Since November last year I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) every Saturday evening. I was an assistant teacher at first, but in February I got my own class with 20 students, teaching from 5-7pm.
Definitely a bit frightening for a somewhat shy person! But now I love it! :) I can talk for hours about how much fun it is and how important it is for me. I teach for LIFT (Literacy Instruction for Texas) at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) Campus.
60% of adults in the greater Dallas area between the ages of 19 and 44 read below the high school level and 49% read at or below a fourth grade level (= 9/10 years old).
It sounds cliche, but it’s an extremely rewarding volunteer job and I’m so happy to be involved with people eager to learn to read, write, speak and understand the English language and hopefully their new knowledge will opening doors to employment opportunities, financial stability and self-sufficiency.
They still have a long way to go, because I teach level Basics, which is the very very beginning of English. It’s almost impossible to understand how little English they know. Everyone living in Europe has been exposed to English and knows more than the basics. I bet even my grandma is far exceeding their knowledge.
The first lesson was the hardest, trying to get them to understand what read, repeat, listen, write etc means. It definitely involves a lot of sign language and 90% of what I tell them they won’t understand. They literally don’t even know how to introduce themselves, so the first lesson starts with “Hello, my name is [name], I’m from [country]“. I can’t imagine living in a country and not being able to say my name, ask for a doctor, or read food labels, but it’s the truth for all of my students.
I don’t speak Spanish (I’m learning slowly), so it’s very challenging -the majority of my students are Latino’s :)- but I wouldn’t be allowed to speak Spanish anyway, because we also have Asian and East-European students.
A week ago my students got their Basics certificate. They were all very proud, taking lots of pictures of each other and their certificates and I was beaming of proud as well. They don’t speak full sentences yet, but they paid me the biggest compliment by telling me they’d sign a petition so I could go with them to the next level. Alas, I’m staying on as a Basics teacher for now (decided by the coordinator) and will get a new class this week. Exciting and frightening at the same time!