Volunteer Stories

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We gave a group of our dedicated volunteers some questions about their experiences volunteering with us. Here are some of their responses.

Why did you choose to volunteer with Glasgow ESOL Forum?

“I chose to volunteer with Glasgow ESOL Forum for two reasons. My main reason for volunteering was to be part of an organisation that helped welcome people to the city. The staff and volunteers always make everyone feel very welcome as they build good relationships with the learners and with each other. Everyone is very encouraging. The other reason that I chose Glasgow ESOL Forum was that I knew I would be supported as a new teacher. They had the resources to support me as I developed new skills. The ability to go to the library and choose a course book, or a specific activity was helpful, particularly at first. As well as giving me access to a range of resources, it also helped give me confidence. Now there are online resources too. The availability of additional training courses to help me improve my skills was another benefit. Being able to share ideas and concerns with other tutors has been reassuring and encouraging too.Seven years on, I still really appreciate the availability of additional training and resources and the supportive relationships between the volunteers and with the development workers within the organisation.”

~ Ailsa, Volunteer Tutor

“I taught English as a Foreign Language in Germany for 26 years, but returned to my homeland of Scotland in November 2016 when my elderly father needed care. My qualifications and experience would have got me an interview with a private language school in Glasgow, but I realised I wanted to work with those facing particular challenges and hardships. I had volunteered on homeless projects in Frankfurt and had witnessed the stream of migrants from Africa and the Middle East passing though trying to escape war and poverty, but was limited in what I could do. Now back in Scotland, I had a chance to welcome and help those arriving here. I googled “teaching English to immigrants in Glasgow” and up came the website for Glasgow ESOL Forum (GESOLF). The organisation sounded well-organised and friendly and I was pleased to see that I could start as a volunteer. I never expected to walk into an ESOL job as an “unknown quantity” and volunteering was a chance to test my aptitude and vocation for this different kind of teaching. It was also an opportunity to build confidence, meet and learn from other teachers and get free access to training and materials. Of course, I hoped that the training, work experience and contacts would in time help me get paid work, and indeed they did.”

~ Eileen, Volunteer Tutor

What motivates you to work with ESOL learners?

“I really enjoy hearing about learners ambitions and goals in life, of any shape or size. English is an important tool to allow them to do the things they want to in life. As a volunteer tutor, being able to contribute towards them moving their lives forward is a privilege.

I would like learners to be able to have the fullest, richest experience of the place they are living. Helping them to feel more confident about their English is an important part of that.

Having spent time in other countries while trying to learn the language, I also empathise with learners who are doing a really difficult thing! Learners often talk about feeling like they have their ‘two personalities,’ depending on whether they are speaking a native language or a language they are trying to learn. I can relate to this! Being able to tell a funny story, make a joke or take part in a group conversation helps us to express our personalities and feel part of our communities. If learners can talk about what’s important to them, then they can feel more like themselves. “

~ Ellie, Volunteer Tutor

How does volunteering benefit you?

“Teaching is never a one-way experience. Meeting such interesting people with diverse life experiences enriches my outlook on life. I feel I learn as much as the students do from what they contribute to the classroom. I want them to feel empowered to contribute all that they have to offer to wider society. Intercultural communication builds better communities, and makes us better people. English classes feel like a snapshot of this in action. Every student is unique. I’m constantly improving my teaching through working with different learners, and challenging myself to be the best teacher for each learner I work with. It’s also just a lot of fun, and I find we laugh a lot in lessons "

~ Ellie, Volunteer Tutor

“Volunteering with Glasgow ESOL has been such an amazing experience. I met a lovely group of learners, they are all so motivated to learn and happy to be in the classroom. The support workers and other volunteers are a truly fantastic group of people. They shared lots of teaching ideas, gave help when needed and are always encouraging and friendly. Everyone has the same aim - to learn or support learning. Volunteer teaching has not just given me the chance to help people, I have met a wonderful extended English language learning/teaching family.”

~ Kat, Volunteer Tutor

What does GESOLF do to support you?

“Volunteering with GESOLF never feels like you are an ‘add on.’ You feel like a part of the team. My link project worker is always available, so the dialogue about the class and the leaners is frequent and always remains current. They always know how things are going, which is so important. I bring any questions or issues I have, and know they will be taken forward. The CPD sessions are also extremely interesting and useful. You can take what you learn there straight back into the classroom. The sense I have is that GESOLF cares about developing you as a teacher, and making sure you are looked after. It’s volunteering that builds you up.”

~ Ellie, Volunteer Tutor

“Having volunteered in many contexts, I can say that Glasgow ESOL Forum (GESOLF) is the most supportive body I have ever volunteered for, no doubt because they put such care and thought into developing principles and procedures for working with their volunteer teachers.

The most important source of help for me is the supervisor who works with me for each course to talk through the needs of the class, the kind of materials which might be appropriate and, as the course goes on, to discuss any concerns.

Before my first volunteer teaching assignment, I took part in a valuable group induction session. I was pleasantly surprised when we were advised not to try to be social workers, housing officers, mental health nurses, etc. We were advised to pass on any issues like this to our supervisors to allow us to concentrate on being teachers.

GESOLF regularly runs excellent free training sessions for its teachers. These are practical and relevant and I always go away with interesting thoughts and ideas. I personally appreciate the care taken to structure these sessions and make good use of time.

There is a physical library of materials at the offices in Georges St Studios, and there are also online resources available to teachers. If I have trouble finding something, the supervisors are happy to help. It is also helpful that ESOL Staff pass on information about local ESOL job vacancies and will provide references for teachers who have successfully volunteered for them.

~ Eileen, Volunteer Tutor

What's it like teaching in a community class?

“Volunteering in a community class can be noisy, chaotic and challenging, but it is also rewarding and fun. There are several groups in each venue so it can be difficult to hear everyone in your group, but it also makes it lively and vibrant. You never know how many will turn up each time. They could be from anywhere in the world and been living in Glasgow for months or for years. One week you have two people in class, the next you have eight. However, it does mean that everyone there wants to be there and generally they are very motivated to learn.

It can be challenging because you need to be flexible. You may have prepared an activity, say a game, which works with four or more, but you only have two learners. Then you either adapt the activity or swap it there and then for something different.

As we don't have to follow a syllabus, you can respond to your learners needs by designing classes on topics or themes they relate to.

It's always very encouraging to see your learners grow in confidence and improve and learners are often very appreciative of your efforts as a teacher.”

~ Ailsa, Volunteer Tutor


Red Tree Business Suites
33 Dalmarnock Rd
G40 4LA

ESOL in the Community Project:

Jaclynne Smith
Development Worker

Volunteer Tutor Project:

Fergus Andrew
Senior Development Worker

Dinushriya Spybey
Development Worker

Vikki Rowland
Development Worker

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