So, I've been promising a post about my students for quite some time. Some of you have asked where this post is. And finally, here it is! Kathy finally got around to lugging Jeff's massive camera to Mohawk (after informing Jeff that no, I did not want to bring the fancy flash, and yes, please just put it on automatic; I'm not into the fancy-are-you-done-taking-pictures-yet poses, just basic snapshots, thank you very much!)
For your information, LINC stands for "Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada." In all my years teaching ESL, this is the first time I have had the privilege of teaching LINC. And yes, it has been an immense privilege. I find that many ESL instructors, and sadly, I have to include myself in this grouping, have, at one time or another, turned up their noses at LINC programs. They think LINC is "touch feely" and not nearly as rigorous as academic preparation programs designed for international students.
My experience has been different. For a number of reasons, really. Mohawk College simply has an excellent LINC program with a strong history and a very caring and compassionate coordinator who believes in the program with all her heart. I could go on about this for awhile, but I'll save it...
Also, I've been teaching LINC 6, which differs from the other levels of LINC in the program. It's a semester-long course, unlike the other levels, which are continuous intake and allow students to move up levels at the beginning of each month (if they're ready, of course.) Additionally, it's an equivalent course to College Entrance English 3, the highest-level "academic English" course offered in the ESL program to international, fee-paying students. As such, it's considered preparation for regular college courses, and it's very similar to any other high-level course I've previously taught.
So why the excitement? I've taught for many years, and I've rarely, if ever, wanted to blog about my students... well, at least in a positive way... ;)
This is the difference: they are immigrants. They need English to succeed in their new country. And they love and are proud of their new country. They are adults, with real-life experiences. They have a depth and kindness and maturity I have not previously experienced in students. Unlike many of my former international students, they want to know about Canada. You should have seen them at Halloween! Last year, I had one student tell me, "I don't care about Canadian traditions; I just want to study grammar. That's what's important." This attitude angered me to no end. This year, I wasn't planning to take my students to the Pumpkin Carving Contest, because, after last year's experience, I figured that we "had more important things to do." Well, I couldn't keep them away! I had grown men, rushing to the scene, digital cameras in hand, giddy with excitement. I had students dressing up in costume (and totally disrupting class!) All my plans for a serious and productive day of study vanished. And I was thrilled.
Besides their eagerness for all things Canadian, I am deeply impressed by their personal stories. Around midterm, I decided to conference with each of them, one-on-one, to get to know them better, and give them a chance to express any concerns they might have about the course or otherwise. I wasn't fully prepared for the experience. I cried or at least got very teary-eyed with a good quarter of them. These are people who know sacrifice and pain. They have experienced the full range of life... from divorce, war, death, to leaving family, security, and everything familiar and comfortable, for the chance at a better life. Their stories are too personal to share. But look closely at their faces. This is the new Canada. I'm deeply touched and excited. These individuals have truly enriched my life.
Ricardo, from Colombia.
Abul, from Bangladesh; Yang, from China, and Altug, from Turkey.
My three Romanian women: Elisabeta, Felicia, and Monica.
Andy, from Cuba.
Shayan, from Iran; Daniel, from Colombia, and Akhmet, from Kazakhstan.
Akhmet again, and Andrea, from Hungary.
Monica again, and Marija, from Macedonia.
Arta, from Kosova; Deroni, from Sri Lanka; Lena, from Iraq.
Lena again, and Elena, from Russia, and Sima, from Iran.
Holly, from China.
Echo, from China; Najva, from Iran, and you've already met the rest.
And to my students: I looked up the spelling of two words in the dictionary while writing this blog. See? Even native speakers have to do that sometimes! And yes, I began many sentences with coordinating conjunctions (FANBOYS), and I even included some sentence fragments. But remember, a blog is not academic writing; it's more personal and informal. So I'm allowed to break the rules, but you're NOT! ;)
To the rest of my readers: Sorry for the "teacher talk!" Although I'm sure Joanne appreciated the dictionary reference! ;)