Teaching English All About Creating Connections

May 13, 2019

Teaching English All About Creating Connections

Jon Bradnam will never forget his crash course in anti-magnetism.

The English as a Second Language (ESL) Itinerant Teacher spent hours reading up on the topic so he would be able to talk about it with Josh, a Grade 4 student new to the DSBN from Korea.

Although young, Josh had a long burning desire in the subject.

Josh wanted to unlock the secrets of anti-magnetism so he could open his own black hole.

So he could travel through time.

It’s all in a day’s work for Jon, who’s responsible for meeting the specialized, individual needs of students with a wide variety of language backgrounds.

He works directly with students and also collaborates with classroom teachers to assist in programming for those students.

As an itinerant, Jon travels between a grouping of schools to work with a variety of students learning English.

As in Josh’s case, Jon feels it’s important to make connections with students on a personal level to engage them in their learning.

“Some of our students have pretty complex stories,” said Bradnam.

“Having a full understanding of kids, where they’re coming from and what their needs and strengths are, all that helps us to meet their needs,” said Bradnam.

At times, those stories are much more emotional than working out the dynamics of time travel.

“Sometimes, kids come to our schools with a lot of trauma,” said Bradnam.

For instance, Bradnam recalls one student in particular who was born at a refugee camp in Thailand.

His family is Rohingya Muslim and had fled their home in Myanmar (Burma).

“For nearly five months, he hardly said a word.”

Before the learning could begin in earnest, it was important to earn the student’s trust.

That meant one-on-one instruction and work in small groups to help him feel comfortable in his class and increase his confidence.

“Once he felt that sense of belonging, it was amazing to watch the learning start to snowball,” said Bradnam.

Classroom teachers appreciate this caring approach as well.

“Although he’s in an itinerant role, Jon knows every single student’s name and actively participates in school life,” said one teacher.

“He has excellent intuition and knows when students are having a bad day and always does something to help make it better.”

The DSBN is proud to welcome nearly 300 newcomer students a year through the Board’s Welcome Centre.

Available by appointment, the Welcome Centre helps students access the proper supports to ensure their success in their new school.

To make an appointment with the Welcome Centre, please click here.