What Have I Done to Myself?

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!


4 thoughts on “What Have I Done to Myself?”

  1. You don’t need luck Barbara, you’ve got this in the bag. Experience with students is so critical to being taken seriously as a presenter. You’ve done the walk, now bring on the talk so others will walk too. Good for you stepping out and sharing!


  2. I am with Elsie and arjeha, Barbara. I think that your joints may be a tad rusty, but with a little elbow grease, that rust with turn into all of the colors in the rainbow. Not much is new in education, except for the buzz words, and they are easy to learn. If your writing is a testament to your abilities as a presenter, your presentation with be top notch. Relax and enjoy your chocolate!


  3. You are going to be fantastic! We’ve talked through your presentation and it is rich and full of writing and sharing opportunities for participants. You have a wealth of experience and a belief system that will shine through. I’ll be right there and you won’t need me at all. Really looking forward to it! 🙂


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