Marguerite McKeown, from TAFE NSW – Western Sydney Institute, Mt Druitt College is on teacher exchange for a year in Edmonton Canada. She’ll be awaiting your replies on the Blog site!!
What to say about Edmonton? You know they had to get rid of all their roundabouts because there were tremendous traffic jams as everyone just kept giving way to everyone else and no-one would go first? This may be an apocryphal tale but I haven't seen any roundabouts and the drivers are SO courteous that I am inclined to believe it. In fact everyone is so friendly that when I smiled at a complete stranger today and she didn't respond, I felt quite upset!
My college, Norquest is a large Federal Government funded entity which means all the main informatiion and signs must be in both English and French. However when you are greeted with a ‘Good morning, bonjour’ and respond ‘Good morning’ then the conversation will switch to English as French is not common in Alberta.
The main college has all sorts of courses and runs to 16 floors ‘downtown’ but I am based in a former high school about 10 minutes drive away in a suburb called Westmount - notice the connection with Mount Druitt there right away?
So here we have both LINC and intensive English classes - the former is an on arrival course which lasts 10 weeks and there are five levels so some people never leave LINC and some never finish it. The students themselves are very similar in makeup to the students I have in Australia - lots of Sudanese, Iraqis, Chinese, Vietnamese but lots more eastern Europeans, especially Ukranian. However because Edmonton is small and the government has a policy of providing housing in limited numbers in any one area, the socio-economic mix is greater than you would see in Sydney. Consequently although there are a number of non-literate and pre-literate students there are also a large number of BAs, MAs and I have 2 PhDs in my class at present.
As we have the whole ‘school’ we have a dedicated library, two computer labs, a canteen run by two Iranian ex-students and the students have the ‘hall’ as a student centre set up with a couple of table tennis tables which seem to be on the go from about 8am until the library closes at 4pm.
The Albertan government is very generous to migrants and refugees and allows them up to two years free study with a living allowance. So those who finish LINC might go on to Intensive English, which are 20 week courses. Students can graduate and then take mainstream training which is provided at the downtown campus although some just do the English courses. This week saw the start of our ‘winter/spring term’ which will end in June. The students attend five days a week, five hours a day from 8.45 - 2.30 in the afternoon.
The newly elected Prime Minister is also very generous and kept his pre election promise to give all 900,000 residents of Alberta a $400 ‘surplus’ cheque from revenue raised from the oil and gas sales and apparently the nearby Alaskans get a yearly ‘bonus’ cheque – well in countries with voluntary voting I guess that's one way to ensure you get elected.
On the social side of things my boss's husband invited the whole family to go skiing in Jasper on our first weekend here which of course we did. We had a Teachers Exchange Club Australia Day Party hosted by Dame Edna Everidge at ‘her’ house, we are going to a ‘round’ dance next weekend at an Aboriginal reservation in Lac La Biche and the first weekend in March brings a dog sledding/snow shoeing weekend in Canmore – but I will try hard to think of you all sweltering in that 40+ heat and desperately trying to change lanes in Sydney traffic – promise!
Lots of love Marguerite xxxxxxxxxxxx
The Working Holiday of a Lifetime, SNAPSHOT | eZine November 2005