Struggling to communicate, being misunderstood, or not being understood at all, is a very stressful and daunting feeling for anyone especially when it affects your lively-hood. The class I’m currently teaching is experiencing this very feeling. And although they attend ESL classes on a daily basis, their English comprehension levels are lacking.
This is where WorkPlace ESL comes into play. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this branch of ESL, it’s a program that was designed some time ago to help those who need specific language training in order to excel in the work force.
Here are a few key points about WorkPlace:
- WorkPlace is invited by the employer at a given company to teach their employees.
- Interested companies host ESL classes at their worksite.
- The class is employee driven; meaning whatever is of interest to the workers attending the classes is what’s taught – provided that topics pertain to work.
- Lessons are flexible in that students can be taught such things as pronunciation, listening and speaking skills, email and business writing skills, and the Canadian culture expectations at work.
- Lessons are tailored to each work place, meaning no two programs are alike.
- Lessons can change direction and focus. This allows much flexibility for the teacher to conduct his/her lessons in order to support and harness the learners’ interests.
- Classes range anywhere from 8 to 10 weeks in length, attending class once or twice a week.
- WorkPlace currently charges for its services since provincial government funding is no longer provided.
Differences Between WorkPlace ESL and Traditional Classrooms
The main and perhaps obvious difference between a regular classroom and a workplace classroom is that the former is taught in a school setting, while the latter is taught in-house, at the learners’ worksite. Therefore, the topics covered are specific to the learners’ needs in their working environment.
The other difference is that the school classes have to follow a certain curriculum structure, whereas as mentioned above, with WorkPlace, the ball is in the instructor’s court so long as it’s job focused and is specific to what the learners have requested to learn more about or improve upon (of course teaching remains leaner-centered and instructors continue to rely on the CLB to help them achieve proper delivery method).
The role of the instructor is to
- maximize business communication skills,
- tailor the curriculum to fit the needs of the learners at the worksite,
- increase employee confidence, and
- improve employees’ language skills at any level.
And where teachers in traditional settings see each other and have the opportunity to interact and perhaps exchange ideas on lesson plans and such at school, teachers at WorkPlace like myself, work solo, mainly because each work site is taught unique topics specific to it. The main contact that’s made when reporting attendance, if an issue needs to be addressed, if anything is needed in general, or to bounce off ideas, is with the WorkPlace ESL lead.
Beverley Payne is the Thames Valley District School Board’s Workplace Coordinator and ESL Lead and heads this wonderful program. She took over in 2005 and has been an integral part in revamping the WorkPlace ESL program making it more active and focused. Beverley and her team have worked with over 20 different companies to date, including Cargill Foods, General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, McCormick Canada, Trojan Technologies, and others, helping to enrich and improve upon the needs of learners’ in the workplace.
When you speak and communicate successfully, ideas are understood better, work becomes less stressful, and concerns and issues that need to be dealt with are taken care of more efficiently and effectively.
A big thank you to Beverley who got me started with WorkPlace ESL a few years ago and has been an invaluable mentor and friend to me. It has been such a great experience; one I will always be grateful for having been introduced to.
Taking advantage of their eagerness to learn, my hope for this class is to help them achieve and realize their potential – ultimately gaining the confidence to get out there and succeed in the workplace.
Have you heard of WorkPlace ESL? What are your thoughts and experiences teaching outside of the traditional classroom parameters?