Scene Seven: Mr. Bridge’s English Class

Sándor Déki Lakatos–The Lark

I have always wanted to be a teacher. When I was a student in junior high school, I would gather my friends together to arrange a study group for final exams. We learned from each other and had a lot of fun.

Continuing my love for teaching, while in college and graduate school, I earned extra money by teaching in the neighborhood elementary school and high school. Upon completion of my degrees, I taught college French and English for many years.

Since 2001, I have been teaching English-as-a-second language for diplomats with the United Nations’ Hospitality Committee. I have a dozen students each semester and my diplomat-students come from many countries. When we discuss a myriad of subjects to elicit conversation, I feel as if I am the one learning the most. What a thrill it is for me to hear well-traveled diplomats discuss such topics as capital punishment, euthanasia, censorship, environment, abortion, politics, religion. And the list goes on. Some topics are controversial; many conversations are heated.

The basic premise of our class, is that our door is closed and at our round table many of the students can speak their heart for the first time. The Ambassador from China commented on “censorship” – “Why is it bad?” The military attaché from Syria said he had never thought about euthanasia. “Muhammad and the Koran would not be happy with that.” The Ambassador’s wife from Egypt confessed that abortion is absolutely forbidden by her religion and country; punishment is prison or death. And the Indonesian, Burmese, Pakistani, Afghani, Libyan student-diplomats marvel at the opportunity to discuss openly any topic they choose:

The military attache from the Netherlands said he will be the first country to pull his troops out of Afghanistan.

The Italian General said he was introducing an idea: the Italian Coast Guard would train the Libyan Coast Guard to keep the migrants nearer to the Libyan coast and help them return home by giving them jobs and education.

The diplomat from Singapore claimed the real winner of the North Korean-United States summit meeting is China, and every country is a marionette in the hands of the Chinese leader.

Recently, I have added to our class, my film curriculum that I have implemented over the years to students who participate with my N.G.O.’s Global Classroom at the United Nations.

In my U.N. diplomat-class, after we screen the film, we discuss at our Round Table, the politics and themes from films like, Persepolis (Iran), Water (India), Mustang (Turkey), Loveless (Russia), and other foreign films. We usually have a student in our class who comes from the film’s country or who has worked there, and that person becomes the moderator for the session. Often, the film is not allowed to be seen in that country.

In Gift of Diamonds, when Mr. Bridge is teaching his E.S.L. class with Mica and her Eastern European refugee colleagues, his lessons are mine. Since my university days when I studied in France, I have always wanted to organize a salon. Now, my salon is at the United Nations with my diplomat-students at our Round Table. The best part is that each semester there are different students and I can travel with them around the world as they open a door and invite me to better understand.