Special Interest Groups

ESL Middle School

Looking for the “Magic Bullet”

By Tina Kern

The more I know, the more I realize that I need to know. It sounds like a conundrum, but no matter how long I continue to teach, it seems like I am always searching for the “magic bullet”, the lesson that will end all lessons, the book that will make sense of everything, or, in my personal life, the perfect pocketbook!

I search the Web, I talk to colleagues, I research, I write, and I read as the weeks fly by and the weekends become an extension of a frenetic life. Right now, as WIDA ACCESS testing is ending and DRA reading benchmark assessments continue, I wonder how our ELLs will learn to enjoy learning, as I do. If it’s not part of the curriculum map, it can’t be taught – no time!

So we continue to be overwhelmed by overload. ELL educators statewide ask questions and we continue to uphold the high quality of education for our students as NJTESOL/NJBE shares and disseminates information. I applaud the educators that ask the questions others might not ask in order that tests are executed professionally and classes proceed in the best interest of our students following the Standards. Especially now, in these times that cause many an educator to shake their head in disbelief, in an atmosphere that dissuades educators to continue to attend workshops with which to continue to expand knowledge and keep current, I am proud of our colleagues that daily strive to provide an excellent education to our students.

I worry, though, that some of our colleagues in various districts aren’t part of our network I worry that while conferences, workshops and professional organizations are available to them, some colleagues are either unaware or discouraged from participating. It is very difficult to be the lone ELL educator in a school or district who must stay abreast of all information, state regulations, etc., while simultaneously providing excellence in education to all levels and grades of ELLs. But our professional organization makes a community of all educators. Our colleagues reach across district lines as we remain connected through today’s technology.

Instead of being overwhelmed, consider the opportunity to be energized. Think of it as being an educator on overdrive! That’s how I feel when I attend our NJTESOL/NJBE Spring Conference. The testing is over, and my mind reviews the year. I search for new ways to reach the difficult child, the silent child, the child waiting to enter the classroom in September.

This year, more than any other year, it is difficult to leave the classroom. Districts are not encouraging us to go out of the district on professional days. Yet an opportunity to network, to turnkey methods, and learn about current legislation is too valuable to miss. Being a member of Executive Board, I am involved in the work behind the scenes to help make our conference the success it has always been. Just in case you haven’t looked at the workshops on our website, I point to some that definitely will interest our SIG. Last year, I had the great opportunity to hear part of the workshop by Debbie Zacarian and Judie Haynes. Don’t miss it this year- It definitely is informative and a real treat. Also WIDA is always on our minds, so remember to attend the session with Barbara Tedesco and B.J. Franks, “What’s WIDA Got to Do With It?” Once again, Raquel Sinai, Lori Ramella, and Ericka Reed will present “State Initiatives in Bilingual and ESL Education,” a must for every educator and administrator. Be sure to peruse the various technology sessions, in addition to the sessions that cater to your particular needs. Of course, I hope to see you on Wednesday at the workshop I designed especially for our middle school educators, “Closing the Middle School Gap.” I will include technology as well as methodologies in the content area and ESL, with hand-outs and flash-drive information so that you can immediately integrate the information into your classroom.

Come to our SIG meetings. Our ESL Middle School SIG will meet each day and it definitely will discuss important information pertinent to all educators, not just in our Middle School SIG, but for anyone who sends or receives our students. You can network, renew acquaintances, and share experiences. We’ll answer questions and pose new ones. But, above all, we’ll “chat and chew” about issues important to all of us. Email me with any topics you want to discuss. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

So meet me at our conference…and maybe we can discover the “magic bullet” together. Tina Kern is the ESL Middle School SIG Representative. She works in the Morristown Public Schools and may be reached at tkern@njtesol-njbe.org .

Noreen M. Drucker is the Elementary ESL SIG Representative and may be reached at ndrucker@njtesol-njbe.org. She teaches in the Randolph Township Public Schools.

VOICES ONLINE ESL Middle School Special Interest Groups SPRING 2011