I remember the first time I realized that my English wasn’t as fluent as I’d thought. It was on the very first day of school during my first class – biology. Everything around me moved as fast as lightning. My teacher, Mrs. Wills, dove into a discussion about homework, worksheets, lab guidelines, and the online portal. “What even is that?!” I remember thinking. My head was spinning.
After class, I mustered up the courage to tell Mrs. Wills that I had no idea what she’d just spent the last hour explaining. Apparently, no one had told her that I was new to the district (and the country, for that matter), so she was a little surprised. Regardless, she kindly walked me through the online portal and all of the websites I’d need to do my homework.
While biology ended up being one of my weaker subjects, I am grateful for teachers like Mrs. Wills, who showed me patience and understanding that first year.
Despite the language barrier, I found a lot of joy at my new school. Web design, an elective I’d picked, helped me gain confidence in my academic abilities because I could easily read everything required of me. The biggest highlight of the class, however, was the girl who sat next to me on the first day.
Since we had the same lunch period, she’d invited me to sit with her and her friends in the cafeteria. One of my biggest fears was to have to eat on the toilet à la Cady Heron in Mean Girls, so having a lunch table was a relief! It also turned out to be the best decision I’d made since through that table, I met some of my best high school friends to date. (Shout out to all the students who make the newcomers feel welcomed and included!)
My last class of the day was American literature. I’d been told that I would be taking the freshman English class since I’d never taken an English literature course before. In order to be as prepared as possible, I’d already completed all of the summer reading for the course. Come to find out, I was actually enrolled in the sophomore class, and had not done the required readings!
After fearfully whispering the truth to my teachers, they told me I could work on the one book I’d coincidentally read a few years back – The Secret Life of Bees. That class was probably the most challenging, yet more rewarding, that year. (If we’re talking about just challenging classes, geometry would take the cake.)
I’d never written an analytical essay (much less in English) and my teachers decided they would grade my papers without taking into consideration my poor grammar skills. When we did speeches near the end of the school year, after becoming increasingly self-aware of my accent, they let me present when the rest of the class wasn’t present. We read Salinger, Fitzgerald, and Miller (not bad for my first fully English read), though The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was much more challenging than I’d like to admit. Slowly but surely, my English writing skills began to improve, though I’ve begun to think they’re something you never quite stop working on.
About the author
Martha Sofia Fuentes
Education Marketing Assistant at Bilingual Bridges