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Thinking aloud:ESL in California (Warning:Long & Ramblin

 
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DebMer



Joined: 02 Jan 2012
Posts: 232
Location: Southern California

PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2015 9:49 pm    Post subject: Thinking aloud:ESL in California (Warning:Long & Ramblin Reply with quote

I'm posting a bunch of thoughts in hopes that others might be able to identify with my situation and give me some feedback/advice/opinions.

The good news is that the community college for which I teach non-credit ESL classes has increased the number of 9-hour/week classes we can teach from one class per instructor to three. I love what I do - lots of creative autonomy, great curriculum options, my students are really lovely people who care about learning. My hourly income isn't bad. No grades, no report cards, only a few hours of after-class, unpaid paperwork per semester required. I don't have to advertise or do billing or arrange class sites or deal with the kinds of details I dislike. Our continuing education program is growing (from 15 classes to 40 in recent years), and there's a new law in the works that will likely give more funding for adult education in the near future.

The down side, which I have been able to live with so far, is no fixed classroom (most of our classes are hosted by public schools, and we end up in classrooms that are the school catch-all, or we share with after-school programs, etc.), we sometimes get moved around a lot (potentially a new site every semester, depending on the needs), some commuting (up to 45 minutes each way). No benefits, no potential for full-time, contracts offered on a semester-to-semester basis. The program is grant-funded, so there’s some job insecurity when grants need to be renewed and there are competitors for the same grant, although so far, so good on that point.

The really bad news is that I need full-time with benefits. I love what I do, but it will not turn into the kind of job I need for the sake of my family. Even if I get an MA, the potential for full-time employment in adult ESL is very small. My college only has one full-timer in the department, and he's the head of the department.

So I'm left looking at my options. I need to make a change, and soon.

I have a multiple subject credential, and taught elementary for five years before starting a family. There was a lot to love and hate about the job. Loved the kids and co-workers, but the work load is enormous, the paperwork/grading mountains a nightmare, the curriculum rigid. The public school atmosphere is full of stress, political correctness and test paranoia. Frankly, I think it's a terrible job for somebody who wants to enjoy work, then go home and spend time with family and have a life outside of work. I have a few friends who pull it off fairly successfully, but they do bear signs of the strain. If they could afford to do something else or to retire early, they would. To say the least, I'm reticent to return to that life.

I'm currently mulling over several options, and trying to weigh financial needs against job satisfaction and quality of life for me and my family.

Behind Door #1: I could get work again as an elementary school teacher without needing to add more education/money into the process.

Door #2: I could add a secondary credential and become a Spanish teacher without investing a great deal more education/money in the process. While the educational atmosphere might not be ideal, there would be fewer lesson plans to prepare for each day, and potentially less grading. Hopefully at least some of the students who take these classes would be there out of interest, so I could probably keep my interest in being there.

Door #3: Get an MA in ELL/ELD and work in the public school system with English Language Learners, or

Door #4: hit the jackpot and find full-time work at a college or university.
(Options 3 & 4 would require two years of working while studying online for an MA, about a 15 hour per week and $9,000 investment).

Behind Door #5 there is a hodgepodge of ideas that involves going renegade either full- or part-time, offering privately paid classes for English learners that would cover themes not offered in the continuing education program. I’m thinking along the lines of four-week classes on specific practical topics such as “Helping Your Child in the Education System,” and “Accent Reduction,” and/or longer courses such as “American Culture Through Literature” and “Drama for English Language Learners.” I’ve also thought about conversation classes centered around popular media, current events, local events, etc. I could offer these through the paid side of our community college continuing ed. department and held on-site, or possibly at our area's community recreation center, which also hosts educational classes. If they were a hit, I could consider renting classroom space in the future, and possibly expanding into a full-fledged English school. I don’t think I would need to charge much for these classes, considering that 10 students paying $5 per class would bring in $50/hour.

Some of these ideas would work as online offerings, also. I was reading recently that in some parts of the world students will pay a high hourly rate simply to have an online conversation in English with a native speaker. How awesome would it be to have, for example, a live, online video book club through which to focus on vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and important cultural pieces simultaneously?

Has anybody given any thought to something like this before? Have you seen it done? Do you think it’s reasonable and do-able? In your opinion, would immigrants in your area pay for this type of educational opportunity?

One of the things that has held me back while these ideas have been percolating and taking shape is that while I love designing and teaching classes, I intensely dislike the business end of things.
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esl_prof



Joined: 30 Nov 2013
Posts: 2006
Location: peyi kote solèy frèt

PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2015 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Door #4 isn't very likely. If you're willing to relocate to another part of the country, you'll increase your odds a bit, but not much.

For more information, read through the old columns by Rob Jenkins, the two year columnist for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

http://chronicle.com/search/?searchQueryString=rob+jenkins

Doors #2 and #3 sound like the best options, depending on your preference for teaching Spanish or ESL. And, if you did the MA required for Door #3, you'd have the option to do some adjunct teaching at a local community college (Door #4).

Door #5 is certainly interesting but, given your dislike for things administrative, may not be the way to go, especially if you're looking for a job with health insurance benefits and such. On the other hand, you might find that with a little bit of guidance, the administrative part isn't as difficult as you think. Try reading, for example, The Idiot's Guide to Starting Your Own Home-Based Business or reading through Josh Boldt's columns on DIY (do-it-yourself careers):

https://chroniclevitae.com/people/33-josh-boldt/articles

Another option would be to combine some of your DIY career ideas with part-time teaching like you're currently doing. See, for example, Katie Pryal's recent column "The University Is Just Another Client."

https://chroniclevitae.com/news/894-the-university-is-just-another-client

Bottom line: There's no easy answers to your questions. You've just got to weight the pros and cons of each option and decide which door is the best, albeit imperfect, way forward.

Good luck and please keep us posted on how things go!
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santi84



Joined: 14 Mar 2008
Posts: 1317
Location: under da sea

PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2015 10:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi DebMer,

We have similar circumstances, I believe.

How much money do you need? You don't have to answer that, of course. Aside from my 3-6 hours weekly of teaching ESL to adults, I'm working as an assistant in a French immersion school. I love it, because it's the same line of work without the prep, headaches, and politics of being the classroom teacher. I make a lot less, but it's enough and worth it, considering how stress-free it is.

I'm in Canada, where French is our golden ticket, just like Spanish in California.
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DebMer



Joined: 02 Jan 2012
Posts: 232
Location: Southern California

PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2015 5:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

santi84 wrote:
Hi DebMer,

We have similar circumstances, I believe.

How much money do you need? You don't have to answer that, of course. Aside from my 3-6 hours weekly of teaching ESL to adults, I'm working as an assistant in a French immersion school. I love it, because it's the same line of work without the prep, headaches, and politics of being the classroom teacher. I make a lot less, but it's enough and worth it, considering how stress-free it is.

I'm in Canada, where French is our golden ticket, just like Spanish in California.


Yes, it sounds like we have some things in common, Santi84. Smile How much money do I need? Well, I'm currently the sole support for my family of four in southern California. We combine my income with some inheritance money to get by. Relying on inheritance money for monthly expenses is what I feel I need to change. Because my husband has chronic illness, he doesn't have much of a work history, and because I lived overseas in my early 20's and then worked fewer than 10 years before staying home with my kids, our retirement is not going to be anything to write home about. Unless my husband becomes able to work, it's all on me.
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DebMer



Joined: 02 Jan 2012
Posts: 232
Location: Southern California

PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2015 5:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

esl_prof wrote:
Door #4 isn't very likely. If you're willing to relocate to another part of the country, you'll increase your odds a bit, but not much.

For more information, read through the old columns by Rob Jenkins, the two year columnist for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

http://chronicle.com/search/?searchQueryString=rob+jenkins

Doors #2 and #3 sound like the best options, depending on your preference for teaching Spanish or ESL. And, if you did the MA required for Door #3, you'd have the option to do some adjunct teaching at a local community college (Door #4).

Door #5 is certainly interesting but, given your dislike for things administrative, may not be the way to go, especially if you're looking for a job with health insurance benefits and such. On the other hand, you might find that with a little bit of guidance, the administrative part isn't as difficult as you think. Try reading, for example, The Idiot's Guide to Starting Your Own Home-Based Business or reading through Josh Boldt's columns on DIY (do-it-yourself careers):

https://chroniclevitae.com/people/33-josh-boldt/articles

Another option would be to combine some of your DIY career ideas with part-time teaching like you're currently doing. See, for example, Katie Pryal's recent column "The University Is Just Another Client."

https://chroniclevitae.com/news/894-the-university-is-just-another-client

Bottom line: There's no easy answers to your questions. You've just got to weight the pros and cons of each option and decide which door is the best, albeit imperfect, way forward.

Good luck and please keep us posted on how things go!


Thanks, Esl_Prof, for your input. I've read a couple of the articles you linked to, and will delve into the others today.

I think the "imperfect" part is what grates at me, but you're right, of course. I want the work I love with the hours and pay rate I need, plus time to do everything else that matters to me. Ha ha! I've been reluctant to give up some of the freedoms that my current situation affords me - specifically the opportunity to participate in my kids' activities in the afternoons (all of my ESL classes are morning or night, leaving my afternoons free so I can take them to their activities and do some of their homeschooling with them.
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AGoodStory



Joined: 26 Feb 2010
Posts: 738

PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2015 8:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, DebMer,

I remember that you were researching EFL jobs in Mexico a few years back, and discussing the possibility of moving there with your family. Did this work out for you, or did it prove not to be feasible? You now seem to have quite a bit of experience in California, so perhaps Mexico didn't pan out? I missed more than a year on the forum shortly after that (when some medical issues developed,) so I lost track of what was happening with a few people. Just wondering how that all came out for you? Very Happy

.
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DebMer



Joined: 02 Jan 2012
Posts: 232
Location: Southern California