[Vancouver School Board] Newcomers Share Their Stories!


The Vancouver School Board’s resources for newcomers and international students learning English have led to remarkable improvements in students’ lives, and not just in terms of understanding English. For some of the students below, they were better able to make friends have joined sports, team or joined other clubs. All struggled a bit in the beginning, but with effort and the help of school resources such as ELL classes, libraries and homework clubs, these students have blossomed and are role models for others.

Shaheema – Grade 6

Shaheema is a grade 6 student who adjusted remarkably to life in Canada, and whose English skills have blossomed since arriving. At first, she was quite nervous about speaking up and practicing English, and largely avoided talking. Instead, she did her best to express herself through body language.

Eventually, she was in a smaller ESL class. This was a great option for Saheema! Here, the instructor often read books and asked questions about them to her students. This was great for Shaheema’s learning, she was better able to understand the vocabulary presented in the literature. Another bonus, she made more friends since they were all in the same boat as her, trying to learn English together.

Shaheema’s advice to other ESL students in Canada is to read books even if you don’t understand them, and to speak English at home as much as you can. These two tips worked well for her, and are likely to work well for you!

Henry – Grade 11

Henry is a grade 11 student here in Vancouver. In his first few months, everything felt rather new and difficult for him. Ordering a pair of gym shorts from his PE teacher was difficult since he hadn’t yet learned English. A bad feeling was sinking in that he wasn’t as good as others who could speak English fluently.

One realization helped him to turn things around. Understanding that English is not just for advancing in courses, but is also a skill that allows you to express yourself was something that encouraged him. So, he went out and tried everything he could and expressed himself – this gave him the opportunity to meet people in an astronomy club, and start playing rugby. Getting involved in these activities helped his English, which meant he could express himself well. He feels free to try things and talk as he wishes now, a significant improvement from the feelings at the beginning.

Victor – Grade 8

Victor is a grade 8 student studying in Vancouver, who at first was relatively confused about English, and his timetable. Finding new classes can be a challenge, and it is made worse by being unsure about how to ask others.

In his first two terms, he didn’t do much after school. However, this changed in term 3 – where he went to badminton or the library after school. At the library, he would read books and try to learn new words. He often researched any new words that came up either online or in a dictionary.

This experience guided his new mantra – if you set your mind to it, you can do it. After all, how can you win if you give up?

Samaya – Grade 11

Samaya is a grade 11 student, also studying here in Vancouver. When she first came here, she was in a state of worry about her parent’s jobs and paperwork. However, she was also worried about her own schoolwork, this made it hard for her to decide what to focus her energy on. In addition, learning English made her feel shy and nervous, she didn’t want to mispronounce words or get the grammar wrong.

This is all turned around the day a native speaker told her that they too didn’t understand all the words. Samaya no longer felt as alone after hearing that. She also began attending the homework club, where she could ask all her questions about books, grammar, pronunciation and more. These resources dramatically improved her learning experience. She is happy to be in Vancouver School Board’s ELL classes and not regular classes because the learning environment suits her much better.

All 4 students above have improved upon their English dramatically through their own effort, and the help of the Vancouver School Board’s outstanding resources. The students went from barely speaking to fluent English speakers with after school hobbies. You can too, try your best and make sure to use the help available to you.

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