Elizabeth Primrose Story

Some, including myself, would classify my skills in the kitchen as mediocre at best. The extent of my talent in the kitchen goes to sautéing vegetables, heating up leftovers, and broiling premade turkey burgers in the oven. When I am starving after a long day, I find it hard to smile after I follow every exact detail of a recipe and the food still turns out a complete disaster.


As I walked the student that I work with, Miriam, home after a Monday Reading Circle session, she shared with me some of her favorite foods to make for dinner. She smiled as she reminisced on all the different foods her mother taught her how to make back in Uganda, such as bread and chicken. She asked me what I knew how to make, and she let out a surprised laugh when I expressed my embarrassing lack of cooking skills.


While I have helped Miriam with English and reading skills through tutoring her over the past several months, she has also taught me a variety of important lessons through her infectious smile and her bold adventurousness.


There is so much that I admire about Miriam—one of them being her big smile that she always wears. As Miriam has not yet been in the United States for even a year, she is still a new student of English. With that being said, I would expect more frustration and anger when she does not understand the meaning of words; however, she meets these setbacks with inquisitive questions and her bright smile. As I explain words that she does not understand, she smiles and asks me questions until she fully comprehends the meaning of this new word.


While I admire this infectious smile, I also admire Miriam’s boldness to try new things. At the end of semester dinner at Grub Burger Bar, I stood in line with Miriam and asked her if she wanted cheese on her burger. She responded by asking, “What is a burger?” After explaining it and asking her if she wanted to have chicken tenders instead, she smiled at me and said, “I would like to try a burger.”


This willingness to try a new food impressed me, yet I knew she had already embarked on so many new experiences in her life such as learning a new language, moving to a new country, and adjusting to a new home. When her burger arrived, I cut it in half.  Miriam dipped the half in some ketchup, took a bite, and did not find amusement in the taste. We quickly got her some chicken tenders instead, yet she smiled at me and thanked me for letting her try a new food. Miriam constantly reminds me that, while trying new things does not always end in liking whatever you tried, it does always offer a new learning experience.


I admire Miriam’s boldness to dive into new experiences and her bright smile despite frustration. As I remember this smile and bravery of hers, I find myself less frustrated in situations that present setbacks and challenges.


This upcoming semester of Reading Circle will allow Miriam and I to continue to learn from each other. I will continue to teach Miriam English and reading skills, and she will continue to teach me to keep my head up when I face challenges and to go out of my way to try new things. With this being my final year to work with Miriam, I hope to further ease her transition into learning a new language, moving to a new country, and adjusting to her new home. And, while I am still far from the best at cooking, I am currently working some new recipes so that I can confidently report back to Miriam on my improved cooking skills.


Alysa Marx