English for all: US educational programs alumni teach English in an orphanage in Astana

More than a month has passed since the beginning of our English classes in one of the children’s homes in Astana. All week I look forward to the weekend to start preparing for the lesson again: to outline my lesson plan, to grade homework, to find various games and assignments, so that lessons would be most interesting and productive. Sometimes I get upset when in the classroom, my young students need a lot more time than I expected to understand the seemingly “easy” topic or remember the translation of some basic words well. The most important thing in such cases is not to lose persistence and not show the children signs of frustration or surprise, because there is no better feeling for a teacher when after the 3rd, 4th, 5th time of repeating rules and drawing examples, students suddenly exclaim, full of enthusiasm, “Yeah, this is easy! “,” I could never understand it before”,” I’ll certainly get an A on the test now!”. At the end of a lesson, students often ask: “And when will we watch movies in English?” I always answer, “Soon”, sincerely hoping for this, but at the same time understanding how much effort both of us, the tutor and the students, have yet to make to be able to achieve such goals.

Understanding that such classes are really necessary and useful for these children comes with time, when students start to share their feelings about and reflect on their progress by saying, “I did not even know the right order of numbers in English before these English lessons” and “I had no idea how to spell my own name right, not mentioning how to say something about myself”. Now that they have special English tutorials with our project, it all depends on us, the volunteers- to show them that practically anything is possible to learn.

So far, our project has involved a wonderful team of 10 young and enthusiastic volunteers, all of whom are from different cities across Kazakhstan: Aktau, Pavlodar, Aktobe, Karaganda, Uralsk, Almaty, and Astana. We have different interests, specialties and experiences, but there is something that I am certain we all share. That is an aspiration to provide all children of our country equal learning opportunities, particularly in English, and to raise a sense of independence in each and every one of them. This will allow them to nourish their own ideas about dreams, goals, degrees and careers and will probably set them out on a path to pursue them. Another important result that we hope to derive from our initiative is to inspire change in these children’s perceptions the role of education for individuals, living in today’s diverse and globalizing world. That is why we named our project ENG or Education for New Generation.