When I was in Grade 7, my 2nd year in a new school, I was suddenly pulled out of English class and made to do an ESL (English as a Second Language) evaluation for "kids who recently moved to Canada." I was born and raised in Canada. I had never, ever done an ESL test in my life. I was even in enriched Language Arts programs at my old school, and I had no interaction with ESL in Grade 6, which was my first year at that school (and which would have made more sense to make the mistake then).

I told the teachers I was born in Canada, but they said "not according to the info we have!" and made me do the test anyway. So I missed that English class, which was sad because we were writing short stories and I LOVED writing stories (I still do, I'm a writer now).

I told my mom and she called the school to sort it out. I thought it was done and dusted, but the next English class I got pulled out AGAIN and missed yet another fun short story writing class.

We had to write an essay so the ESL teacher could diagnose our ESL ability and when she read mine she was like "...you are DEFINITELY not ESL..." So, after 2 tries, I finally got excused from ESL.

I thought it was funny at the time, but my mother was furious. She said it was racism, plain and simple. Looking back, I can understand her rage. My mother has an English degree. She was a high school literature teacher in Hong Kong and an ESL teacher when we lived in Toronto. Her English skills are stronger than the vast majority of English native speakers I've met.

Thank you for sharing your story. For what it's worth, in my books, you are part of the Asian community because, like me, you do not enjoy white privilege. Our struggles overlap. You have a right to be angry. (I am too.) And from what I see here, it seems like you are an incredible teacher...better than the ones that mistook us for ESL!



(She/They) Author on unceded Coast Salish territories (Vancouver, Canada). At work on first novel. Get links to read my stuff for free: https://bit.ly/2MleRqJ

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.