Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Our adult ESL class and why we love it

Since last fall we've been teaching an adult English class. We have to say, it's the most fun you can have in our town on a weeknight. We are getting paid to speak our own language with really sweet folks from our town who are willing to try to speak English. We could gush about each and every student, but we'll just highlight a few.

1) We'll call him T - he's a salaryman with a cute stutter. He LOVES baseball and has been to nearly every stadium in the US. That includes the old Yankee Stadium. He's also been to most Japanese stadiums. It was a travel English class but the only travel T does is baseball travel. So, he's been to exotic locales like Cleveland and most of his English skills are related to baseball and hot dogs. How cool is that?

2) We'll call her Y - she wears her hair in a little bun and looks like a Japanese grandma, but she doesn't have any children and has amazing stories. She learned English from listening over and over to language tapes. She's 70 years old and 30 years ago she did a homestay in Milwaukee (yes, at age 40!). She's also swam in the Dead Sea, twice! She joined our class because her niece was getting married in Singapore but was really bummed out that they're now having a ceremony in Japan and she doesn't get to go there anymore. Love her.

We also have a mother/daughter combo. The daughter is in high school and dresses like a gothic lolita. The mom runs marathons. They're going to London this spring so mom can run the marathon and daughter can shop - how cool is that? Ok, we could go on and on, but the point is they're all really great. And they asked us to do another 10 classes for them! We're going to have a hanami party this Spring and everything!

This English class has helped us really experience the whole Japanese group "wa" thing firsthand. What's "wa"? Here's one article about it. There's a wa factor at school, but with a small group like this (we only have 7 students), it's really pronounced. There's a trust level and an openness in our little community center room that is really nice. They're willing to try the activities we propose and everyone's laughing, making mistakes and supporting each other. Also, consensus comes almost naturally which makes things easy for us.

We love our junior high kids, but we were missing working with adults. We volunteered at the Minnesota Literacy Council before we left where we each taught an amazing class of immigrant students from all over the world. We highly recommend the MLC if you're in the Twin Cities and looking for a volunteer gig.

And please don't tell our students we'd probably teach them for free!

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