28 Feb 2019

Lizzie's Wednesday

Imagine, having to learn about photosynthesis in French or about earthquakes in Urdu. That’s the challenge that faces 70% of pupils on a Wednesday morning as I head in to support them as part of my year with XLP.

Newham is one of the most diverse areas of the UK, with only 46% of the population being born here. In Newham schools around 70% of pupils have English as their second language, with 103 different languages spoken in total. How can we expect our non-English speaking young people to achieve the same level as those around them when many don't even know how to express themselves?

It’s into this context that my Wednesday begins with time in a school where I have the privilege of working with EAL (English as an additional language) students and other mentees. As a linguist myself I find it so amazing that these children sit in lessons trying to learn all about topics from earthquakes to photosynthesis, yet they need to translate those words before they can even begin to understand what is going on.

We take for granted our ability to live in an English culture, surrounded by people who speak the same language as us. In my sessions with the EAL students we work on basic English skills, using games like taboo and pictionary, and a lot of google translate! We also use flashcards (SAFMEDS), produced by XLP to help build literacy and numeracy skills, which join together the national curriculum and self-competition in order to create an effective resource.

At the school I also work with one girl who was put forward for mentoring; a challenging, but rewarding opportunity to build great relationship. Since our first session I can see how she has come out of her shell, from not really wanting to chat, to happily opening up to me about any issues she is facing, which is really great. And I am only halfway through my time there!

My Wednesday moves swiftly on with a bus project, which takes place on an estate in Beckton. Bus projects were one of the things I was most apprehensive of before joining the Experience year. Yet after almost four months of doing them, I've come to really enjoy them. Playing games and discussing important topics such as youth violence and alcohol, are just some of the activities that make up the sessions. Being there, week in, week out, is such a great way to build relationships with the young people who attend the project, showing them that there are people out there who really care.

I really love Wednesdays. But everyday of every week I am here gives me great opportunities to grow and to speak into young people's lives - working together to create positive futures one step at a time.

Want to know more about spending a year serving the young people of London with XLP?
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