Be leaders, not just followers

"Azra is the best teacher. She has helped me to understand and speak English. She really deserves an award for her excellent teaching." This is just one of the accolades that Azra received from her students, parents at Anderton Park Primary School in Balsall Heath Birmingham. Many of her students had never studied before and gain a valuable sense of pride in their achievements.

The difference in my students is incredible. Many lacked simple life skills, such as booking an appointment or even taking their children to the park. Communication is so empowering.

I had worked for 25 years as a full-time teacher in a local college before joining up with the WEA. My supervisor recognised that I would be good at teaching ESOL classes to local women, such as the mums of nearby Anderton Park Primary School. Many of them were young ladies who had recently come over from Pakistan, while others had lived here for many, many years, but never had the opportunity to become part of wider society. 

Getting them into class in the first place was the hardest challenge. I had to win the trust of their husbands. I stood outside the school gates and accosted them at school drop-off and pick up. I have one of those baby faces that talk people round! 

At the start of each class, I’d give the students breathing exercises, just to relieve the stress of home life. They might have had a cross word from their husbands or mother-in-law at breakfast, so this is a chance to unwind. Or we might play a game to get them in the mood. My rule is that you close the door on life when you come into the classroom and open the door to learning. Word spread fast and our numbers grew.  

The difference in my students is incredible. Many lacked simple life skills, such as booking an appointment or even taking their children to the park. They now organise coffee mornings and fundraisers for the school and breast cancer. Communication is so empowering.  

Some have joined the gym and taken up fitness classes. They went shopping for the first time. We go to the library. None of this would have happened without these courses. We’re teaching driving theory too. The ladies are able to spread their wings.  

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