Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tutoring Timmy

I met Timmy a few weeks ago and asked him if his real name was Timothy. He said, "My name is Timmy, but my nickname is Timothy." Funny, huh! Actually his real name is Greek, and I can't remember exactly what it is, so I'm grateful he has an anglicized version for me.

I have taken on a new occupation for three hours a week: tutoring a fourth grader. His mom is French, his dad is Greek, and his maid is Filipino. So he hears five different languages every day including English and Arabic. It's no wonder that Timmy is struggling in school with reading and writing.

Tonight Timmy had earned a reward by working so hard, so we played a game. I drew a grid with letters of the alphabet on the road out in front of his villa, and we proceeded to play a spelling game with a ball. I asked him to spell a word and he would have to bounce the ball onto the letters to spell it. He liked the game much better when I had to spell the words he gave to me. I had to dig deep to remember how to spell "entrepreneur".

My favorite part of tutoring is being invited into someone's home and seeing first hand how this family operates. This is really my first experience getting to know someone here in Qatar, other than ward members or people Brett works with. Timmy's dad Nihad is just like all the Greek characters in My Big Fat Greek Wedding - welcoming and warm and so hospitable. It has really been difficult for him to accept the fact that I never want any tea or coffee when I am there. Tonight I finally just told him about my religious beliefs. It wasn't the first time he had heard about Mormons, so he started telling me all about it. I corrected him on a few things, but for the most part, he had an accurate picture. As a pilot for Qatar Airways, he has had a global experience in his life, even living for a time in Texas. His English is very good, but he is not able to help his son as much as he needs to. Even though this is such a culturally diverse home, and there are many advantages for children in these kinds of families, I really see the disadvantages so clearly as I find the things Timmy struggles with.

I often felt cheated that my dad did not teach me German as I was growing up. I had to go to college and take two years of it in order to get even a taste of speaking a second language. But now I see the wisdom of speaking one language in a home. Many children probably do very well with more than one language, but a child with any kind of learning disability really has complications.

So this is my latest challenge. Let me know if you have any advice on how to motivate a very active fourth grader to sit and read on his own.

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