Teaching adult ESL classes in the wider community

Did you know that Houston has one of the largest immigrant populations in our country? About 22% of Houston residents were born in another country.

Emerson’s Social Action Task Force, Unitarian Universalist Network Outreach (UUNO), offers English as a Second Language classes. The intent of UUNO is not only to offer classes in English, a key component of upward mobility in the United States, but also to identify other needs within the immigrant community. In the process we can share our care and compassion to members of the larger Houston community and build personal relationships with people. Our mission is to make the world a better place for those in our community.

As our English as a Second Language (ESL) classes continue, we hope students will identify other needs in their communities for which we can provide resources and educational opportunities to help them help themselves. These classes can change the lives of the immigrants and refugees in our community who need help with language skills to better their lives and the lives of their children.

How can you take part?  We need:

  • 6-8 Instructors for the term. The ONLY requirements for instructors are that they speak English, are willing to speak slowly and pantomime a lot. The Instructor’s edition of the textbook is very accessible and straightforward, even to those with limited teaching or ESL experience. Instructors should plan five to seven volunteer hours per week for class prep (e.g., reading the Lesson Objectives and Presentation, making copies as necessary) and class time.
  • 10-15 Class Assistants/Conversation Partners. Assistants lead students through conversational exercises, at the instructor’s direction. They also circulate among the students to help as necessary during the time set aside for workbook instruction and to perceive outreach opportunities. The only requirement for Assistants is friendliness and pantomime skills. Assistants should plan for three volunteer hours per week.
  • 5-10 Greeters/Registrars. Greeters may be responsible for gathering students at the church entrance and guiding them to classrooms, helping them register and setting out refreshments. Greeters may also circulate among the students to help as necessary during the time set aside for workbook instruction, and to perceive outreach opportunities. The only requirement for greeters is friendliness. Greeters should plan for three volunteer hours per week.

We also need students. Who do you know that could benefit? Your housekeeper? The waiter at your favorite restaurant? The clerk at the dry cleaner? Give them a flyer and a map with the route from their house to Emerson. Or volunteer to give them a ride one Saturday.

All volunteers can come and go throughout the course as time permits; a person could volunteer once or ten times in any given semester.

News on the 2015 program

The 2015 semester started off with a record breaking student attendance of 51 students and 23 children who were cared for by our paid child care workers. Emerson’s English Classes are the only classes in the Houston area that we know of that provide childcare for their students. Providing childcare allows our students who are responsible for caring for young children to take advantage of learning English. Our marketing efforts included taking flyers translated into Arabic to the Arabic Community Center and Interfaith Ministries Refugee Services, radio ads on a Spanish radio station, newspaper ads in a Spanish news paper, and English, Spanish and Arabic flyers sent to multiple schools near the church.

This was the third year to teach English to adults in our community. We have progressed from one class and one level the first semester to three different levels two days a week. We have six dedicated volunteer Instructors, three for our Saturday classes and three for our Thursday night classes. We also have an average of 12 volunteers each session to assist the teachers in the classrooms and test students.

The Unitarian Universalist Funding Program awarded Emerson’s English Classes Project a grant to assist with the 2016 school year; however, we are required to raise matching grant funds. We held a very successful Chili Cook-Off in February 2016, with an energetic team led by Tom Horvath.