What’s the Word? Compassion.

compassionThe ARCC was quiet. We were busy in the building where AHS students of old wrestled with academic challenges. At the end of the hall in what is now the Activity Room, we sat – 2 learners, a tutor and myself. It was one of those rare moments when everything seemed to be coming together. I had actually had time to plan a lesson, no one slipped on the ice coming in, and my chair was nice and comfy. We did a one-word check-in with each person in the room – my word was RELAXED, our tutor’s was TIRED and one’s learner was COLD. One learner’s word was COMPASSION. We’ll call her Bev.

Our warm-up exercise was to build smaller words out of a larger phrase. For today I chose “TROPICAL RAINFOREST.” It was perfect for a cold January day. We found words like TOP, TROT, REFRAIN, etc… You get the idea. I found the word AIN’T, and we researched the etymology of that word, and how language changes over time. Someone found the word COP, and one learner, whose first language is not English, asked the difference between COP and POLICE. I struggled to explain it…and we moved on.

About 15 minutes later, two police officers came down the hall in uniform. I waved them in, and introduced myself to them. They were a little taken aback. I’m sure they were wondering what they were walking into.

One officer took the lead and told us the word history of the word COP, telling us all something we didn’t know. He used the word VERNACULAR. We thanked them, and the two officers departed to the locker room to change for their workouts.

The tutor and learners continued with the lesson, and I struggled to gather my thoughts to write the reports that are due at the end of the month.

We could have done a grammar lesson on COMPASSION, which was Bev’s word, but somehow this interaction meant more than any discussion of parts of speech could have. These officers have a hard job, as law enforcement. But they took the time to interact with these learners and do some teaching. They may never have met an English language learner before, or they may have…I have no idea. I’m sure they have interacted with those in recovery, interactions for which DIFFICULT seems euphemistic. Some of them may be in RECOVERY themselves. None of us are immune. What’s the answer? COMPASSION.