The ESL Curriculum Bind

curriculum english learners equity esl curriculum esl instruction esol multilingual learners Aug 21, 2023

Greetings, fellow multilingual learner educators and advocates of inclusive education! Today, let's plunge into an issue that resonates with every dedicated ESL teacher out there: the notorious yet under-acknowledged ESL Curriculum Bind. It is one of the main currents running against our efforts to provide meaningful English Language Development (ELD) to our wonderfully diverse and ever-evolving student population. And it's forcing ESL teachers to choose one of two ineffective and unfulfilling doorways.

Door #1: The Expensive Scripted Curricula

Imagine this: as an ESL teacher or coordinator, you're armed with a burning passion for guiding your students on their language journey. In your quest for effective tools, you embark on the daunting task of researching curricula, spending countless hours sifting through product descriptions and scope and sequences, reading reviews, and, perhaps, even composing passionate appeals for district funding. After much sweat and determination, you manage to acquire a beautifully packaged, expensive, and seemingly comprehensive scripted curriculum.

But alas, reality hits like a ton of bricks! You open the curriculum with eagerness, only to find that the language, topics, and materials within are far from suited to the range of English proficiency levels, backgrounds, and interests of your unique students. Your ESL class schedule, a complex interplay of time constraints and individual needs, clashes with the rigid nature of the script. It's like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Your enthusiasm deflates, and the question echoes in your mind - is this truly the pathway to meaningful English language development for your students?

Door #2: The DIY Approach

Now, let's explore the other side of the spectrum. You've had enough of the scripted curricula that seem more like mirages than solutions. Or, perhaps, the funding for such pretty things was never there. You decide to take matters into your own hands and embark on the noble journey making it up as you go. You scour the online teacher marketplaces, pour hours into designing stunning visuals, and tirelessly reach out to fellow ESL teachers for ideas and inspiration.

It's a beautiful display of dedication, and you love the freedom, but here's the catch - the outcomes often fall short of your expectations. Despite your creativity and effort, you find it challenging to ascertain whether your students are genuinely progressing in their English proficiency. The lessons might be visually appealing and engaging, but are they truly fostering language growth? The dreaded question surfaces once again - are your students really benefiting from your hard work, or are you caught in a cycle of attractive activities with uncertain outcomes? As a mentor of mine used to ask, “Is it cute, or does it count?”

The Confession of Struggling Confidence

The truth is, the struggle of the ESL Curriculum Bind isn't an isolated case. It's a collective experience shared by ESL teachers far and wide. Recently, we were contracted to do in-district ESL team training. There we were, with a team of nine dedicated and compassionate ESL educators, all summoned together and we asked them a question - "Do you feel confident that your classes are propelling your students' English skills forward?" The response was telling and heart-wrenching; all nine educators shook their heads, admitting that confidence in their ability to systematically move the needle on their students' English language progress is not there.

Towards a Solution...Door #3?

Fellow educators, it's clear that the ESL Curriculum Bind is a dilemma that demands attention and a fresh approach. As we stand at this crossroads, it's crucial to acknowledge the challenges posed by both expensive scripted curricula and the DIY approach. The struggles of ill-fitting content and uncertain student progress are real, tangible, and shared across the community of ESL teachers.

In our next exploration, we’ll move beyond the struggles and uncover the hidden consequences that ripple through our educational system as a result of ill-fitting ESL curricula that extend far beyond the classroom. Join us as we delve into the unintended ripple effects and discover why neglecting effective English language development might inadvertently undermine our students' potential and hinder the larger shift towards inclusive education. Stay tuned, then, for the transformative solution that promises to break these chains and empower multilingual learners on all fronts.

PD just for ESL teachers is here. Here's what they're saying:

"The Aligned ESL Teacher Cohort modules provided great clarification for me in my role as an ESL teacher and have had a great impact on my ESL teaching, planning, and collaborating. Although I have experience with working with ELs for almost 10 years, I came away from each of the modules with new knowledge and a deeper understanding of my role as an ESL teacher and the ways that I can tailor my EL curriculum while also working to collaborate with colleagues that also work with my ELs so we can work together to ensure their language development and success."

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