So here I am, entering my fifth school year as a teacher specializing in English Language Development. I am also midway through my graduate degree in Multicultural Education and ESL. It’s been a tough road here and there, but I have few if any regrets.
The downside of this vocation remains much the same: Limited financial resources and support from the state government, increased emphasis on mandated testing (the worst is a new Kindergarten ELL test, 30 minutes long), misconceptions by the public and even some colleagues about what I do: “Isn’t teaching ELD curriculum harder, because the kids don’t understand anything?” (One typical assumption I encounter yearly). Lots and lots of paperwork, scheduling hassles, and documentation. This is the boring stuff.
The upside? Working with kids from various backgrounds and cultures, of course. Working with refugee and immigrant kids, getting to know their families, and making a connection based on trust, by finding common ground. Knowing that these kids, in particular, are eager to learn, and want to go to school. They do not take education for granted. Another awesome part of my job, is I get to teach ESL in my own way–though I do follow a prescribed curriculum, I can adapt it however I see fit, and tailor it to my various students’ needs. I can be creative, I can be culturally responsive. And best of all, I can be myself.
Sometimes teaching ESL, especially as a “resource” teacher, can be very lonely. I cannot collaborate daily with teaching teams. Most of the time, it is “hit and run”: A few minutes here and there with the classroom teachers with whom I share students. I share ideas and data with them, which they sometimes appreciate, but often ignore.
The administration at my school values what I do, as long as I do not step out of bounds, like advocating for my students without “checking in” first–following protocol, etc. Often I am censored, and not encouraged to take a leadership role as a teacher. So the research and education I am trying to apply to my work is often thwarted. How can I be an “agent of change” or “dialogic” in my approach, when few are willing to listen?
And so, another school year begins, this being (actually) my tenth as a teacher. For half of those years, I have worked directly with ELLs. Who knows where this next leg of the journey will take me?
I am hoping for some commiseration, some input, and clarity from my readers. Please feel free to comment, no matter where you stand. And if you teach ELs, welcome back to the classroom!