English at the Kitchen Table

By Crystal MacMillan, TESL NS Newsletter, 2 May 2017. With the small hands of toddlers grabbing at pencil and paper, a baby crying in the lap, and a senior family member in need of help, a young mother studying English at home certainly has her struggles.

The learning environment is just one of the many challenges new Canadians face when arriving here in Nova Scotia. While attending daily classes is more beneficial than three hours a week of at-home instruction, this isn’t always an option for some students. The inability of students to attend classes daily, due to special circumstances, creates a need for the class to come to them.

The EAL Outreach Program, now offered through Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), has been recently inherited from the HRSB Adult EAL Program, which closed as of March 31st. Outreach provides two English classes weekly, with an ISANS EAL Instructor in the home of a client who can’t attend class. These one-on-one sessions provide instruction based on ISANS Community Language curriculum, using Portfolio Based Language Assessment (PBLA) and a task-based approach.

Most who qualify for the EAL Outreach Program have newborns—or young children—and are waitlisted for daycare services; have children with special needs; or have health and mobility concerns that prevent them from attending classes on a daily basis.

An EAL Outreach instructor helps bridge a connection to the local English speaking community, and encourages clients to attend class when the opportunity becomes available. During the period of absence from the classroom, attending these tutoring sessions is an essential tool for students to stay accountable to their progress and feel supported in reaching their goals.

Crystal MacMillan found her passion for teaching when she took on an EAL volunteer tutor role with Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) in 2013. She then went on to complete the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages (CELTA) at the International Language Institute (ILI) that same year. For the next 3.5 years she worked with the Halifax Regional School Board (HRSB) Adult EAL program, where most of her experience has been working with adult literacy students, both in the classroom and in the community doing outreach. She recently finds herself back at ISANS, continuing her career as an EAL Outreach Instructor.