Tag Archives: ESL

Discrimination or Fair Play?

The majority of my ESOL Conversations students don’t work. They complain about how hard it is to find a job, or even volunteer work. But for good reason. There have even been some employers who say they don’t like the way the students speak English. Say what?

Yup, it’s true. This really happened.

So, when one of my students told me that she was hired as a nurse assistant at a local hospital, I was thrilled.

She credited the class for helping her to be able to express herself and feel comfortable holding conversations with people whose native language is English (her native language is Chinese).

She attended a local community college and took courses so she could become a certified nurse assistant. Once she passed, she started job hunting. She was so excited and couldn’t wait to share her good news with the rest of the class.

After one week on the job, Jin Hong was beat. Even though she’d only been in the nursing field for a week, the staff gave her the most patients. She was responsible for taking care of nine people, while other staffers had six or seven. I suggested to Jin Hong to communicate her frustrations with the team leader. That didn’t go so well. The team leader told her to “suck it up” because the other workers had to experience the same workload when they first started.

But it wasn’t just the workload that was the problem. Jin Hong just wanted advice on how to handle so many patients. Since she was new, she just looked to her co-workers for support and a little guidance.

Despite her many attempts to communicate her frustrations, she got nowhere. They would say, “I don’t have time to help you” or “I can’t understand what you’re saying.” After only two weeks at the hospital, Jin Hong quit.

When she explained her dilemma to the class, we all felt her pain. Jin Hong only wanted to put her skills and education to use, doing something she loved: helping other people.

But thanks to insensitivity, Jin Hong not only lost a job, but the hospital lost a good employee.


Crazy Students Who Don’t Care About the Weather


If you live in northeast Ohio, you know we’ve been getting schlacked with snow in subartic weather lately.  Now, you would think that this type of weather would strongly encouarage to students to stay home, and it does for some of them.  Not that our classes aren’t being attended, far from.  However, whenever the weather is bad the office gets lambasted by phone calls from students calling off class.  This isn’t a complaint.  I don’t want ice-storm, road-panckake students anymore than the next guy.  What gets me is the crazy students who come no matter what.

Now, I’m not talking about a little bit of flurries that saunter down and melt before they hit the pavement.  I mean the big-daddy, holy-moses, God-has-just-let-us-know-that-he’s-tired-of-our-crap-and-refuses-to-take-it-anymore snow storm.  The stuff that Eskimos don’t go out in.  The question I always ask myself is do you really want to learn English that badly?  Now, English is important, but I’m not sure if I’d wager my life to learn it…or at the minimum my car.

It wouldn’t be so bad if any other students showed up.  No…they all know to stay home, and I agree with them.  I always tell my students to stay home if the roads look dangerous.  What’s even crazier is that one of my students walks.  Walks?  In this temperature?  If it was me, English could wait.

I guess the point of this diatribe is just to note how devoted and appreciative many of our students are to the services we provide.  They must like what they’re learning.  They keep coming back, rain or shine, day after day.  Yes, many of our students are exactly like the postal service.  And while I might me confounded and unable to understand why some one would walk 2 miles in a snow storm when they can’t see the hand in front of their face, I’m just glad they enjoy class enough to be willing to brave the weather.


This the Season…What Holiday Are Celebrated Anyway?

Not surprisingly, I’m dedicating the last few lessons before our holiday break to talking about different holidays celebrated throughout the United States.  Basically, I’m just focusing on the three bigs:  Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa…or at least they were the first to come to my minds anyway. 

Now, Christmas came easy.  I’ve had a little experience with this strange day a couple times in my life.  The last two lessons though, once for my night and once for my morning classes, I’ve spent talking about Hanukkah.  Let’s be perfectly honest.  I’m by no means an expert.  At points I was simply happy to think I was pronouncing some of the words correctly–You try to explain what shammash, gelt, and gimmel is to a non-English speaking population. 

Of course, equally as important, this also gave me the opportunity to learn more about Hanukkah, too.  While it might not be vocabulary that my students will use often, lucky if rarely.  I think it’s important for them to have a more diverse understanding of the holidays that are celebrated throughout the United States.  While we’re not doing an in depth study, I think we all are leaving with a better idea about holidays that are rarely portrayed in media.  Just think about how many Christmas trees you’ve seen on TV lately and then ask yourself when’s the last time you’ve seen a menorah. 

While I know that there are more holidays from different cultures celebrated in the United States, I choose the ones that I think my students might encounter more often.  It might not perfect choices, but at least it gives us something to talk about.