Tuesday, March 14, 2006

What Should I Do?

The job that I have now (as an ESL pull-out teacher) is nothing like I envisioned when I joined TFA. I had imagined myself teaching a class of my own kids in my own classroom. There would be 25 seven year olds sitting on a rug as I read them a read aloud first period. They would be with me all day (except for lunch and prep periods) and I would get to know my students really well.

Before institute I did several classroom observations. I saw a lot of Kindergarten through second grade classes and decided that that was the age that I really wanted to teach.

All summer during TFA training we learned about how to differentiate by making small groups, how to make smooth transitions from the rug to desks, to think about classroom organization in terms of efficiency and fun ways to engage all students such as "turn and talk" to your partner. I imagined myself doing all of these things even though I knew that I had been assigned to ESL and would be doing either push-in or pull-out.

I got to my school in September and found out that I wouldn't have my own class or my own room. In fact, I had to share a room with two coaches who had their office on the other side. (Did I ever mention how nerve racking it was teaching my very first lessons as a first year teacher knowing that there were two veteran teachers sitting on the other side of the room listening to every word that I said?)

I only had 15 students but since they were spread across nine grade levels that meant I saw them in groups of 2-5. I also found out that none of my students were actually English Language Learners. I mean, technically they were since they hadn't passed the NYSESLAT, but practically, all of them were born in Brooklyn and had been in ESL since Kindergarten. Not only was I not teaching in front of a class of students as I had imagined but I wasn't even teaching ESL as I had imagined (to groups of kids actually needing to learn English).

I watched one of my fellow first year TFAers with her class of students and she was doing an amazing job with them. She had turned their behavior around and was doing things in her classroom that I had imagined myself doing all summer. I though to myself I could have a class like that If only I had the opportunity. I wanted that challenge. That is what I signed up to do.

In November I asked my Program Director at TFA if I would be able to change my license area from ESL to early childhood. He met with people from TFA who decided that it could be possible if my grad school would be ok with me making the change mid-way through the year.

It had been so long since I had heard from anyone that I had pretty much started to accept the idea that I would not get to teach my own Kindergarten class next year (my first choice). Then today I got a voice mail from my PD saying that they had decided that I can switch if I want.

So now I have a dilemma. Why is it a dilemma if this is what I have been wanting all along you're wondering? Well for one, because I do like ESL. I like the idea of ESL just not my situation. I would love to have a self contained class of ESL kids from countries around the world. (Teaching in the neighborhood that I do this is not an option). I also think that ESL is an interesting topic. There is a lot to talk about in terms of policy, a lot of people have strong opinions about it and for most (if not all) school districts it remains something that is not known how to do well. Then there is the issue of getting my masters. On paper it makes so much more sense for me to have a masters in ESL (having studied languages, taught English in Italy with a TEFL certificate, wanting to eventually teach abroad again, etc.). And this may be totally wrong of me to think, but doesn't a masters in K-12 ESL just sound better than Early Childhood?

But maybe that doesn't matter at all. So what if it looks good on paper. I really want to have the chance to have my own class. And I don't know that having one masters over the other will be better for teaching abroad.

More things to consider: Next year my ESL situation could get even worse. I might not even have my own room or I could be forced to teach at two schools because I don't have enough students. If I do switch I will have to take an extra class at grad school because I missed it being in the ESL group this year and I will have to pay for it out of pocket.

I know a lot of people will say that I have it so good teaching small groups in a pull-out setting. I have a ton of flexibility, administration doesn't bother me, I don't have to do bulletin boards or worry about crazy classroom management issues. Honestly though, I am not even considering these things in my decision. I know that next year will be harder if I switch but it is what I expected all along.

Any advice?

No comments: