The evolution of ESL in S.D. # 68, Nanaimo-Ladysmith
by Donna Allen, Nanaimo District Secondary School
Section 1: Introduction
This document traces the evolution of services provided to ESL students in Nanaimo School District. There are four broad periods:
||The initial development of the ESL program, early staffing and models. |
||Generally this is viewed by the author as a time of development and growth of ESL services, where services were developed in response to student needs. |
||Two trends are identified in this period: a slow but steady decline in ESL services, and the emergence of fee-paying International students in the district. Services to secondary students are particularly affected by the five-year cap introduced by the NDP government. |
||Major cutbacks, particularly in ESD provision, with district ESL staffing reduced from 10.519 FTE to 3.752 FTE, a cut of 64%. School-based models of delivery become the norm. |
This report will describe the history of ESL services in Nanaimo school district, and share the hypothetical experiences of one ESL student who enters and experiences the school district at different times between 1993 and 2002.
Section 2: A history of ESL services in Nanaimo
- 0.5 FTE teacher at Nanaimo District Secondary for ESL.
- 0.5 FTE teacher — itinerant to John Barsby, Woodlands, and Wellington secondaries.
- Teacher Mrs. Sylvia Marshall, the only ESL teacher in the district at this time.
- No laid-on program; no budget; no blackboard; no supplies.
- After accreditation, ESL teacher Mrs. Marshall was given a budget.
- Still the only ESL teacher at this time.
- ESL classes at Nanaimo District Secondary School (NDSS), and pull-out ESL classes in other schools.
- Large number of immigrant students arrived at John Barsby Community School.
- Mrs. Brenda Stewart was hired as a full-time ESL teacher.
- Mr. Gary Anaka was also working in the program.
- During this time Mrs. Sylvia Marshall enrolled 2 blocks of ESL at NDSS and provided itinerant service to many elementary schools.
- All the junior-secondary ESL students were attending Barsby.
- All senior-secondary ESL students attended NDSS, which at this time was the only senior secondary school in the district.
- At both Barsby and NDSS, the ESL students had good access to regular classes, but both schools had timetable limitations.
- Diminished enrolment of ESL students in NDSS.
- Mrs. Sylvia Marshall was transferred to Barsby for one year only.
- All secondary schools converted to Grades 8–12.
- ESL program established at Nanaimo District Secondary.
- Mrs. Sylvia Marshall and Mrs. Brenda Stewart were the program teachers.
- The program also included a teaching assistant, Mrs. Rita Hillier.
- Extremely successful program, with great ESL content classes.
- Beginning English, New Horizons 1 and 2, English 1 and 2, ESL Math, ESL Science, ESL Socials, and Tutorials.
- English Department developed the ESL English 10 Transition course to be taken before English 10.
- The system worked and was positively viewed by students and the staff.
- Teacher Mrs. Judy Kennie now joins the ESL department with one class.
- Intake office set up — Mrs. Trudy Parsons, teacher.
- Looked after the immigration forms and the testing.
- Mrs. Brenda Stewart leaves to work in a Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association position.
- Mrs. Judy Kennie took over more ESL classes.
- Government’s 5-year cap on ESL services.
- Some change in immigration laws, fewer “boat people,” immigration changing.
- More problems with gradually reduced services.
- Start of International students program, originally housed at John Barsby.
- Rationale is that Barsby’s numbers are down because of the new secondary school at Cedar.
- Soon International students appearing in other secondary schools.
- Reduced support; teachers more frustrated.
- ESL students now appearing in other schools, reduction of the NDSS program.
- ESL with special needs an emerging issue, with some assessment problems.
- District ESL staffing cut by 64% in 2002–03 school year.
Section 3: ESL services as seen by students
In this section, the experiences of an ESL student are described in order to provide a sense of what kind of ESL service or program was offered at different times. These are all hypothetical examples, using a fictional name, but are intended to reflect the capacity of the school district to respond to students’ needs at three different periods between 1993 and 2003.
Each description reflects a hypothetical experience. The earliest (1993–94) reflects a system well able to respond to and meet students’ needs, with staff and programs in place to welcome, assess and program in a way that maximizes the students’ chances of success.
By 2001, there appears to be a gradual, noticeable decline in the system’s capacity to meet needs. Teacher time is more limited, and ESL tutorial blocks have been removed. The student finds some classes meet his needs but fewer of them. Where subject matter is more difficult, there just is not enough ESL staff support. This period also occurs after the NDP government capped ESL provision at five years, reducing ESL services for many secondary students.
By 2002, ESL services are reduced from the level of the previous year. ESL students are sharing classrooms with International (fee-paying) students, and their teachers are having more difficulty providing enough support for each student in the multi-level classes. Some ESL teachers are new to ESL, and there are fewer ESL blocks available. Many ESL students see as much of the Learning Assistance teacher as a specialist in ESL, as some positions now include responsibility for both ESL and Learning Assistance. There is minimal support in regular classes.
ESL support in Nanaimo School District, has declined over time, with the most significant cuts in the 2002–03 school year. Cuts in ESL staffing were a massive 64%, as the district’s ESD programs were eliminated or amalgamated. The evolution and decline is described in the following vignettes.
ESL STUDENT, scenario#1: 1993–94
I am a new student at Nanaimo District Secondary School. I come from Vietnam and my name is Binh Nguyn.1 I am 14 years old. I studied English for one year but I can’t understand anything Canadians say except “hello,” and some swear words.
Last week my parents and my brothers and my sisters and I had an appointment to see a lady. There was a WELCOME party and then she checked all our immigration papers and then she tested us. She had to find out if we were Beginners, or Low Intermediate or Intermediate or Advanced. Then she knew what classes we would take at our new school.
This teacher lady knew a lot of things about different people. She knows about different birth dates, and reasons for different last names.
For my parents, she made an appointment at the Multicultural Centre to take English lessons and meet other people. I think my parents really liked that because they could feel at home sooner.
At NDSS I have an ESL homeroom. It is very good because we can learn all the things we need to know about the school. We learned about the map of the school; how to get our locker and use our combination; how the bells work; how we get our PE locker. Whenever we need to get our report cards or get newsletters to take home we do this in our homeroom and our teacher can teach us all about it. When we have course selection time our teacher helps each one of us individually pick our classes.
There are three ESL teachers and one ESL Education Assistant. Someone is always there to help us right away and I am learning very quickly. We have many, many ESL classes. If you are a Beginner, then you need to take more ESL classes. If you are advanced you might only have to have Tutorial support with the regular classes. It is very good because you get as much help as you need, and you don’t have to feel stupid.
There is ESL Beginners which is a socializing class. There is also ESL English 1 & 2, New Horizons 1 & 2 in both semesters, ESL Math, ESL Science, ESL Social Studies, ESL Transition English 10 and Tutorials.
At NDSS we have a wonderful staff. They accept us kids into their classes easily and with our ESL support we learn very quickly.
At Christmas the ESL students host a Christmas lunch for the staff. We all bring food from our homes. It is the food we make in our own countries. We have a wonderful party and everyone loves the food and loves to learn about all the other countries.
In February we host a Multicultural Week. We bring many wonderful things from our homes and set up a display in the front trophy case. We also have some events and the staff and students really enjoy learning about our cultures.
I am learning English very quickly and I am enjoying all my new friends.
ESL STUDENT, scenario #2: 2001–02
I am a new student at Nanaimo District Secondary School. I come from Vietnam and my name is Binh Nguyn. I am 14 years old. I studied English for one year but I can’t understand anything Canadians say except “hello,” and some swear words.
When I first came to this school the ESL teacher looked at my immigration papers. Then she gave me some tests to see how much I could read and write English.
I go to four classes a day. There are only two ESL classes that are easy enough for me to take and I have to go to two regular classes. Next semester I will have the same problem.
I am in PE which is OK, but I don’t understand the instructions and I’m afraid the teacher thinks I am stupid. Some of the students do help me and that makes me glad.
My other “regular” class is Computer Drafting. The teacher doesn’t have time to give me all the help I need, and I just wish there was an extra person around sometimes to answer my questions.
My ESL teacher had to work hard to find two “regular” classes that I could go to where I could understand enough that was going on.
My two ESL classes are ESL New Horizons and ESL English 1. The New Horizons class has three different levels, and the teacher finds it very hard to get to all of us as often as she wants. This class is good because it teaches me listening, speaking, reading, and writing at a level that is not too hard for me. I am learning something new every day. All the students in the class are helpful and the Vietnamese ones will translate for me if I need help.
The English 1 class is very good, too, because I am learning to read and write and am doing more grammar at my own level. Even this is hard, but I don’t feel it is too hard. I just wish I had an ESL Math class so I could learn the vocabulary of Math and could remember what I learned back in my country. I am very afraid of going into a regular Math class but will have to next semester. There used to be a Tutorial block in ESL where I could get the extra help I know I will need, but that is not offered any more.
Next semester I will take Math 9 but my ESL teacher is still trying to program me into something else. Thank goodness I will have New Horizons 2 and ESL English 2 so I don’t have to have three or four regular classes. There are other ESL classes offered, but my English is not good enough yet to take them.
I hope next year I can continue in New Horizons, take ESL Science in the first semester, and then ESL Social Studies in the second semester. I might also be able to take ESL English 10, but it depends on my English levels.
When I am in all regular classes it would be great if I had an ESL tutorial block each semester, but will have to take an LA block instead. This year our ESL teacher has some students doing Tutorial in each of the ESL classes because they can’t do the regular classes without a little help.
It has been very hard adjusting to my new school and I feel safe in my ESL classroom. NDSS is a very good school, but I wish there were more ESL students so we could have more ESL classes, especially during this first difficult year.
My ESL teacher does more than just teach — she helps me when I am sad; shows me how to do things in the community; does my course selection; taught me how to use my combination lock, and is always there for me. She really does need some help so that she can get around to all the kids and teach me more quickly.
ESL STUDENT, scenario #3: 2002–03
I am a new student at Nanaimo District Secondary School. I come from Vietnam and my name is Binh Nguyn. I am 14 years old. I studied English for one year but I can’t understand anything Canadians says except “hello,” and some swear words.
My ESL teacher tested me to see how much help I need to learn my English and understand the classes.
I go to four classes a day. I have one ESL block that we share with the International students. There are usually 15 or more students in my class. We are divided into three different groups (levels) and the teacher moves from group to group. Often he is too busy with other pupils to help me. I have to rely on my classmates for help but all of the other kids in my group are Korean. Fortunately, sometimes a lady comes in for a few minutes at the end of the period to help us. (This is a borrowed EA.)
I am taking Math, PE, and CAPP with Keyboarding in my first semester. I am pretty good at Math, but I don’t understand the word problems and directions. I feel lost. I also like PE but feel stupid because I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what CAPP is, but it is a lot of talk about something important, I guess.
I talked to my older ESL friends. They said that the ESL teacher is new to teaching ESL. The old ESL teacher used to have an aide that helped them in their classes and there were more ESL courses. Now there is just one block of New Horizons each semester, and one of ESL English/Science/Math or Social Studies each semester for pupils when their English is good enough. That means they might have to wait two years to get a transitional course to regular subjects. Many cannot wait that long. The teacher also has a half-block per year of ESL Tutorial, but that doesn’t fit many ESL pupils’ schedules so they have to take LA instead or try to see their teachers before or after school.
My teacher said that next semester I will have my one ESL block and maybe ESL Science if I am ready. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to find courses that I can do successfully without help.
I MIGHT HAVE TO TAKE MATH AGAIN!!!!
Many thanks to the following for sharing their knowledge and experience which helped me prepare this report. These teachers have all played a significant part in the ESL program in this school district:
Mrs. Sylvia Marshall Retired ESL teacher
Mrs. Judy Kennie Retired ESL teacher
Mrs. Trudy Parsons ESL teacher, Dover Bay Secondary, and formerly at the Curriculum Resource Centre
Mr. Deryck Cowling ESL teacher, Nanaimo and District Secondary School
1 Note: The same name is used in all three hypothetical situations. [back]