Do you know what the TELL minor is? Well, TELL is actually just the nickname, people starting calling it that because all of the courses are listed as TELL on the class schedule. The official name of minor we are talking about is the TESOL K-12 minor. The goal of the minor is to discuss practices used to teach students who are learning English as a second language and prepare those students with skills and strategies to succeed in education settings. All students completing the minor participate in a student teaching experience so we reached out to Mary Gillespie, a student in the Elementary Education program who recently completed the student teaching experience requirement, and asked her to share her thoughts on the TESOL K-12 minor.
"Going into my TELL Student Teaching, I was a little nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, and I worried I would not be able to help the English Language Learners (ELLs) in my class like I wanted to. I was also a little worried due to some rumors I had heard that doing your TELL student teaching in Utah was a “waste of time”. I had heard that you are often assigned to classes without ELLs, and you cannot apply what you have learned in the classes. However, in the end, I found this wasn’t true! I had an amazing experience! I taught in a 6th grade class and had the opportunity to work with several ELLs; there were around 6 in my class (about a quarter of the class) and I had friends who were able to work with even more! Throughout my time in this class, I worked with a specific student, helping him to complete assignments and work through anything he found confusing. I wanted to learn everything I could about him so I could complete a “Case Study” on him by the end of the month. I learned about his academic strengths, test scores, his needs in the classroom, his background in education and family life, and more. I then created a plan to help him succeed in several aspects of his education (cognitive, literacy, social, etc.). It was really cool to work one-on-one with a student while still teaching the entire class. It was even more impactful when our professors asked me to submit my case study to the school I was working in (to put it in my student’s official files). It was incredible to see how the school was excited to accept my case file and it made me feel like a true educator!"
Mary's Advice for Students Planning to Minor in TESOL K-12:
1. Don’t be afraid to try different approaches to teaching. Throughout the TELL classes you learn all sorts of strategies and theories on how to best teach ELLs. The truth is, everyone is different, and there is not a “one size fits all” approach. I was worried going into this experience about doing everything “perfectly”. I wanted to do it right, because not only did I want to do my student teaching right, but I felt like the education of these very real students was at risk, too. However, as time went on, I realized that trying different approaches was really beneficial. I found strategies that helped some students that did not work for others. I started to find ideas and methods for each of the students. If I had stuck with just one “way” of teaching, I would have only been helping one part of the class. Don’t be afraid to try different approaches to teach your ELLs, because in the end it will only help. And your attempts to reach your ELLs may end up helping your other students, too!
2. Try to get involved. When I first started my TELL student teaching, I knew it was only going to be four weeks long. I thought that because it was so short, I would not be able to get involved as much. However, part way through my experience, my mentor teacher (the classroom teacher) got sick, and my partner and I had to take over everything. We got involved in managing the classroom, teaching every lesson, and everything else that teaching entails. At first, it was a little overwhelming. But then, I started to notice how much I was learning about the students. I felt like I was really able to get to know the students in my class by being more involved in every aspect of their education, rather than just teaching some lessons and helping them with literacy. So, get involved! It helps develop relationships with the students and teaches you so much more than observing ever could.
3. Stay organized; there are a lot of assignments. I was not expecting the workload that was required of this student teaching opportunity. Most of it is something we had done before in our TELL classes, but it was all condensed down to 4 weeks! It was definitely doable, but I wish I had organized my work earlier on. Stay on top of your work. The professors were really amazing about helping, too. I am so grateful for their willingness to help and be flexible. I also got really sick during my TELL student teaching, and was really worried about finishing all of the assignments. But my professors were really flexible and amazing about helping me get everything done. It is definitely doable, so don’t feel intimidated by the workload. Just stay on top of it!
4. Just enjoy your time there! It really was an amazing experience…one that I will never forget. So, go in with a good attitude and enjoy it! Get to know the kids, be as involved as you possibly can, and just have fun!
Click here to learn more about adding to TESOL K-12 minor to your teaching major!