Empowering Families through Medical Vocabulary

It’s the question that gets asked every class: “Good morning, students!  How are you?”

An echo of “Good! Good! Teacher” often resounds.  For many students, this is true.  Many students are happy to be in your classroom, happy to be in school…some for the first time.

When asked what “freedom” was in a recent class, a student gave a very concrete response.  “In my country I don’t go school.  Little girl…working, working, farming, farming…no school.  My parents don’t send me….don’t send me.  Never I go.   Here I go to school.  This is freedom.”

So yes, “Good!  Good! Teacher,” it is and should be.

But sometimes…sometimes the “Good! Good!” doesn’t match the tired eyes or worried and lined brows.

One of the competencies students master in our lower level speaking classes is the ability to state their health conditions in simple terms.  We start by reviewing “I’m fine” and “I’m OK” and practicing “I’m so-so” and “I’m not so good.”   We even learn “I feel terrible!”  Through a variety of methods, students explore and put in their working vocabulary phrases like “I have a fever,” “He has a sore throat” and “I hurt my back.”  We learn the appropriate questions and responses—such as “What’s the matter?” and “I’m sorry to hear that”–for different social settings: a stranger on the street, a co-worker, a hospital receptionist.   We practice calling the hospital receptionist over and over again until confidence in class lends itself to life outside.


As the class hours continue and students interact more with the topic, tired eyes brighten some, as students can now share with the class “I’m not so good. I have a headache…last week…everyday…headache.” The brow softens slightly as another shares “Last night…my son has a fever.  We go to the hospital.”  The empathetic nods from other students express an understanding on more levels than one.

So now I ask, “How are you?” and I wait…learning everyday more about the lives of my brave students.

Join the Refugee and Immigration Center in empowering students and families by volunteering in our Adult Education Programs.

One Response to Empowering Families through Medical Vocabulary

  1. Rihoko Colwill says:

    It’s each day of lessons that leads the students to a success, and there beneath the each lesson lies the teacher’s timeless effort!

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