ESL Teaching Guide - United States (schools)

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Christa Grev - June 2004

Teach in Brick, NJ, originally from Germany -more than 40 years ago. I have a group of max. 8 students with varying English knowledge from hardly speaking to speaking rather well and knowing English well, but having horrible pronounciation. All are seniors and all but one are Spanish speaking. It is beautiful to see the real progress they have been making in understanding English and making themselves understood.

The negative side is, that most of them are not very reponsible in showing up, doing their assignments and even bringing their folders -started for them by me- to the lessons.

I am a Literacy Volunteer, and do not get any wages. The students do not pay either - just in gratitude and apparent happiness about this opportunity.

Elizabeth Kurtz - May 2004

What is positive for me as an ESL teacher is that:

-I provide a safe space for my ELL's, especially those that are more shy and insecure about themselves and their new world.
-I teach children throughout the day and initially I met with them as pull-outs. Now I'm finding it harder to pull them out because it is the end of school and everyone is practicing for shows and parties and projects and testing assessments. So I am working more with the children in the classrooms.

What is negative is:

-I go to two other schools (travel) and I wish I could stay at my main, 'home' school.
-ESL doesn't have much of a budget so we don't have many materials.
-Many of the regular ed teachers don't seem to see the need for an ESL teacher.
-I'd like to see more videotapes of teachers modeling ESL techniques.
-I try to connect what I teach to the regular curriculum. Not always easy to meet with teachers or get information from them concerning their weekly lessons.

Female teacher (anon.) - May 2004

I am from NY originally, but I have lived in Nevada since 1994. I graduated in 1999 and I still only have a part time ESL teaching position at Adult Night School for Washoe High School.

The positive aspects of my current teaching job: my students really want to learn what I want to teach them.

The negative aspects: No insurance, no work and no pay during summer months. I have to go on WELFARE in the summer so that I can have medical insurance to see a doctor. They pay $20 American Dollars per hour. Remember this is part time. 4hours is the max. and only 4 days a week.

As for staff support, the classroom is about 10 miles from the office, but we stay in communication by phone and fax. The staff at Washoe High Adult are wonderful and very supportive. The curriculum: we are using the "New Interchange" books and curriculum series. We are allowed to add extra materials to help reinforce the text, tape and video provided by the school. My students are highly motivated.

Mihaela Kuhnle - May 2004

I am originally from Romania, but I've lived and worked in the US as a teacher for over 13 years now. I currently teach ESL in a school district on Eastern Long Island in New York. I service a small number of students ranging K-12 and I absolutely love what I do.

I like the challenges that working with ESL students bring, and I am fortunate to work in a district where I am allowed to explore and implement new ideas, where a rigid curriculum or administrative view is not forced upon me. The kids are great, the planning, mostly individualized, is what's taking up a lot of my time.

Although I get a lot of verbal support from the administration, I struggle with lack of materials, and funds to obtain materials. So, I took it upon myself to get ideas from your site and other ESL related sites, to steal from friends and acquaintances, and rely heavily on what's available on the net. Can't complain, there's more out there then what my computer's memory can handle!

In terms of professional development and staff support, most of it comes from a regional agency linked to the State Education Department, in the form of workshops and seminars. Much emphasis has been placed on implementing the new learning standards for ESL, use of new software and computer technology in our classrooms, and increased content area instruction that goes hand in hand with the overall language development.

Suggested Reading

Real-Resumes for Teachers (Real-Resumes Series)
The World is a Class: How and Why to Teach English Around the World
101 Grade a Resumes for Teachers
So You Want to Be a Professor? : A Handbook for Graduate Students

Nancy - May 2004

I am currently teaching in Hartford Public Schools, Hartford, Connecticut inner city, K-5 where 80% speak a language other than English in the home (Spanish, English, Bosnian predominantly). It is the largest elementary school in the city (>1,100 students) - 100% free lunch due to poverty.

The positive aspects of my current teaching job: wonderful children who are eager to learn. Great ESL team; supportive staff and administration. Autonomy to group students according to ability and needs, and establish team teaching, partnering, coaching when applicable.

Members of mainstream, bilingual, and special education staff volunteered to become part of Instructional Conversations with the team. We meet monthly to share classroom strategies and ways to actively involve ELLs in academics. Good fortune to have my own space for projects and hands-on activities which could disrupt other instruction.

The negative aspects: Number of state mandated assessments is overwhelming and drastically reduces contact time with students. During the current school year the critical shortage in staffing at the school and central office will result in more than 40% loss of services to our children.

We administer LAS (Language Assessment Scales) Fall and Spring, SFA (1on1 Success For All reading assessments 5 times a school year) and assist with the 10 day fall CMT (Connecticut Mastery Test) for the ELLs in mainstream classrooms who receive additional time.

Limited resources for the students. Teacher made materials are still the background of the instruction. ELLs are in 29 classrooms throughout the schools which complicates scheduling.

Sharon Nixon - May 2004

I teach at the UCAN Prep Center in Alhambra, CA. I teach prep classes for students taking the SAT1, SAT2's, ISEE's, PSAT's, etc. When I first subscribed to your newsletter, I was teaching at The English Language Institute in W, Covina, CA. I still use your site frequently because many of my students have recently come to the U.S. from Asia.

I enjoy tutoring because I have flexibility in teaching first to the student and then to the test. I find my Asian students and their families to be very committed to excellence in education.

The negative side of my job involves teaching vocabulary and grammar as well as SAT skills to my ESL students in a limited period. I am always looking for new ideas in this area.

As far as other details, I make $20 an hour, which includes time spent in preparation and follow-up as well as the tutoring itself. The job is part-time and I average 18 - 25 hours per week. I am dissatisfied with both the pay and the fact that no benefits whatsoever are provided. No mileage either, although I often travel 30 miles round-trip per tutoring session.

Susie Le Canu - May 2004

I am currently teaching in Texas. The positive aspects are that I am teaching adults who want to learn. I have a good support system from my employers (training, supplies, books). I have a certain amount of freedom to create my own lessons. God bless the Internet, shareware, and freeware.

The negative aspects are too little time, I'd like to have my students more than two days a week. I sometimes feel that I'm teaching to a parade. I have a lot of paperwork and reports. I don't always have an oral tester and I can't test during class. I have all levels of students in the same class.

Trudy Richardson - May 2004

Where you are from: Michigan, USA

Where you are currently teaching: Child Care Center-birth thru 13years-many from foreign counties with limited English skills.

The positive aspects of your current teaching job: Visually seeing the accomplishments of young children and their excitement

The negative aspects: low Wages, Parents who don't want to pay, Staff who only want to work when they have nothing better to do.

Monica Wiesmann-Hirchert - May 2004

I am the curriculum coordinator and ESOL instructor at the Intensive English Program (IEP) at Brevard Community College in Florida, USA

I have a wonderful teaching staff that is very committed to the students and program despite of the fact that they are part-time. Our teaching staff may work up to 34+ hours a week, for they are also assigned office hours depending on the number of classes taught. An instructor teaching a full load (23 hours a week = 5 classes) will also have 11.5+ hours of office time a week, which will lead to the 34+. We do believe in the importance of international education for global understanding; therefore, we truly enjoy the contact with the students. Moreover, being the curriculum coordinator, I have the flexibility to make changes if needed. The instructional staff works closely to develop and revise curricula.

Due to the fact that we cater mainly to I-20 / F-1 (student visas) students, our program has suffered tremendously with the new immigration policies and requirements. Many students choose to travel to Australia, New Zealand, UK, & Canada instead of coming to the United States. We certainly understand why but are trying to do what we can to advocate for better policies. We are also working on diversifying the courses we offer in order to reach the immigrant population in the area, which is actually a good thing! However, we need to create new courses and develop curricula, for the needs of immigrant students may vary greatly from those of internationals. We have a lot of work ahead of us!

Puerto Rico

Linda Ann Marrero-Torres - May 2004

Though I was born here in Puerto Rico, I was brought up in New Jersey. I returned to Puerto Rico in 1970 and have been here ever since. I am currently teaching English as a Second Language at Lucy Grillasca Community School to 4th and 5th graders. My monthly salary is $2005.00 and my work day is from 8:00 am till 3:00 pm.

I feel that the positive aspects of my job are that I love and enjoy teaching and really get a thrill when I see that look of the student actually "getting it." Unfortunately the curriculum could be a bit more pertinent to the student. Most of the texts we use are state oriented and students often find it hard to identify with the stories.

Also the Department of Education seems to have put English on hold for awhile, although they won't admit it. There are little or no proposals for the development of English programs and workshops are few, very few and for only the top schools. I work in a low income area and we seem to have been forgotten, especially this past year. I have suggested to my director , supervisor and even the Secretary of Education that it is time to find a more innovative approach towards ESL in Public Schools. - First Stop for Your Second Language Needs
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