From Learner to Volunteer on English My Way

21 Jan 2015 |Written by Craig Salisbury

The English My Way programme is designed to help those with no, or, very little English grasp the basics, the idea being that this will then open up a new world to them. A world where saying “hi” to their neighbours is nice rather than nerve wracking. A world where asking for directions doesn’t fill them with dread and using public services isn’t something to stress over. In short, the idea is to help those people integrate, and by doing so have happier, more productive lives and become a part of the community.

But it would be wrong to say that the programme is there just for the benefit of the learners, because the volunteers and teachers are learning too. In November our hub centres ran some best practice events, so that teachers, volunteers and centre managers could get together and exchange their knowledge and learn from each other. I attended two of these events and it was fascinating to hear about the different approaches that people took to teaching and great to see people realising a new technique that they could use, whether it was to help their learners attend more classes by finding out about obstacles they were facing in their personal lives, or using role play to increase their confidence.

The other thing that was great to hear was the enjoyment that the volunteers were getting out of it. One said, “It’s the smile on their face at the end of the class that makes it worth it.” For him, his journey from warehouse manager to ESOL volunteer had been relatively short - he had only been doing it for a couple of months - but was already benefiting him, making him feel more like a part of his community and teaching him a brand new set of skills.

So, we want to foster that. To nurture those skills and help people become a part of their community by teaching as well as learning. That’s why we’ve recently added a section to for professional development. Created by British Council, the ESOL experts who created the main resources for English My Way, there are seven sections to explore. The first is very specific to English My Way, with a site overview and delivery guide, but the other six sections are full of tips that could easily be transferred to other ESOL courses. If you’ve got an ESOL learner with a learning disability then there’s resources that can help, or if you just want some help developing your learners’ vocabularies, there’s something for that too..

The resources are interactive and easy to use - by yourself or in a group - so whether you’re a volunteer, teacher or centre manager feel free to log on to the site, go the the Help & Training section and take a look. Hopefully, they’ll help you open up someone’s world that little bit more.