Carlos recently started college classes in Dental Assisting. We really aren’t quite sure what he’ll do with that certificate when/if he passes, since dental assistants make half of what he makes at his labor job.
College is something Carlos has wanted to do since before he even came to the United States. He actually wanted to be a doctor in El Salvador, but he couldn’t afford to go to university – He immigrated here instead. Speaking almost no English, he washed windows, worked at McDonald’s, put flyers on cars. He left his dreams of being a doctor far behind.
Fourteen years later the opportunity came up for him to take this Dental Assisting course. Everything fell into place – he received a grant that covered the entire cost, the classes are 5 minutes down the street from our house, and the class is in the evenings so it doesn’t interfere with his work day. We decided, ¿Por qué no? … Why not?
The only thing Carlos was uncertain about was his English. He questioned whether it was yet good enough to make it through a college class. I told him he had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I told him I would study with him for as long as it took until he understood everything. In the end, even if he completely failed, at least he would have tried instead of spent the rest of his life wondering what could have been.
Well, Carlos has made it through 2 weeks of classes now. On his first test? He received an 83% B.
Evenings are a little crazy here. The other night I was simultaneously helping both our boys with their homework while helping Carlos study words even I have trouble pronouncing in English, (Circumvallate lingual papillae, anyone?)
Sometimes I just pronounce the words the way a Spanish speaker would when I’m dictating and he’s writing so I don’t have to spell them. Other times, it just so happens that a knowledge of Spanish helps one memorize the meaning of words that are rooted in Latin.
nonmaleficence – do no harm
The “no mal” is right there. “Not bad” makes it easier to remember that it means “do no harm” – (with “harm” obviously being “bad”.)
veracity – truthfulness
In Spanish, “truth” is “veracidad” – so again, being a non-native English speaker is actually helpful with some of this vocabulary.
Sometimes being a Spanish speaker isn’t helpful at all though.
We laughed at this one for a few minutes before we could get back on track. Apparently a “mamelon” is only the “edge of an incisor tooth when it first erupts through the gum.” (Boring in comparison to what we were thinking about!)
Anyway, even though we aren’t sure where this class might take him, I think it’s a good thing. Not only is Carlos building confidence, but he’s setting an example for the boys. He always tells them, “Go to college so you don’t have to work like a burro.” Now he is showing them what can be done when you take a chance and put your heart into it.
How many more advantages our kids have compared to what Carlos came from – and yet there he is, with a backpack full of books at 33 years old and still speaking English with an accent so thick I sometimes have to help him out at drive thru windows.
Maybe he won’t ever be Dr. López, but I’d say nothing is impossible.