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"ESL" in American Public Schools

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Joined: 26 Apr 2013
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 12:45 pm    Post subject: "ESL" in American Public Schools Reply with quote

I'm wondering what experience this community has in teaching ESL in public schools in the US.

A little background on me:

- I initially taught ESL in South Korea for 2 years with no certifications.
- Obtained a CELTA.
- Taught adults in Australia for a year.
- Back to Korea to teach elementary for another year.
- Back to US, spent the last year preparing to take my educator's exam, and
passed on my first go (VERY difficult state exam).
- Participated in a teaching fellowship program which specifically sought
ESL & SPED teachers (awful: poorly organized and placed ESL
teachers in math classrooms with no explicit coaching for ESL
- This Sept. started teaching ESL in a public elementary school in a major city in the

Thus far, my experience has been almost entirely negative and I'm hoping for some advice so I can turn things around.

I put ESL in quotes in the title because the "ESL" I'm teaching in public school really isn't. I'm used to teaching functional English, explicit grammar, explicit vocab, explicit phonics, in highly contextualized situations.

What they want me to teach in public schools is, as they say, language to support ELLs academics. This is totally fine, but the manner in which they want me to deliver these services is not. They essentially want me to be an ELA teacher and a reading interventionist. Since I have to pull students during their ELA/literacy block, I essentially have to teach the same ELA content they would be getting in their normal classes. The major problem is that most students' literacy skills are so low they can't access the content I'm supposed to be supporting even at the most basic level. So I can teach them basic vocab, basic grammar, basic phonics and decoding skills, but they're not getting access to the academic language I'm supposed to support (e.g. 'support you claim with evidence' / 'explain your reasoning' / 'investigate' / 'defend you answer').

My problem is I don't want to be an ELA teacher. I want to teach ESL. IDK, maybe I'm making a mountain out of a molehill.

Have any of you faced similar frustrations in transitioning from ESL abroad to ESL in the US?

Thanks for any advice!
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Joined: 08 Aug 2015
Posts: 137
Location: United States

PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my experience, there tends to be little difference between ESL and mainstream English curriculum; ESL classes simply move at a much slower pace and/or 4th grade ESL students will be covering the same material that 3rd grade mainstream English classes are.

I'm actually conflating ESL and Bilingual programs here, but they're really one and the same in effect.

As far as the powers that be are concerned, everything is going great, or in the very least, they've covered themselves politically/funding-wise.
I don't blame them though, they don't know any better and are simply taking the word of 'educational experts'- the sort who get get lost in pedagogical jargon during department meetings, unaware that they haven't really said anything.

I'm in the Southwest by the way.

*I would suggest that you try to make the most of your current job, or move up to administration so that maybe you can try to change things.
In the very least, your state ESL certification virtually guarantees employment.
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