A few months ago I offered to present a workshop on teaching poetry in the Integrated ENL classroom. I have been a workshop participant many times over the past two decades and decided it was time to step up to the plate. Last summer I finally got around to being trained in the strategies and methods of the Long Island Writing Project, so it seemed it was time to see if I could “walk the walk” and not just talk the talk.
I have been planning this workshop now for over a month. At first I thought it wouldn’t be an insurmountable challenge for me since I’ve done presentations before at state-wide and local educational conferences. But I retired nearly two years ago and then I suffered a catastrophic illness, so it feels like I’ve been away from the profession for much longer than I actually have been.
And so much has changed in education since I left. My presentation is about teaching English language learners in the integrated classroom, but I was actually a “pull out” ESL teacher for 22 years; integrated classrooms did not yet exist. I did voluntarily collaborate with a third grade teacher for three years in her classroom, so I am not without experience. But I was not part of the new “regs” wherein ESL teachers are now required to “push in” to the classrooms of their intermediate and advanced students and co-teach. And the Common Core Curriculum was just being phased in as I was phasing out, so that’s an area in which I have limited experience.
And now ENL learners are not even designates as Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced; instead there are five new categories to define the stages of second-language acquisition, so this is a learning curve for me as well.
I keep telling myself that there are some things about teaching, and especially teaching non-English speakers, that will fundamentally never change. I have nearly 25 years of experience in the field so I ought to have some expertise that I can offer to my participants. I believe that “presenting” is like riding a bicycle: once you’ve learned how you just need to get back on that bicycle and it will all come back.
Then why am I nervous? Because I am a somewhat different person now. I no longer have boundless energy but I do have unbridled enthusiasm. I may not know the most up to date jargon, but I do know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to English language learners. I may not be involved in the day-to-day details of teaching, but I do see the Big Picture in a way that I couldn’t while I was a practicing teacher.
I suspect it will all turn out fine. I hope it will be a shared learning experience for all of us. I’ll let you know. The workshop will take place in 2 weeks. Meanwhile, wish me luck!