Why We Do This


I went to my last class this past Friday expecting my entire class to be present. Well, of the 13 who normally attend, only 5 showed up! I didn’t know how to feel about this. But no matter, I carried on with the lesson. To stay positive, I thought it was great that I could focus more on each individual. We had a lot of fun despite the lack of attendance that day.

The feeling in the room was certainly bittersweet. On one hand, I was happy to have my Fridays back to spend with my little girl, but on the other hand, it was kind of hard for me to leave these special individuals, whom I’ve come to respect and appreciate so much throughout the course of the past seven weeks.

If you remember from my last post when I discussed WorkPlace ESL (http://blog.teslontario.org/workplace-esl/), classes run on average for about 10 weeks. Because they’re so short, you feel like you need to cram everything you possibly know as a teacher into your lessons and pass them on to your learners.

However, a really neat thing that this program offers, (which I didn’t share in the last post), is upon completion of every session, there is a small ceremony held for the students to celebrate their accomplishments. The staff involved join the teacher in congratulating the the students on completing the course. Then, certificates are handed out to each student along with a nice gift. Finally, dessert and fruit are typically served for all to enjoy.

It’s a day both instructor and learner look forward to because it demonstrates how far they’ve come in their knowledge, and it shows the instructor how much value they have added to their students.

But I have to say, I was taken aback when, after handing out all of the certificates and the gifts, one of my students approached the translator and asked him to tell the room that he had something for me! He then handed me a card and inside it read: “Dear Ms. Laila, thank you for teaching me English.

Image Source: ESL Student
Source: ESL Student

I couldn’t help but get all emotional inside and tear up. You have to understand that the English comprehension level of these students is at the beginning stages of literacy. They did not speak English when I first met them. So, to see the card and what this man had written, was assurance that I had made an impact, and it meant so much to me. In fact, by the end of the 7-week course, they were all able to greet and make small talk with each other! I was humbled yet again by this experience.

I was also overwhelmed with joy and sadness. My motherly instincts kicked in and I couldn’t help but wonder what was going to happen to them now that our time together had come to an end and how they would manage out in the world. Silly, I know, as they are adults after all. But still, I feel how vulnerable they must feel because of their limited use of the English language. Hopefully, they’ll take what they’ve learned from my class, put it into practice, and expand upon it without problems.

The card this student gave me had this very fitting sentence that sums up what we do as a profession, and I thought I’d share it with you. It reads: “It’s the special things that people do for us that make all the difference in our lives.” I’m going to hold on to this card for a long time.

I wish my students all the best in the next few months, and come September, I hope to reunite with them to continue with our lessons where we’d left off.

Have you ever received a special gift or had a moving experience in your teaching career?

Hi! I’m Laila and I’m a mom to two little ones who keep me very busy throughout the day (and night)! I earned a double major in Philosophy and Psychology from Western University, which basically means I can talk a lot and analyze anything! I earned my TESL accreditation and have taught in both school and workplace settings; but I especially enjoy teaching at different work places. I have a passion for cooking, baking vegan desserts, and DIY projects. I enjoy reading and learning about new things, but mostly, I’m excited to be sharing my thoughts and any information I may learn about with all of you. Happy reading!


10 thoughts on “Why We Do This”

  1. Thanks Cecilia! It made my day that much more special. It validated why I love this job 🙂 Thank you for your comment!

  2. Yes, Laila, I cherish such mementos and moments. That level of satisfaction is why I’ve chosen this field and can’t imagine leaving it. By the way, can I watch you teach? The thought of getting students from not speaking English to small talk and thank you notes in a seven-week term blows my mind. You should teach a course!

    1. Ok your comment totally made my day!! You’re so sweet :)) Thank you so much Kelly!

  3. Just received card from the class with individual messages. This one was especially meaningful: “If I said thanks it would be very small word for you. You did lots of things and support for me. When I feel helpless you appeared like mother. I just want to say “Remain well & love u”. Higher level, of course. I liked the “u”!!! I have a collection of cards and imagine myself one day looking at them and reading them and reliving the joy and satisfaction I get everyday (we, nigh on every day). Leila – I know how you feel about “letting them go” – but remember the story of the eagle who pushes the eaglets out the nest even as her heart beats with trepidation. If they don’t go they will never know the joy of flying..your students will fly, each in their own way, and they will never forget you!.

    1. Wow Claudie! Your comment sent shivers down my spine. You’re absolutely right – our job is to help learners get to where they need to in order for them to excel in life, but it isn’t to cradle them and therefore not allow them to rely on themselves either. Thank you for that beautiful comment. And I loved the message from one your students especially the “u” at the end! You sound like a very special teacher 🙂 Happy Canada Day!

  4. I too know how you feel Laila. I am now a retired ESL teacher but I have many fond memories of my students. One in particular, Tony, who I taught back when I was a volunteer teacher. He did not speak a word of English and was so shy that he would not make eye contact with anyone. After a lot of encouragement he began to thrive. At the end of the course, we had a guest speaker from the Ministry of Health speak to the whole school. There was a Q&A at the end and here was Tony raising his hand and asking questions in broken English without any prompting from anyone. I was so happy and proud of him!

    1. Wow Maria. That is truly an amazing story. That must have been such a proud moment for Tony as well as for yourself. You are an inspiration to the rest of us in this field. Thank you for all of your hard work throughout your career as an ESL teacher.

  5. The connections made with students are the best part of the job! Thanks for sharing Laila!

    1. My pleasure Diane! I completely agree with you – that’s the best part for me as well. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and commenting. 🙂

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