#TESOL2017 Reflections

I was unsure if I would be able to make it to TESOL this year, but I am so glad I prioritized it. I had an incredible time in Seattle seeing old friends, exploring a city that I truly love, and learning about how to better serve the populations I now teach. All of my presentation materials are available to peruse (for both my Panel and my Workshop).

I attended a number of sessions on Adult Education and Assessment topics, but these three really shined. Any more I should have attended? Care to debrief me? Let me know in the comments below!

  • Merging Health Literacy Education & ESL Instruction Among Adult Immigrants

Cesar’s talk truly inspired me. He opened his talk with this mind-blowing statistic: poor health literacy costs the U.S. up to $238 billion annually! Armed with this knowledge, Cesar helped found a health literacy program in multiple communities in Alabama. He received a grant from the Dept. of Agriculture and sponsorship from the health department and Alabama Community Extension Systems. Held in Catholic churches and public libraries, these meetings merged ESL instruction with teaching students how to successfully navigate the healthcare system in their community. He played some of his students’ video testimonials for us at the end of the talk and naturally, I got a little teary-eyed. I find little more exciting than helping people live longer, healthier lives through English instruction and free community programs. Bravo, Cesar!

I know very little of Alabama’s health care system, but California provides so much to those in need, including incredible healthcare options. These resources are not, however, easy to access for low-literacy individuals (in fact, I had some difficulty accessing the healthcare available to me as a low-income resident, and I have two master’s degrees in English). I would love to work with the department of health to provide a service similar to Cesar’s for Humboldt county! The need is here, we just need the partnerships and grants necessary to get it going.

This talk by three representatives of NYU: Shanghai opened my eyes to the realities of portfolio assessments on a larger scale. My undergraduate university has a senior portfolio as well, and I always wondered about the logistics of implementing such a massive requirement. Of course, the time commitment for teachers is extreme, so the speakers moved from eight multi-draft artifacts (plus reflections!) to three multi-draft artifacts with a cover letter and whole-project reflection.

Portfolios are incredible assessment tools, but teachers have to be invested in the program assessment, not just thinking of it as an afterthought to their classroom work. That buy-in is essential, and is one thing that makes Truman State’s college-wide portfolio a challenge.

One of the most valuable things I gleaned from this talk was the CRADLE-T framework (Collecting, Reflecting, Assessing, Documenting,, Linking, Evaluating, Technology) for successful portfolio projects (Gottlieb, 1995; Huang & Huang, 2010). Both authors are on my reading list!

This talk was incredibly engaging and eye-opening. The presenters teach at the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School in D.C., an award-winning school with a fantastic adult education model. They prepare language learners for their GEDs, for career advancement, and for higher education, all with tuition-free classes taught by qualified multilingual instructors. This particular talk focused on how they address different literacy levels in the classroom. They do this through routines (sign in, answer a daily question, weather report, greet three people) and rotating roles (one student is a greeter, one student is a janitor, one student is a supervisor, etc.). Many of their ideas came from Vinogradov (2008), who was actually in attendance. My reading list grows! 

Until attending this talk, I had not fully understood the different levels of L1 literacy in my classes. I have a wide range of students in my current classes, including some who graduated from high school in Mexico, and some elderly students for whom my English class was the first formal education they have ever received. Coming from an IEP, I was not entirely sure about how to deal with this range, but I can see how a steady, routine-based approach might improve the quality of the classroom experience for these students. The primary challenge for me, then, is creating a space where routine can exist. This is difficult because I do not teach in traditional classrooms. I drive all over the county holding classes in shared community spaces where students come and go and interruptions are commonplace. I still plan to integrate some of these ideas into tomorrow’s class.

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