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What I Do

Monique Scrubb, adult education teacher

New York Teacher
Monique Scrubb
Jonathan Fickies

Monique Scrubb teaches professional and conversational English to adult students as an English as a second language teacher at the DOE’s Brooklyn Adult Learning Center.

What do you teach?

I teach intermediate English as a second language to adults, so my students have some English before they come to my class. A lot of my students hold degrees from their countries. They want to learn how to hold a conversation in English and improve their English for the job interview process.

What courses does the DOE offer to adults?

They offer basic education for students to gain their high school equivalency, career and technical education including medical programs and technology, and English as a second language. For our adult students who may not be able to afford an ESL class, having free classes within the DOE really is a great help to improve their lives. Our students are grateful. They come back after they graduate and tell us, “Thank you. In this building, I received a second chance.”

What’s your favorite activity to do with your students?

I love the field trips we go on. We’ve gone to Times Square and the Brooklyn Museum and taken a simple ride on the Staten Island Ferry. We went to the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza to see the JAY-Z exhibit and get library cards for all my students. On these field trips, they practice speaking English to each other, to me and to strangers. All these things enrich their American experience.

What do you love about adult education?

I love the stories of my students. I love to hear their experiences of coming from their homeland and settling in America. I love to hear why America means so much to them. I have students tell me, “When I first got here, I was nervous, but now I’m confident when I talk to another person.” I had one student from Venezuela say to me, “You know, I had a complaint in my building and I wrote a letter to my landlord like we did in class and I got a response, and they’re going to fix it.”

Another student from Yemen had three children, all of them with graduate school degrees. And she said, “My kids are happy, and now I can come to school.” When she wrote in her notebook, her eyes would light up. And then she’d show me pictures of her kids. And I’d say, “Yes, you sacrificed a lot, and now it’s your turn to learn.”

What’s a typical class size for you?

About 17 to 20 students, and there can be 15 or 16 countries represented in my room.

How has adult ESL changed since the wave of newcomers in the past year?

We have a lot of asylum-seeking students. Enrollment has increased. We have more students coming every day hungry to learn. And my team and I, we just come in every day with the mindset that these are our students who we are going to serve to the best of our ability. I know there’s a lot of negative talk, but when you come into my room, I’m going to teach you.

How is teaching adults different from teaching children?

Children behave like children and sometimes you have to correct their behavior. Adults are focused. The motivation is different — they’re coming in with the intention to learn English, acquire skills to get a job and help their families. With children, you guide your students and lead them into discovery. With adults, they can say what they want to achieve in your classroom.

What do you want New Yorkers to know about adult education?

That it’s a program worth fighting for. It’s a program that works. It serves our adult population, and it’s a huge benefit. The sky is the limit for us.

— As told to Hannah Brown