Learner to Employee

By Wafaa 

Had I not been there that day, I surely would not be here now. I was told that there may be a place or two still available on the Introduction to Teaching Assistant course. 

I was happy to join this class, especially as I had never studied English in the UK. I had studied English in Morocco for three years; two hours a week in an overcrowded class. 

My youngest son was four years old, and I jumped at this opportunity to study. I was advised on the day I had my initial assessment that I should start at Entry 3. 

The thrill of being back in the classroom was overwhelming, and my tutor was amazing. Claire was an excellent, natural teacher, and being in her class was a delightful experience. Then I joined Mary`s class, and words are not adequate to describe Mary. In short, Mary`s kindness and passion for teaching were something worth being taught to experience. 

I could not stop learning, and the more I learned the more I realised how little I knew English.  Having Sakinah as a teacher was different again. She had high expectations of every learner, and she gave homework generously if you asked for it. I regretted this later, because I took my homework seriously, and I missed a friend`s wedding to finish my tasks, only for Sakinah to tell me that she would not have minded if I had given it in late.  Then Joe the Learning Manager at that time asked me to volunteer as TA to help Fatiha with her Beginners class. I was and still am grateful to Westway. What I received from Westway was a gift of knowledge that would last, and I was gaining experience while helping learners. Fatiha is a patient and passionate teacher. 

There was a deep sadness among all teaching staff, volunteers and learners when Joe left. I cried and I am certain others did. 

The next September I started Level 2 at KCC, and I had to study more hours and I had to work harder. On my initial assessment I made it from E3 to Level 2, all credit to Sakinah for pushing me into doing my best. She was so pleased as she was the first person to know and I went to Westway especially to tell her.

Looking through a filing cabinet

Sakinah asked me to volunteer as TA. I could not say ‘no’ even though I was planning to stop volunteering as I had a heavy study load, but saying ‘no’ to my teacher would have made me lose my self-respect.  I was juggling studying and volunteering, but this was my payback time to Westway.  I had one favour to ask Sakinah at the end of that year, since I was doing an ICT course at that time; I asked her if I could volunteer at the learning office. It never even crossed my mind that I might get a job at Westway. But soon there was an opportunity to work for one day helping Gigi, so I was working one day and volunteering another. I was blessed to work with Gigi, she is smart, kind and pleasure work with. When she moved, I was sad not to see her by my side, though pleased for her to get a job she deserved and that I was still able to see her at Westway.  I then had to rise to the challenge of covering for Gigi.

Being able to work at Westway helping immigrants to learn English so they can work or get better jobs is rewarding, despite the sadness that I feel when talking to our learners and listening to some of their setbacks in life.