Sunday, January 15, 2012

Road blocks force new direction

I have encountered a few road blocks since initiating this idea of teaching ESL to newcomers to Canada, using the literary arts.

My hope to be trained as a volunteer ESL tutor with either the Toronto Public Library or/and the YMCA Newcomer Centre has fizzled.  I misunderstood their volunteer programs.  Their volunteer literary programs are for adult literacy and does not include ESL for adults.  I had hoped that once I became more familiar working with either organizations, I might find people more willing to hear about my concept for an ESL literary/literacy class.  I valued the idea of being supported by a well-known institution rather than working as an independent risk. 

I continued researching for a volunteer ESL program but they all appear to be paid programs with paid teachers with formal certification.

I researched the process of certifying myself (in just ESL ;-).  And either I'm being lazy or it really does feel like it's leading me astray from my goal.

The difference is that I am not interested in making income from ESL tutoring.  Helping newcomers refine their English language skills using the literary arts would be as much a benefit to me as to them. It would be very mutual.  I would be able to share my love for the English language in a beneficial way.  We'd also have an opportunity to try to write and share our stories with each other.  Stories with a class of international students?   Stories from a class of international students already so sensitive to their choice of words and their possible translations?  What more could a writer ask for? 

And the lesson concept is so simple it does not need certification.  We just pick damn good examples of what English literature is about and read it to each other.  And then we write about it, express our opinoins and ideas based off the reading, using different tools of creative and non-fiction writing (journals, letters, short fiction, poetry, song, drama).

The literature and the writing are the teachers, not me.  I'd just be a mediator.  Somebody to turn to for questions on pronunciation and spelling.  Maybe I can offer an idea or two from my own experiences in English literature and writing, as well, but as a writing peer.  Somebody who will orchestrate a safe and comfortable time and a place for these students to practice this form of English language exercise. 

A slow and personal approach to ESL.  Already I know this description will lose a good percentage of newcomers to Canada who need to refine their English Language skills to help them settle into their new lives in Canada.   A promise, by me, that this method will enrich them beyond better English speaking and writing skills may turn them off even more.  Who the hell I am, right?  Some crazy writer who isn't currently backed by a Newcomer or New Immigrant organization.  To those who have never written creatively, or thought that they could, will think I am even crazier. 

Three major road blocks in my way:

1. no formal training.  Just a crazy, wishful writer.
2. no feedback for my queries
3. a difficult concept to prove without proof.

I think my first step is to try to seem less crazy.  Maybe if I draft a set of six lesson plans describing how this class would go off, might give this idea more credibility.  I have a few acquaintances who teach ESL who I can run the ideas by.  Although, does it make me crazier to just want to keep it simple.  Read English. Write English.  And let's go from there.  Well I guess I'd complicate things a little more and say:  Read Great English.  Write Great English.  (we wouldn't want a class spent reading milk cartons or something ....)

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