EOSL creates global community

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International Grady students enrolled in Kathy Maryska’s English as a Second Language Class adjust to life in the United States.

Chandler Morris

Every day at Grady High School, the halls are filled with chaos, talk and laughter. These conversations are spoken in English, and what may be forgotten amid the chaos is the population of students who are not native English speakers.

English as a Second Language, or ESOL, at Grady is taught by Katherina Maryska, who also teaches ESOL part time at Booker T. Washington High School. Throughout the day she teaches students from nine countries. The time each student spends in the class is determined by their level of fluency in English.

Walking into the classroom, one immediately notices that it has a unique environment. ESOL is relaxed, with classmates helping each other with homework and class assignments. Maryska works with students who need additional one-on-one support.

“Last year we really had to fight tooth and nail for a small classroom, as I really wanted a place that they knew where they could find me,” Maryska said. “It’s definitely a small community in Grady.”

For sophomore Sabiha Akder, who moved from Bangladesh two years ago, understanding her English-speaking classmates and teachers is a challenge.

“My first language is Bengali, my second language is English. Sometimes [English] is too hard, right now this is okay; I understand some things you say [sic],” Akder said.

The students in ESOL experience language barriers with other teachers

and English-speaking classmates; however, some students also have difficulty speaking to and understanding Maryska.

“We have a couple of students who are from Southeast Asia, so they speak completely different languages in which I have no background. If body language and pictures can’t do the job, there are times where we just hit walls,” Maryska said. “So it kind of becomes about building the relationship when you get to that point, when you just can’t communicate yet.”

Coming to America from another country as a high schooler is emotionally challenging. For Dayanna Ospina, coming to Atlanta was an exciting but challenging experience. Students who come to Grady from different countries make sacrifices by leaving their homes.

“At first, I go to middle school in the 8th grade [sic],’’ Ospema recalled.  “When I came here, I felt nervous and happy and sad because all my family, all my friends are at home.”

While not speaking English fluently can make high school inherently difficult, the students in the ESOL class are optimistic about their futures at Grady and in Atlanta.

Akder has had a positive experience at Grady.

“My favorite class is biology, I love it. I also like the library,” Akder said. “I like almost everything at Grady High School.”

While the ESOL students have a favorable view of Grady, there are always improvements to be made.

“Compared to other Atlanta Public Schools, I think Grady is one of the easiest places to come from another country because we are a diverse school,” Maryska said. “I think it just takes more awareness from our student body and its leaders.”

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