A Long Absence

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I have not written in my blog in ages – I think the last entry was at the end of July, from Oaxaca.  So, obviously, I am not in the running to be one of those people who make money or generate thousands of followers with my blog.  Oh, well.

I am sitting at the Toyota Service Center – a really nice place, actually.  There is everything one could need for survival: tables, comfortable chairs, wi-fi, coke machines, a bathroom.  I may stay until my car is ready or call my husband to pick me up and come back later.  At the moment, I am cool.

Before I came, I went by the Georgia Bakery and picked up a chicken and pesto sandwich on French c0untry whole wheat and an almond croissant.  Despite its name, it is really a French bakery, and the proprietor, Olivier hails from France.  He makes his own bread and pastries, and has a great selection of sanwiches, panini, and ready-made quiches and savory pies available.

So, now I am checked in, settled in and eating my brunch.  I had planned on waking up at 8AM and coming up here earlier, but it is REALLY difficult for me to get up before 10AM on a weekend morning.  So I had to wait for a while to get checked in.  No problem – I’ve got time.

Lately, I have been busy with school, thinking about lesson plans to follow up my National Endowment of the Humanities Mesoamerican Institute in Oaxaca, and when I haven’t been busy with those things, I have been going out to eat too much and sleeping or napping when I can.

This year, to our surprise, we have twice the number of ESOL students than we had anticipated.  Pretty impressive, considering the measures that Cobb County is taking to scare immigrants off from our neck of the woods.  Actually, a small number of our students are new immigrants.  Unfortunately many of them have been in the United States for a very long time, which begs the question: why are they still in ESOL?

If there are any ESOL teachers reading this, it may not surprise them at all that a student can be a U.S. citizen, educated from kindergarten in the U.S. school system, and still be in the program.  Increasingly, the role of the ESOL teacher is becoming one of school detective and site interventionist.  I have been looking through files, requesting student files from other schools, and speaking directly with whomever I can to get a clue.

Several students have been in our school system since kindergarten, yet their ACCESS scores are below a 5 on the scale.  This means that teachers are reluctant to exit them from the program.  It is both a legalistic move and one that is made for self-preservation.  The fact is that with all of the “Reduction in Force” in school systems last year, the ESOL program lost a lot of teachers.

I won’t go off on my soapbox (or is that “get up on my soapbox” OR “go off”?) about how I feel about keeping students in the program past their “prime”.  I has been happening since I switched over to teaching ESOL 8 years ago.  The practices back then, when we were administering a placement test called the LAB were a little more open to interpretation.  I and other teachers could make the call as to whether a student still needed to be in the program, or needed to be exited for his or her own good.

There are basically three reasons why students do not make significant progress after being in ESOL for over 3 or 4 years.

  • Reason 1:  Lack of motivation – the fact is that they are comfortable with their friends and the perceived easier curriculum (Yes, it IS possible to fail a placement test on purpose).
  • Reason 2:  Truancy or excessive moving around – since they are forced to follow the cheaper rental rate or the more lucrative job market, immigrant families ten to move around a lot.
  • Reason 3:  Undiagnosed learning disabilities – some students may NEVER pass the ESOL program exit criteria, OR the ITBS, OR the CRCT.  Keeping them in the ESOL program often means that these problems are classified as “Limited English” problems.

And so it goes.  Now, I am not at all enthusiastic about there being a dearth of students for me to teach.  This might mean that I will have to go back to teaching French – in the MYP program, all students are required to take a foreign language.  Or, I could be called upon to employ one of my other certifications:  Middle Grades Language Arts and/or my “magically” appearing certification in Middle Grades Social Studies.  This means that I would have to cope with 4 times the student load, with the accompanying organizational and discipline challenges.

But, on the other hand, is it really fair to hold children back from getting the education and help that they really need – just to hang on to my job?  I don’t think so.  I am not trained to diagnose and accommodate Special Ed. students, and those students need to be identified and sent on to other people who can help them.

Also, with the big emphasis on student performance, I understand why many regular ed teachers would prefer NOT to have more unmotivated students in their classroom.  It’s easier to blame the problem on language acquisition.  I don’t know what the solution is – this is just what I happened to be able to write about today.

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