English Classes at SLRA

This week, we met with our three dedicated and wonderful English teachers: Anita, Bel and Tracey. They have volunteered with our organisation for a few years now and during that time they navigated new circumstances like teaching English online or an increase in demand for English classes. In the meeting, we discussed if and what we would like to change for our new English semester that will start in September.

We are extremely grateful to have such long-term, knowledgeable and flexible English teachers. They have all many years of experience of teaching. Therefore, our meetings with them are always a good time to reflect about what we can be happy about and what we would like to improve.

One English teacher said that the moments where they noticed how the mood from a student from being nervous or unhappy swift to being happy and becoming more relaxed during the English class, is something they enjoy most during their English classes. Moreover, our English students enjoy the classes a lot as well. When we asked for feedback many said that they enjoy learning, that they have a lot of joy in the classes and that the classes are not only good to learn English but also inform them about British news.

Since, we were able to teach our classes in person again, we offered two classes on Tuesdays. One class was for beginners and the other one for intermediate/advanced students. In the intermediate/advanced class, Anita often starts her class with handing out newspapers. For several reasons, if students run late, they do not miss the core topic of the class but also to have time to discuss what is going in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, it is a fun and interesting way to learn the language and to understand how journalists ‘play’ with the language.

The beginners class uses many different tools. It sometimes can be challenge to combine the huge variety and levels of the different students. In one meeting, the English teachers told us that there are often false beginner. These can be on the one hand people who are really good in reading and writing. These are often people who speak a language with a similar alphabet and the language is close to English. Then on the other hand there are often people who can speak flurent English but cannot read or write that well in English. Reasons for this can be that people also cannot read and write that well in their own language for example. Our beginners class therefore has to be really flexible depending on who shows up and which skills need to be improved. Because of this, Tracey and Bel teach the class together.

However, our English classes are so much more than only spaces to improve peoples’ English skills. There are a safe place to practice English, to share knowledge, to get to know other people and to feel part of a welcoming community. We know many of our students for months or years which makes it feel really familiar. If we haven’t seen a student for several weeks, we are even more happy when they come back and share what they have done the last weeks. We always try to make some time for a coffee or tea and for a quick conversation.

To learn English is such a crucial and important part of feeling more settled in the UK. It makes daily life easier. Yet, many of the people we work with are excluded from free education and due to their insecure status are not able to afford expensive English classes. With our weekly drop-in classes, we want to invite especially people who cannot access education through other institutions due to their insecure housing situation, immigration status or due to their financial situation. We want that people are able to learn the language and to be able to increase their skills.

We cannot wait to welcome old and new students back to our wonderful English classes with our fantastic volunteers. We will use the summer break to think about how we can improve our English classes even more.

Read about the lovely ESOL party we had last year after lockdown, here.