I am currently sitting in an ESL office in Leamington, Ontario, preparing for tonight’s 2 hour English class. Leamington is a relatively small farming community about 40 minutes from Windsor, Ontario. The community has a large population of migrant workers, mainly from Spanish speaking nations, but also from the Caribbean and Thailand. I am visiting the community as a member of the Frontier College Labourer Teacher program. The program provides Frontier College tutors with the opportunity to work alongside migrant workers during the day and teach them English language skills in the evenings. I am staying with two great members of the Frontier College team, Peggy and Sarah in a house that the organization rents from the local Catholic Church. I am spending my nights in a random ‘candyland’ style room that is purple, pink, white and red. Weird…
Leamington has a somewhat unexpected town dynamic. Due to the scale of the farming operations in the Leamington area, many of the farms are staffed by large contingents of migrant workers. This means that the town is composed of an interesting mix of Spanish, Caribbean and Asian ethnicities. This creates the town’s major challenge: how to integrate all of the different groups.
Last night I sat in on my first ESL class and it was an extremely rewarding experience. The students in the class are mainly Spanish migrant workers who come in from 7-9pm to learn English. Just their presence at these classes shows an incredible dedication to bettering their understanding of the language. After spending 9 hours a day in the fields these workers still find the motivation to attend evening classes.
Teaching or learning a language is one of the most fascinating and difficult situations to find oneself in. It can be intensely frustrating from both sides, but it all becomes worth it when a eureka moment occurs. No one really knows how to make these moments happen, but when they do, it is a priceless thing to watch.
I am only in Leamington for about another 36 hours, so I am going to make the best of my remaining two classes. Without a doubt this experience has taught me valuable lessons that I will be able to apply when I leave for Fort Hope, ON in– wait for it……….17 days!