Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Of many minds . . .

I've been reflecting on my first semester teaching at City College. One student, in particular, comes to mind. She is a 44-year-old former teacher from Somalia. She is a dedicated student who had completed level 6 (advanced low) in Continuing Ed. before transferring to City. Although she initially placed into the lowest level of ESOL at City, she started taking Child Development and other content courses concurrently with ESOL. She has passed all of her classes thus far.

Her counselor advised her to bypass additional ESOL and focus on completing her AA degree. She did not want to do that -- She told me that she wanted "a firm base" in English, that as a teacher, she knows that reading and communicating in English are fundamental. However, by the end of this semester, having successfully completed ESOL 20, 21, and 22, (intermediate writing/grammar, reading, and listening/speaking) she decided to follow her counselor's advice and postpone ESOL studies until after she finishes her AA in Child Development. Completing ESOL would simply take too long.

Her decision raises several questions for me. Will she need ESOL to reach her goal? Will she be able to complete her AA without additional ESOL or developmental English courses? If so, what does that say about the expecations and standards in ESOL classes and those in subject matter courses? Let me also state that I think this student was properly assessed and placed. To my English teacher mind, she would definitely benefit from the next two levels of ESOL. She is still developing college-level reading and writing skills. More questions . . . Assuming she achieves her goal, will she be able to obtain employment and perform successfully on the job? Will her language skills hinder her or limit her opportunities? Would she be able to transfer to a university -- and will she be prepared to do so?

And heres's a biggee for me as a new college teacher . . . Does our ESOL program meet the needs of our students?

Any answers out there? Thoughts? Anecdotes?