ESL Redefined at George Brown

Extra Special Learning space opens on King Street in Toronto

Before George Brown College moved their ESL department to their new location, on the 3rd and 4th floors at 341 King St. E. in Toronto, there were stories of students getting lost between classrooms on the Casa Loma campus because the ever-growing demand for ESL classes had forced the department to spread out across two buildings.

Rather than organizing search parties to look for students who couldn’t find their classrooms, the Assistant Vice President, International and Immigrant Education at George Brown, Lorraine Trotter, successfully campaigned for new ESL headquarters. When I visited the newly-opened facilities last week, it struck me that now the parents and roommates of ESL students may be the ones sending out search parties – the classrooms are so comfortable and inviting that the students may never want to go home.

George Brown has always been a leader in providing ESL services to the ever-growing newcomer population, with a great international reputation for language training. Their new facilities really bolster their claim to leadership. The size of the ESL campus has increased by 40% and the capacity by 30%, so those of you who have have been on waitlists can now get in! And as soon as you this new ESL department, you’ll be glad you signed up early, because it won’t be long before these classrooms fill up.

In the classrooms, teachers no longer use blackboards. Now they use SMART Boards. What is a SMART Board, you ask? Imagine a computer tablet like an IPad or a Playbook. Now, imagine that it's the size of a small movie screen – and mounted on the wall at the front of the classroom – with another one on a side wall that can either show the same information as the front board, or completely different information. It didn't matter whether I spoke to teachers or admin staff or graduate students, they were all clearly proud of their new space and eager to volunteer facts – like how the SMART Boards were even sourced from a Canadian company.

And all of the classrooms – now on the same floor of the same building – are just like it. The chairs have been designed for student comfort, keeping in mind that you’ll be sitting all day. The tables are adjustable. I've never seen such interactive, livable education facilities. Even the halls, lounges, and other common spaces are filled with comfortable, inviting furnishings and features.

The workstations in the computer labs are partially soundproofed, so students can practice pronunciation without disturbing their neighbours. The library features a wall of Macintosh computers as well as books. There are state of the art conference rooms, and staff offices that make it easy for teachers to meet with students and with each other. All in all, it kind of made me wish I could go back to school!

For more information – and to find out how you can register – visit their website at http://www.georgebrown.ca/esl/esl.aspx.

Oh, and no matter how much you like the new George Brown ESL space, you probably will have to go home sometimes. Even though the security guards I met seem like really nice people, I bet they'd object if you wanted to stay the night - although they'd probably share their knowledge about local transit routes or help find you a hotel room.