What Will You Do With the Rest of Your Life? Consider Working With English Learners!

22 December 2016

This month we published Sarah J. Shin’s book English Language Teaching as a Second Career which is the first book in our new series CAL Series on Language EducationIn this post, Sarah discusses the experiences of people who embark upon a new career as an English teacher later in life.

English Language Teaching as a Second CareerConsider the following statistics: A 45-year-old American woman who remains free of heart disease and cancer can expect to see her 92nd birthday; a 45-year-old man in similar condition, his 88th birthday. This means that today’s 45-year-olds who maintain reasonably good health can look forward to living another half of their lives. Throughout much of human history, 40 was regarded as a fairly ripe old age. But with extraordinary advances in biomedicine in the last century, longevity has become a global reality.

As a result of dramatically increased life expectancy, a new developmental stage has emerged in the life cycle. The period between the end of young adulthood and the onset of true old age can easily cover a span of four or five decades.

An important consequence of increased life expectancy is that people need to be able to support themselves financially for more years. A 62-year-old person today could easily require 30+ years of retirement income. This motivates people to work beyond the traditional retirement age of 65. Four out of five baby boomers expect to work well into what used to be known as the retirement years.

What distinguishes this new generation of adults in terms of work is that they are moving beyond midlife careers in search of a calling in the second half of life. They focus on what matters most and are no longer satisfied to work simply to bring home the paycheck. They look for deeper meaning in what they do and are more interested in having an impact on the world around them. Driven by a sense of ‘If not now, when?’, they are able to break away from their former limitations and break new ground on the kind of work they choose to do.

As an English as a second language (ESL) teacher educator at a university, I interact with a growing number of people in their forties, fifties and sixties, who find satisfaction in helping students learn English. Many are actively involved in tutoring and volunteer work with literacy organizations in their communities, where they interact with immigrants and refugees from around the world. These individuals are moving beyond midlife careers in search of a calling in the second half of life, and many consider teaching to be that calling.

In my book, English Language Teaching as a Second Career, I explore what is on the minds of these adults, what they are looking for in their work with English learners and what their experiences are like as they return to school to be trained for a career in education alongside folks in their twenties and thirties. I provide portraits of these individuals as they develop as teachers and describe the processes they go through to launch their teaching careers, and the evolving significance of their work in their overall life goals and achievements.

With longevity a new global reality, the trend we see today of adults returning to school to be trained for a different career will continue in the coming years. The question is how will we create a shared vision for lifelong learning that helps individuals to experiment with new ideas and different types of work, regardless of where they are in the life cycle?

Sarah J. Shin, University of Maryland Baltimore County

For more information about this book, please see our website. You might also be interested in the recent interview with the editors of the CAL Series on Language Education on our blog.


An Interview with the Series Editors of CAL Series on Language Education

10 November 2016

Next month we are publishing the first book in our CAL Series on Language EducationEnglish Language Teaching as a Second Career by Sarah J. Shin. To introduce the new series and explain more about its aims, we asked the series editors, Terrence G. Wiley, M. Beatriz Arias and Joy Kreeft Peyton, a few questions.

English Language Teaching as a Second CareerFor those who don’t already know, what is CAL and what do you do?
The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC. We were founded in 1959 by noted linguist Charles A. Ferguson. Our mission is to promote language learning and cultural understanding, and we serve as a trusted resource for research, services, and policy analysis. The CAL team includes a cadre of scholars, researchers, and practitioners that focus on solutions to issues involving language and culture as they relate to access and equity in education and society around the globe.

What are the aims of the CAL Series on Language Education?
CAL wants to make high-quality, research-based resources on language learning, instruction, and assessment widely available to inform teacher classroom practices, enhance teacher education, and build background knowledge for university students across a wide range of disciplines.

Who is the audience for the series?
Educators, in the classroom or in training, as well as students in applied linguistics and other language-related fields.

How does the series differ from other series on language education?
CAL believes it can offer a comprehensive look at language education based on our decades of experience in conducting research into how language is learned and applying this knowledge to make information and resources available for educators and practitioners.

How did the idea for the series come about?
In thinking about the wealth of research-based knowledge and practical information CAL has developed over the decades, we wanted to find a purposeful way to share this knowledge. Working with our colleagues at Multilingual Matters to develop this book series was the perfect solution for our desire to disseminate information more broadly.

What topics will be covered in the series?
CAL plans to cover a wide range of topics including approaches to language instruction and assessment, approaches to content instruction and assessment for language learners, professional development for educators working with language learners, principles of second language acquisition for educators, and connections between language policy and educational practice.

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What made you choose Multilingual Matters as a publisher to partner with and how will CAL and Multilingual Matters work together on this series?
This was an easy choice for CAL. We have a long-standing relationship with the team at Multilingual Matters and are pleased that many of our staff are published authors under the Multilingual Matters banner. Our two organizations also have similar core values, believing that languages and cultures are important individual and societal resources, that multilingualism is beneficial both for individuals and for societies, and that effective language education should be widely available.

What are your own personal research interests and how will these be incorporated into the series?
CAL’s research interests focus on a wide range of topics connected to language and culture and include policy, instruction, and assessment. We have a long-standing interest in research on language education and promoting equity and access for language learners, with a special interest in programs that promote additive bilingualism. This series provides a natural outlet for our interests and priorities.

For more information about the series please see our website. You can also visit CAL’s website for more information about their other work.


The Future of K-12 Teaching is Content-Based Instruction

5 March 2015

This week we published Kate Mastruserio Reynolds’ book Approaches to Inclusive English Classrooms which attempts to bridge the gap between theory and practice to prepare teachers for the needs of English language learners (ELL). In this post, she gives us some background to the book.

“Greetings all, I am the ESL Department chair at NAME High School in CITY, TX, which is located in the largest refugee neighborhood in the city. Our current enrollment is 61% ELL, but we expect to be more than 70% ELL next year, so we are looking to expand our team. We have a diverse mix of students from all over South Asia, Africa, and Latin America, many with limited or interrupted schooling. We are looking specifically for TESOL or CELTA certified teachers with experience teaching teens or adults, and ideally with experience teaching English for Academic Purposes or for Specific Purposes, as most of our ESL classes are content support classes (English for Science, English for Math, etc.).”

This job announcement posted today on a jobs list might sound like gibberish for many pre-service educators or teachers just entering the job market. The knowledge of English as a second language (ESL) that inform this advert start with the acronyms, ESL, ELL, TESOL, CELTA and advance to ‘English for Academic Purposes and for Specific Purposes’ and ‘ESL classes are content support classes (English for Science, English for Math, etc.)’ Although this position is for an ESL specialist, increasingly content area educators (i.e. teachers of Math, Sciences, Social Studies/History, Literature and Language Arts) are called upon to work with learners whose first language is not English.

Approaches to Inclusive English ClassroomsBy 2050, US national statistics indicate that English language learners (ELLs) will be the majority of learners in the US K-12 public schools. Not only are many educators not adequately prepared for this change in the demographics of our school system, neither is our teacher preparation system. Pre-service teachers, those in the process of gaining teacher licensures at universities, rarely are provided any information or training on the ELLs they will encounter in their professional work. Many in-service teachers are confronted by this lack of preparation and need to gain more professional preparation in the field of ESL in order to sufficiently meet the unique linguistic needs of the second language learners.

It is not an easy fix. There is a lot to ‘sufficiently meet the unique linguistic needs’ of second language learners. Teachers cannot simply make one change to their instruction, like using cooperative learning, in order to scaffold instruction for ELLs. First, teachers need to be aware of how they communicate with students. They need to become culturally knowledgeable about the learners’ cultures and strive to make their own speech comprehensible to the language learners. Second, they need to be able to teach the skills of language—speaking, listening, reading and writing—as well as grammar and vocabulary. I’m not talking about the traditional grammar translation method here either. Teachers need to be savvy in their use of time to situate grammar into the content material they are teaching. For example, they need to teach how to write using regular past tense (–ed form) when describing the accomplishments of ancient China in Social Studies class.

Several models and methodologies to approaching the instruction of ELLs have emerged in the field of ESL/EFL, called content-based instruction (CBI). All these models (CALLA, SIOP, RtI, etc.) focus on various ways to engage ELLs and teach them content and language simultaneously. No one method is a cure all. All of them have their advantages and drawbacks. Some of them were developed for specific contexts and populations, such as the ExC-ELL model that emphasizes academic literacy for a non-native speaking population who have strong oral proficiency skills in English. Knowing which methods to employ and when with which population is one way that I would like to empower K-12 educators.

My book, Approaches to Inclusive English Classrooms: A Teacher’s Handbook for Content-Based Instruction, addresses these issues and more in a practical way that provides insight for pre-service and in-service teachers on teaching ELLs effectively.

If you would like more information about Kate’s book please see our website.


Teachers as Mediators in the Foreign Language Classroom

13 January 2015

Teachers as Mediators in the Foreign Language Classroom

This month we are publishing
Teachers as Mediators in the Foreign Language Classroom by Michelle Kohler. In this post, Michelle discusses the background to the book and how she became interested in this topic.

I have been curious since my own teacher education about the nature of teaching and learning, and mediation, perpetually trying to hone my practice, helping students to genuinely make sense of what they are learning. For many, learning a language is largely a utilitarian pursuit with the goal being to develop the skills to communicate with native speakers. During my years teaching secondary school students, I began to question communicative language teaching as I saw more students resist what they perceived as pseudo-communication and irrelevant language learning, and express a desire for a more meaningful and personal language learning experience.

For me, intercultural language teaching and learning offered a new approach: starting with an integrated view of language and culture that attends more deeply to language, meaning and interpretation. It made sense to me since it positions the student as central and transformed by their language learning, something that resonated with my own experience as a language learner and as an educator. Coupled with my perennial interest in mediation, I wondered how language teachers might practically enact such an approach.

This book then is the result of my curiosity about the interface between theory and practice, and in particular the mediatory role of the language teacher. It is presented through the cases of three language teachers who, through a participatory action research approach, reveal their thinking, practice, reflections and changing understandings over time.

I have been particularly influenced by the notions of a bilingual/intercultural speaker (Byram & Zarate; Kramsch), languaculture (Risager), static and dynamic culture (Liddicoat), intraculturality (Papademetre & Scarino), symbolic competence (Kramsch) and more recently, critical intercultural citizenship (Byram). I have tried to expand the concept of mediation, taking into consideration the perspective of language teaching (where it has been largely viewed as a translation skill) and sociocultural learning theory using ideas such as the zone of proximal development and scaffolding (Vygotsky, Lantolf, Wells).

In the world of (language) education, many claims are made about the humanistic benefits of language learning for students and society more broadly. This book opens up the world of classroom language teaching and goes some way to revealing just how language teachers can and do enable their students to learn new ways of being. It highlights the complexity of language teachers’ work, of the highly personalized nature of intercultural language teaching and learning, and its transformative power for students and teachers.

For further information, please contact:
Dr Michelle Kohler
Lecturer, Indonesian and Languages Education
School of Humanities and Creative Arts, and School of Education
Faculty of Education, Humanities and Law
Flinders University
Email: michelle.kohler@flinders.edu.au


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