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Wayland ESL Program Potluck Dinner a Rousing Success

About thirty tutors and learners of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) enjoyed a bounteous potluck dinner at First Parish Church in Wayland on Nov 14, 2019, with a wide variety of foods representing cultures from all around the world.

It was a super-successful event!  Everyone seemed to enjoy everything about it.  The space was great, already with tables set up, so some early arrivers pitched in to set up chairs.  With tablecloths provided by a member of the steering committee, we quickly made all the tables ready and attractive. One of the church tables was too heavy for us to move out of the middle, so we put a red tablecloth on it and used it for desserts.  An extra table at one side held drinks, cold and hot.  A small table at the other side was just right for nametags.  Virginia Steel (Ginny), director of the Wayland ESL Program, put welcoming signs on the two doors that led from the parking areas.

People arrived promptly and brought food galore.  We were blessed with an abundance of brownies and pies, reflecting no doubt people’s favorite desserts. We also had a tremendous variety of main course dishes, hors d’oeuvres and salads.

Mostly learners sat with their tutors, finding comfort in the familiar, but conversations ran up and down the tables.  Ginny had prepared a few questions for people to answer on index cards at each table to help break the ice and prompt significant exchanges.

One learner, who had come prepared to speak, thanked her tutor for her tutoring and for hosting a biweekly reading/conversation group. This learner also expressed appreciation for the program as a whole, citing our responsiveness when she first applied for a tutor.  After that, one by one, many of the other tutors and, eventually, almost every one of the learners, spoke, regardless of their ability to articulate their thoughts in English.  Several mentioned their surprise and pleasure in discovering that the tutors are “just ordinary people” who are volunteers (not on any government payroll).  We can be proud of our uniquely American habit of volunteering.  Tutors who spoke all told of learning as much as they are teaching.

One particularly touching moment was when a learner from Israel told how transformative it has been to have a tutor who comes from Lebanon.  She said that previously she, like other Lebanese, had viewed Israel “through a firewall.”

Ginny spoke briefly to thank all for coming and to recommend for all the book A Good Provider is One Who Leaves by Jason deParle, and for tutors, the book Learning One-to-One by Ingrid Wisniewska.

Many hands made light work in clearing tables, putting away tables and chairs, washing dishes, removing trash, leaving everything in order.  When Ginny asked if we should plan on having another event like this, the response was an enthusiastic YES!

We are so happy to have brought so many tutors and learners together and will certainly host other such events. Thanks to all who planned and attended the event and to all who brought supplies and foods, including First Parish Church for providing a welcoming space.

Submitted by: Elizabeth Levy, Jane Albert, Virginia Steel
co-directors, Wayland ESL program

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