Ted's ESL class
My ESL class finished on Wednesday night. I will miss all of the students. The class was a state sponsored class for the janitors. It started back when we were still the Chiron Corporation. Chiron tried to take care of their employees so they worked really hard to give everyone an oppurtunity to get ahead. Novartis took Chiron over and continued the classes in much of the same spirit as Chiron. Bayer took over the Chiron manufacturing operations from Novartis but they dropped the ESL classes. As a Bayer employee, I continued to teach the Novartis ESL class. The Novartis people always showed their appreciation when they saw me.

The class had 26 students and one state teacher. The state teacher had a set curiculum that had to be followed. It was not the best course but it is the best the state can do with what they have. The class has 26 students with 26 different skill levels. That is where I come in. As a volunteer, I was not bound by state mandates. I would take groups of 4-8 per week and teach the course work to their ability. I rarely stayed with the planned course long because it was usually too easy or too hard for the group I had. My primary purpose in class was to get the students to learn. My primary purpose in life was to see them happy. I think I achieved both goals this year. It was a very rewarding experience for me.

So many of us take things for granted. We often feel entitled to things that we are just fortunate to have. Teaching ESL for 3 years can give you a whole new perspective on life. People would tell me happy things that were so sad I would just cry. If you can read this post, be thankful for what you have.

Back to the graduation. The class was great. We had them do skits in front of people in the auditorium. There were only 30 or 40 people in the audience but it is very scary for people who have no public speaking experience to get up in front of people in an auditorium. We practiced for over a month. One of the skits was about being a Novartis janitor. I would always change things up for the more advanced group to keep them progressing in English. One day we were practicing the janitor skit, my line was "do you think I could be a janitor too"? The student who practicing with me was supposed to say "Yes, you would be a great janitor". The student looked at me and said "No, you could not be a janitor. You are too high maintenance". For most of us who can read this over the Internet, that is a true statement. Myself included. I was so happy with the progress to get a student to ad lib like that.

Whenever I get in front of a group of people to talk, I go prepared. I wrote some thoughts down so I would have a clear thought pattern when it was my turn to speak about the class. I do not usually memorize my talks, I just learn them and go from there.

Ted's closing night thoughts

Another session completed. Thank you for all of the hard work you did.

As a volunteer working with small groups, I broke the rules all of the time. I was not hampered with the dilemma of keeping a whole class with different abilities busy. I could customize the lesson for the group I was with.

I always changed the lesson to keep everyone thinking in English. Sometimes, I could see fear in the eyes of the next student in line as I was coming up to them for conversation. I kept you wondering what I would do next. You all did very well. We had fun and we always came back for more.

For the first year or two, about half of the class would look down and turn red when I spoke to them. Now, everyone speaks to me and most people try to speak English to each other when they are in my presence. It took a lot of prodding and prompting but they are doing well.

Ted’s success stories.

I remember the day we did the “happy day” lesson. Everyone wrote about a special day in their lives. It was so nice to see everyone write about happy times. I felt good for a week.

Another day, someone who did not speak an independent word for two years came up to me and asked me to come back the next day to teach. I lead a very busy life but I was so happy that she spoke to me that I had to come back the next day.

Another day, one particularly shy student asked for help with something she was studying on her own. I spent the whole class with her.
This week someone came up to me and said “Hi Ted, how was your day today”?

You guys have made great progress. Keep speaking English. When you go to the store, speak English. I know it is hard but it is the best way to learn.