Neighborhood Opportunity Network

Supporting one another in a time of crisis

LOSE your mind backwards

Posted by sebastianbrown on February 24, 2010

Give me an “L”–L!…gimme an “O”–O!…gimme an “S”–S!…gimme an “E”–E!–What does that spell….backwards…ESOL!

After about three months of outreach, strategy planning, resource partner development and group discovery, we finally held our first community based ESOL class in Nob Hill last night! Before IMPACT network/Silver Spring community member Ana Puentes officially began the class-portion of the evening by administering the placement exam, Juventina led the group in sharing each of the members’ motivations for learning English.

One way or another, everyone’s responses revolved around their jobs/lack thereof. But as opposed to being purely in terms of better positioning oneself professionally, it seemed that the underlying value was the desire to be treated with respect in their respective work places. Juventina spoke of her experiences working at the Chevy Chase super market where she daily is ignored when she offers assistance to the nearly exclusively upper-class white shoppers. Melvis, Luis, Kenny and Samuel all spoke of being talked down to–including being called ‘stupid’–at their construction sites.

After Ana administered the official placement exam and had the members fill out general questionnaires about exposure to English and motivations for taking the class, Juventina led the group in coming up with a basic vision for the ideal environment they’d like to create as to make the classes as productive as possible. Accepting that members are at various levels of proficiency, the group agreed that respect is key. Most importantly, no laughing at other people’s accents or pronunciations is allowed. Also, they made it a rule that all members be conscious of giving everyone a chance to speak and to not have the more proficient members dominate the conversation. And lastly, but most importantly–and probably least likely to be followed–they all agreed to show up promptly at 7:05pm and not a minute later so that we can take advantage of the little time we have.

To celebrate the end of out first class, we opened some (non-alcoholic) bubbly and passed out pound-cake. Of course, even though we were done with our planned agenda, the group stayed around for another 30 minutes until 9:30pm just chatting about favorite foods, funny stories of confusing Spanish and English–Juventina once asked someone where the nearest “siete eleven” was…–and plans for the upcoming week. Since Ana can’t make the class on Thursday they decided to meet again tonight just for a low-key potluck/mutual support session.

And just so you know, the schedule has been adjusted:

Monday 7-9pmish: ESOL

Wednesday 7-8pm: mutual support; 8-9pm: ESOL practice with English speakers

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