Volume 10 No 2 Spring 2014
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Current Issues in ESL

How Teaching is Changing

New Realities Every Educator Faces

Author Terry Heick maintains that there are certain areas where significant change is more probable than in others. He lists fifteen tasks that are less skill-based. and a bit more conceptual, collectively representing how teaching is changing and goes on to compare the old and the new in these areas.
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ESL Teachers Need Electracy Skills

Electracy is a theory by Gregory Ulmer describing the kind of skills and facility necessary to exploit the full communicative potential of new electronic media such as multimedia, hypermedia, social software, and virtual worlds. According to Ulmer, electracy “is to digital media what literacy is to print.”

ESL teachers need electracy skills
because learning through digital technology engages students in active discussions, collaboration, presentation and learning. New formats of electracy are providing more opportunities for students to engage in synchronous learning (collaborative, communicative and in real-time). Additionally, a requirement under the Common Core State Standards for all students, including ESL, is that they must have proficiency in digital literacy. Not only that, but students may receive testing using digital assessments.

It is critical that ESL teachers be digitally literate as essential learning skills shift from the 3 R's to the 4 C's.
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In Common-Core Era ESL Teachers Need Different Prep, Paper Argues

As public schools move headlong into teaching new, more rigorous standards in reading, math, and science, English-as-a-second-language teachers must become more involved in the central enterprise of teaching and supporting academic content for ELL students than has traditionally been the case, a new paper argues.

Making that work for ESL professionals will require some major shifts in how these teachers are prepared. For example, ESL teachers need to understand the language and language practices that are specific to different subject areas and disciplines. For example, ESL teachers need to understand the language and language practices that are specific to different subject areas and disciplines.
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How Engaged Are Teachers in American Schools?
by Anya Kamenetz, Hechinger Report

Gallup recently released a major report on the State of American Schools. Their data paint a picture of schools performing as a complex ecosystem, with the wellbeing, engagement, and performance of teachers, students, and principals all intertwined. The report combines decades of surveys of 5 million American teachers and principals with the results of the Gallup Student Poll, now billed as the largest survey of American students with 600,000 5th through 12 grade participants. According to the survey, 55% of American students scored high on engagement,

About 70% of teachers are classified as disengaged, which puts them on par with the workforce as a whole. This is surprising in some ways, because teachers score close to the top on measures that indicate that they find meaning in their lives and see work as a calling. Unfortunately, the structures that teachers are working within, which may include high-stakes standardized testing and value-added formulas that evaluate their performance based on outside factors, seem to tug against their happiness. “The real bummer is they don’t feel their opinions matter,” says Brandon Busteed, the executive director of Gallup Education.
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Are Your Students Engaged? Don’t Be So Sure.

Researchers have found that the more children felt connected to their school community and felt engaged (rather than bored), the greater their likelihood of achieving a higher educational qualification and going on to a professional or managerial career, over and above their academic attainment or socio-economic background. In other words, an engaged child from a low socio-economic background will have better opportunities in life than a disengaged child from a more privileged background. But for these findings to translate into actions, we have to re-think what we mean by engagement. For too long we have confused engagement with compliance or, worse still, “fun.” This confusion has led to a number of myths distorting how we act, and what we look for, in the classroom.
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The ‘New Normal’ Life of a Teacher"

In the age of accountability, college readiness and the Common Core, the role of PK-20 teachers is changing dramatically in schools and communities across the country. We used to think of teachers as masters of their domain and rulers of their classroom. They took the standards and the curriculum frameworks that their school or district gave them and provided students with instruction and assessment to help their students master the content.

Since then, accountability has come knocking on the doorsteps of schools and classrooms everywhere. Teachers are no longer the masters of their own domains, but rather an integral part in an educational system designed to provide students with a more rigorous, integrated and personalized learning experience with support structures and interventions designed to help them succeed on their learning journey.

Chances are, the author says, those who have not completed a teacher preparation program in the last couple of years must seek "new normal" skillsl through on-going professional development activities.
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Why Teachers Understandably Question "New" Education Trends

Everyone from politicians, to non-profits to parents tell teachers how to do their jobs better. So it’s no surprise that when the federal state education officials or school superintendents announce a new initiative that not all teachers are ready to jump on the new trend. Education has a long history of reform, each succeeded by another, and teachers have learned to pick and choose carefully where to put their energies.

It is not surprising that teachers are reticent to immediately accept new trends in learning, especially if that trend is coming around for the second or third time. Project-based learning, for example. has become the catch phrase du jour, especially with the arrival of Common Core State Standards. But the concept isn’t new and many schools have been quietly practicing project-based learning since the time of John Dewey and Maria Montessori.
Technology is another hot button. Teachers are expected to embrace every new software gadget that comes along, often without adequate training.
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How Learning is Changing

Students, too, may be facing some "new normal" realities at school. They are learning in new ways as teachers use techology tools more extensively, emphasize new learning modalities like collaboration and personalized instruction, and implement more rigorous standards, along with more robust testing. In addition to adapting to a more demanding academic landscape, students are increasingly experiencing pressures generated by social media, a desire to conform to peer group expectations, and even bullying. These new realities can result in their simply giving up or retreating into "learned helplessness."

Bullying and ELLs

ELLs can be an easy target for school bullies. As we know from recent reports and studies bullying, including cyber-bullying, has become a serious issue in schools around the country.

Unfortunately, ELLs are often easy targets for bullies in the school setting. Foreign accents and different cultural mannerisms are often mimicked and made fun of in school, which can cause ELLs to question their most basic identity and heritage. Helping to prevent the bullying of ELLs can be a little more tricky than protecting again general bullying, primarily because attempts to be helpful can end up causing even more discomfort to ELLs. This article offers tips for addressing bullying problems that may affect ELLs.
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Learned Helplessness
How to help students overcome this behavior

Imagine a classroom, much like the many classrooms across the country. Students are in their seats, and the teacher is at the front of the room delivering instruction. As the teacher instructs, she stops on occasion to check for understanding and ask questions. Several students raise their hands, and the teacher calls on a few students to share. She notices a pattern, though: the same students keep raising their hands when she asks a question or asks for volunteers.

The teacher decides to call on some of the students who haven't been raising their hands. When she does, another pattern emerges; these students often respond with "I don't know" or remain quiet. Other students, losing patience, jump in and answer the question. The teacher, feeling the pressure of time and material to cover, continues with the lesson.

The students in this scenario may be demonstrating learned helplessness: a disruption in motivation, effect and learning when students feel they do not have any control of the outcome.
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