It’s the Star Spangled Banner.
An overview of the things I teach in my time with the residents are grouped like this:
• Colonial Period and Independence
• Recent American History
• American Indians/Native Americans
• Principles of American Democracy
• System of Government
• Rights and Responsibilities
The best part about this class is that like my ESL class, I learn more from the students than they do from me. Watching a 65-year-old man try to master “We the People” and discuss how Americans are fortunate that they have freedom of speech and are free to worship how they want inspires me to become more vocal and speak up when I see an injustice.
This post was inspired by The Goddess of Small Victories
by Yannick Grannec, a novel about brilliant mathematician Kurt Gödel as told from his ex-cabaret dancer wife’s perspective. Join From Left to Write on October 16th as we discuss The Goddess of Small Victories. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.