The Amazing ESL Club
Written by: Dan Cornish, MA (Applied Linguistics)
During 2012-13, a once-defunct club for students learning English as a Second Language at Sheridan College was revived by ESL professor Alexandra (Sacha) Fejer. From the beginning, Sacha was determined to have ESL Club run entirely by students with minimal faculty support. She gathered interested student members and introduced them to the roles of Social Convenor and Assistant Social Convenor(s), and very quickly these positions were assumed by an enthusiastic core of international students representing countries from Asia, the Middle East and South America at both Davis and Trafalgar campuses.
As the students worked themselves into these roles of responsibility, Sacha worked to have the positions included as part of Sheridan’s new Co-Curricular Record (CCR). During both Winter 2013 and Spring-Summer 2013, ESL Club began hosting Movie Nights three times during each session. The movies were selected by the students and shown for free to ESL Club members. Each event began or concluded with sometimes lively discussions in English about certain themes from the films.
Then in June 2013, ESL Club members from Davis campus held a “Welcome Party” for new and current ESL students taking classes during the summer at Sheridan. A school bus was chartered to ferry students from Trafalgar to participate in the event, and in addition to speeches by Sacha and ESL coordinator John Iveson, student representatives took the mic and eloquently welcomed their friends and talked about the club in English. The highlight of the evening was the unveiling of a trailer produced by ESL Club members which promoted an upcoming trip to the popular tourist town of St. Jacob’s. Set to dramatic theme music from a popular Hollywood film, the trailer beckoned ESL students to visit Canada’s largest farmer’s market where they could “shop, eat, play and stay” in a “legendary classical town” in “traditional German style.”
The trailer must have been effective! The trip quickly filled up (and there was a waiting list), and 40 ESL students and three faculty chaperones filled a school bus to go to St. Jacob’s on July 13, 2013. Supplemented by information about the history of St. Jacob’s, Mennonites and Canada’s multiculturalism policies presented by various ESL faculty through regular classes in the weeks prior to the trip, the students were able to enjoy a beautiful day at the farmers’ market and the main street of the town.
ESL Club has allowed many future students of Sheridan programs to develop their talents and skills, in an English medium by acting as Social Convenors. Thanks to Sacha’s efforts, many of the leadership, organizational and public-speaking skills being exhibited by club members can now be recognized through CCR. And, the fact that ESL students can run Movie Nights, organize a party and plan/promote a visit to St. Jacob’s has shown that ESL Club can be truly student-centred, with minimal faculty support: Sacha’s goal has been realized. As a Sheridan community, we can hardly wait to see the next contribution of members of ESL Club.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqnMH7l60Pc&w=560&h=315]
Dan has taught in both the LINC and ESL programs at Sheridan College since 2007. He was a faculty advisor to ESL Club members for Movie Nights at Davis and Trafalgar, as well as one of the chaperones on the St. Jacob’s trip.