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Teaching English language learners: aligning with Kāhui Ako challenges

Issue: Volume 96, Number 22

Posted: 09:00am, 11 Dec 2017
Reference #: 1H9gnt

An Auckland teacher shares how postgraduate study has provided her an opportunity to make a difference not just for herself, but for others as well.

Sunkyung Lee, of Takapuna Normal Intermediate School (TNIS).

When Sunkyung Lee, a third-year teacher at Takapuna Normal Intermediate School (TNIS), decided to engage in further education to enhance her practice, she first thought of the maths or science specialist route but then noticed the Graduate Diploma of TESSOL (Teaching English in Schools to Speakers of Other Languages), which she felt incorporated everything (maths, science and English) while looking through the lens of an English language learner.

After discussion with the senior management team (SMT) and with Kathy, the ESOL specialist teacher, both decided to apply for a Ministry of Education (MoE) TESSOL fees scholarship. So started the journey, which, it turned out, would support the goals of the Kāhui Ako, as well as their own professional development goals.

It has been a steep learning curve beginning with the clarification of some misconceptions. Although Sunkyung understood the need for differentiated learning (go to link) for more information), she was unsure of how to go about the differentiation while still providing tasks that would motivate the students. This is now a thing of the past as she feels more confident that her students are all being catered for at their level.

While Sunkyung is still working towards gaining her Graduate Diploma in TESSOL she has completed one optional paper, TESSOL: Assessment. Sunkyung recommends this paper and thinks every teacher should complete it.

“It was fantastic learning. I learnt so much. I now understand what makes a good assessment for English language learners and how some assessments are setting them up to fail – which is not what we should be doing. I feel that I can explain the outcomes to parents more clearly.”

The assignment for the assessment paper was an inquiry into whether bilingual parents understood the new school reporting system. The assignment was shared with the principal, and this was then shared with the SMT and the committee working on the reporting system.

Sunkyung is now working on ‘Guidelines to Support Bilingual Parents’. As TNIS is a member of a Kāhui Ako, which has a challenge around community engagement, it is anticipated that the guidelines will be shared with the member schools.

Although Sunkyung is busy as a full-time teacher with a family, she has found the TESSOL study journey very rewarding. As the students on the courses are Auckland-wide, she is building networks and establishing relationships with teachers she may not otherwise have met.

Sunkyung has found it invaluable to be attending the classes with another teacher from her school as they can discuss ESOL matters in depth because they both work in the same environment, with the same students.

She has found her school to be very supportive of her study and the SMT regularly checks on her workload and how she is finding the classes.

In the classroom, Sunkyung feels her focus has shifted now to attend to both curriculum requirements and to the students’ language learning needs. She now understands her students and their language learning needs in more depth and feels her lessons are more meaningful and explicit.

Sunkyung has realised that she needs to provide more specific support for teaching and learning so that language learning is embedded in every curriculum area. In her own words: “Do it. You won’t regret it”.

Additional support for teachers

Although the MoE TESSOL fees scholarships only fund core compulsory papers, additional support is available through the Ministry. Primary and intermediate teachers can apply for Tertiary Fees Funding Support: literacy, and information about eligible courses can be sourced from:

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

The Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero is produced by NZME for the Ministry of Education for teachers, leaders, and other education professionals working in New Zealand.

Posted: 09:12am, 11 December 2017

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