The struggles and the victories of an ESL student

By Aadita Saxena (Senior)

Imagine yourself coming to a new country with a different language, culture, and society with no plans to go back to your own country. Sound scary? Unfortunately, this is what many kids go through in the world. Shifting their life from one place to another and having to adapt to new society. The transition is even more difficult when schooling comes into play. Apart from adjusting in a new country, many kids have to adjust to a new school and more importantly learn a new language, without which they cannot interact.

At Senn High school, English as a Second Language (ESL) students encounter various struggles

Ms Schmeidl poses with her 7th period ESL class. (Photo credit : Aadita Saxena)

ranging from shifting homes to learning a new language.

Senn is a very diverse school with students from 55 countries. There are currently 35 languages spoken at Senn. Since there is a need to have a common language for communication which is English, Senn has The TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) / Multilingual Department which provides instruction and support services to students who transfer from other countries and don’t have a very good background in English language.

Ms. Erin Schmeidl is one of the three ESL teachers at Senn. As a teacher who needs to interact with students who speak another language, even she faces some struggles. “I have students who have different levels of education, some students have top-notch education, some don’t have much education for various reasons,” said Schmeidl.

The ESL department uses a technique called “Sheltered English,” which means that the students study the same content as others, but at the same time, the content is broken down to make it easier for them to learn the subject as well as the language.

This, makes it more difficult for the students as they not only have to focus on the subject, but they have to learn it in a new language which might be confusing. “I’ve never learned science, which makes it even more difficult for me,” Nida Mumtaz, a freshman 1st level student from Pakistan said.

Apart from the tension of shifting from one country to another, ESL students have to take on the burden of adjusting to a new culture and society as well as keeping up with their studies and learning a new language, which is their only medium of communication with their peers.

“I didn’t feel comfortable over here at first. The culture is different, but now I am starting to like it. The people over here help me a lot,” Mumtaz said.

Although it may seem that ESL students might have trouble interacting with one another, being students they are usually curious about each other. Schmeidl doesn’t face many problem interacting with her students. “If I just show respect and openness to the kids in the class, they show openness and respect to each other,” said Schmeidl.

Schmeidl has to interact with students who speak different languages, however, she takes this job as a learning opportunity for herself. “I get to meet kids from all these different cultures and I learn something new every year.”

Students have benefitted a lot from this program. Senior Mohaimmin Al Hassan took ESL classes for one and half year. He was taught basic grammar and sentence structure which helped him in his other classes. “Those classes taught me a new language and helped me in other classes such as math, science,” said Hassan.

“It has been a good learning experience,” said Hassan.

The ESL department seems like the backbone of the whole school/education system. Without the support from teachers teaching the language, the students will not do well in their other classes. It is a very beneficial department helping students find successful in their lives.

4 thoughts on “The struggles and the victories of an ESL student

  1. English as Third language (ETL). learning English was hell for me, translate English to another language then to my mother tongue.
    It’s still tough for me. 70% of my understanding comes from watching movies, So I would motivate people to look over some English content.


  2. I know how this feels like is probably not the same as for what i went through but is definitely a huge struggle. other than that I’m proud of people that come here and adapt to the life style and learn the language just like you guys.


  3. I would have love it if the author would have provided that how many people join the program each year. Overall this article is very relatable which makes this article even better to read


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