by Rachel O’Dell
Just before winter break, QSoE ended the Fall 2016 EAP session with graduation — the first one I had ever attended. It was very powerful because it gave those of us who are not in the classroom everyday a glimpse of the passion and care that the talented QSoE instructors put into their work, and of the friendships formed within classrooms.
A couple of the QSoE instructors have been teaching here for more than 15 years, but with the level of enthusiasm and appreciation conveyed in their speeches, you would think that they were fresh out of teachers’ college. As an audience member listening to their congratulations to students on their achievements, I felt like joining their classes, or maybe re-visiting teaching as a career; they are clearly deeply rewarded and continuously inspired by teaching English to students from diverse cultures.
The class valedictorian, Bander Alsekhan, summed up the QSoE experience well in his speech:
“I started this program expecting to improve my English, but I ended up with much more. I got to meet so many people from different backgrounds, and that changed me as a person. I thought I would have teachers, but I got mentors. I started out with classmates and ended up with great friends.”
Although it was a large group graduating, it was never tiring to listen as each student’s name was called. It was quite heartwarming to hear classmates cheering and whistling for each student, and to see all of the smiles, hugs, and a few tears (some students were returning to their home countries that day).
Students come to QSoE to learn English as part of their education or career goals; they want to be able to connect with people of the world as global citizens, and English is the language that opens them to a broader world. As Bander mentioned, towards the end of the sessions, many students find themselves reflecting on how the QSoE experience has helped them to grow and learn beyond just becoming more proficient in the English language.
Leaving your known world in your home country to come to a new place, with new people and a new language is definitely exciting, but also a bit scary and uncomfortable for most people. When you land at QSoE in your small class with caring instructors and staff, you will find yourself among others who are in the same situation, and this gives you re-assurance.
During class, at their homestays, and during socio-cultural activities, students learn to use English to listen and to share their perspectives with others (often from other cultures). As they learn about and experience Canadian culture, students become more aware of themselves, and of their own culture. They begin to think more about and how they interact with others. This is the part of the learning that happens at QSoE that surprises many students –- they leave here with honed capacities, not only with the English language, but also with their confidence in connecting with others.
Here are some highlights of the Fall 2016 EAP Program:
Another class –Rasha Farim’s Class 150 — raised $512 for Immigrant Services Kingston and Area’s (ISKA) Newcomer Youth Program! Christian Medina, from ISKA, delivered an acceptance speech at the QSoE fall 2016 graduation. He also put out a call for volunteers to help participants in the ISKA Multi-cultural Youth Group to learn about Canadian culture and the opportunities available to them in the Kingston area.
Other highlights of the Fall 2016 EAP Program included a delicious multi-cultural potluck dinner, the QSoE Variety Night, and the Class Competition. Thanks for the smiles, everyone!