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TESOL Connections (May 2010)

by User Not Found | 11/08/2011


  • An Interview with TESOL's new Executive Director: Rosa Aronson
  • Editors Bradley Baurain and Phan Le Ha discuss

    Multilevel and Diverse Classrooms

  • Opening Doors Through Leadership: Francois Vilmenay

    Association News

  • TESOL welcomes new Executive Director Rosa Aronson
  • Partner with TESOL—Join the TESOL Global Outreach Campaign
  • TESOL Board approves new position statements on adult ESL, young learners

  • 2011 Annual Convention and Exhibit Call for Proposals

  • TESOL Comments on Common Core Standards Initiative


  • TRC Featured Resource: English for Specific Purposes:

    An Overview for Practitioners and Clients (Academic & Corporate)

  • TIRF 2010 Doctoral Dissertation Scholarships
  • Reading Comprehension Strategies for English Language Learners
  • State Test Score Trends, 2007-08: Have We Progressed in
    Raising Achievement for ELLs?
  • Promoting Learner Transitions to Postsecondary Education and Work
  • Applications to serve on the NBPTS Literacy: Reading-Language Arts
    Standards Committee available through May 26

    TESOL Connections Archives (members only)

    An Interview With TESOL's New Executive Director:

    Rosa Aronson download to PDF

    Rosa Aronson shares some thoughts about her new position, reflects on TESOL’s role in English language teaching, and discusses the future of the association.

    rosa aronson photo.JPG

    1. You come to TESOL with 24 years of experience with an education association as well as several years teaching English as a foreign language and a doctorate in education. How has your experience prepared you to lead TESOL?

    First, let me tell you what an honor it is to be serving the members of TESOL. This association was established by leaders who recognized and celebrated the importance of our profession and successfully translated their vision into reality. I am very grateful to be succeeding Charles Amorosino, who dedicated 12 years to the association and transformed it into a vibrant and healthy enterprise. I was fortunate to attend the Boston Convention in March and was warmly welcomed by members and volunteers of the association, including the Board of Directors, whose support has been exceptional.

    I believe my experience and education have uniquely prepared me for the work ahead. First, I come from a linguistically diverse background. I was an English language learner myself. I grew up in North Africa as a French-speaking native. I went to school in Algeria and France and, for 7 years, taught English as a foreign language in French middle and high schools. I came to the United States in 1984 as a Fulbright Exchange Teacher and eventually chose to become a U.S. citizen. I completed my Ph.D. in Social Foundations of Education at the University of Virginia’s (UVA’s) Curry School of Education. Social Foundations of Education is an interdisciplinary field that examines education from different perspectives— comparatively, globally, philosophically, sociologically, politically, historically—so that you are never locked into one point of view. The program at UVA provided me with the macro lens I needed to better understand the larger framework in which teachers operate.

    My 24 years at the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) exposed me to various aspects of association management, including international exchange and other educational programs, advocacy and educational policy, and fundraising and development. As educators, we are often guided by a strong sense of idealism, which sometimes clashes with the realities of managing an association. Effective leaders demonstrate a deep understanding of the purpose, mission, and values of the associations they serve as well as a commitment to responsible stewardship of their resources. My hope is to follow that tradition.

    I bring to TESOL my global background, my education credentials, and my professional experience in association management. Perhaps more important, I believe I bring a vision of the profession that aligns well with that of TESOL’s founders, members, and affiliates worldwide. Ultimately, however, I ask members to assess me less on my previous experience than on the results that I hope our team will obtain in the near future.

    2. The field of English language teaching is constantly evolving, and to meet the needs of its members TESOL must evolve with it. What do you see are some of the biggest issues in the field today? What can the association do in response to help the field meet these challenges?

    One of the biggest trends I see for our profession stems from the growth in the populations we teach. Currently, out of a total world population of a little less than 7 billion, 3 billion people study English across the globe. This astounding statistic has significant implications for the field and for TESOL. First, for better or for worse, it positions English as the default language (or, as some would say, lingua franca) on the planet. The number also suggests that the field of English language teaching has become as complex as the driving forces pushing its growth. Although much of the increase has been the result of a new economic world order, many aspects of this trend have cultural, geopolitical, ideological, and ethical implications. It also places ESOL teachers in the spotlight with the responsibility to first understand the populations they teach and also to sharpen their own professional skills as teachers. TESOL is uniquely positioned to help teachers meet these challenges. As an association serving these teachers, we must build upon our own expertise in the field. We must be able to anticipate the needs of our members and position them to serve their students (be they elementary, secondary, or postsecondary students or adults) with expertise, understanding, and sensitivity.

    In the United States, English language learners are the fastest growing segment of the population and will become the majority in just a few decades. Their impact on the identity and economy of the country cannot be overstated. Our future prosperity is closely tied to their social mobility—and I am not only talking about a utilitarian imperative. Here again, there is also an ethical and humanitarian dimension to the work TESOL must do to improve the educational outcomes of English language learners through the professional development of their teachers.

    These two examples highlight the vast opportunities TESOL has to influence the field. Research, professional development, and advocacy represent powerful vehicles for TESOL to achieve these objectives.

    3. Technology is important not only in the classroom, but also as a way to maintain a relationship with the TESOL membership. What role will technology play in the association’s future?

    Technology has already affected our association. As demonstrated by Thomas L. Friedman in his book The World Is Flat, technology has changed the world in which we live by breaking down geographical and cultural communication barriers. The for-profit business community has leveraged technology to its advantage, through outsourcing for instance. But, as Friedman shows, technology has also had an equalizing effect by allowing individuals to create their own content.

    The explosive growth in social technologies has challenged associations to rethink how they relate to their members, how they create and deliver value, and how they innovate. Experts on these issues tell us social technologies make it easier to listen to members instead of simply talking at them, and can help us offer deeper support and a greater sense of member engagement. It’s a paradigm shift for associations, but an imperative if they want to continue to be relevant.

    So what does this all mean for TESOL? I think we are well positioned to embrace these changes, in part because there is such a deep tradition of member engagement in the DNA of our association and also because our values—including respect for diversity and multiculturalism and collaboration in a global community—align well with the best that technology has to offer. I believe that, through the intelligent use of technology, TESOL will thrive as a global community of interconnected teachers learning from one another.

    4. What is the last book you read?

    I am currently reading Pedro A. Noguera’s The Trouble with Black Boys… and Other Reflections on Race, Equity, and the Future of Public Education. Dr. Noguera is a professor at the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University, the executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, and the co-director of the Institute for the Study of Globalization and Education in Metropolitan Settings (IGEMS). The book is a compilation of essays on the challenges facing students of color (particularly boys) in American schools.

    After more than 30 years in education internationally, I continue to be fascinated by the potential education has for social equity and disturbed by the persistently disappointing results education systems produce for the most vulnerable populations. Dr. Noguera is an expert on this topic, both from a research standpoint and from a personal experience perspective.

    The book includes several essays on the experience of Latino youth in American schools, a topic of significance to TESOL. Noguera is a leading voice on behalf of the students TESOL serves globally. We need to pay close attention to his message, which states that the way we educate our most vulnerable students defines who we are as a society.

    5. What is the one thing you’d like the TESOL membership to know about you?

    Enough said about me! What I’d like to do now is talk about the staff at TESOL Central Office. They are a remarkable group of professionals who have dedicated many years of their careers to this organization. I have been very impressed by their knowledge, skills, and high standards. Through difficult economic times, their commitment to TESOL has been unwavering. TESOL members can rest assured that their association is being managed by a capable and committed team. I feel very privileged to be part of them, and I look forward to our present and future accomplishments.


    Multilevel and Diverse Classrooms:

    An Interview With TESOL Editors download to PDF

    Bradley Baurain and Phan Le Ha


    1. What motivated you to put this book together?

    We were attracted to this task both by the series topic of Classroom Practice and by the Call for Editors issued by TESOL. The Call specified that they were looking for co-editing pairs, and we thought that our team, which includes one native-English-speaking teacher and one nonnative-English-speaking teacher, was a perfect fit given our diversity of backgrounds and experiences. Additionally, we liked the idea because it seemed a good way to bring our balancing, complementary strengths and experiences to the table for a joint project. Professionally, we enjoy working together and had been looking for a project to do together, so the launch of the Classroom Practice series was good timing for us.

    2. This book comprises a wide range of contexts. Who will this book benefit the most?

    Everyone. That's like asking which student a lesson plan will benefit most. Ideally, everyone, or at least that's the goal. When reviewing proposals and chapter drafts, we were very intentional about seeking out a diverse range of contexts, both so that the book would be as useful to as many people as possible and philosophically because it seemed appropriate to our topic. We didn't want to treat multileveledness simply as a technicist, methodological, curricular challenge—though it is that—but as one aspect of the rich diversity present in our language classrooms.

    Diversity is a positive thing, but I would also argue that embracing it is not necessarily natural. Birds of a feather flock together, after all. So we were as actively intentional as we could be in trying to make sure that the contents of our volume reflect this understanding. And we do hope that readers will read outside the box, that is, that they will read chapters from contexts dissimilar to their own and learn what those "others" have to teach.

    3. What are the primary difficulties educators face when dealing with multilevel and diverse classrooms? What are the first steps teachers can take toward overcoming these difficulties?

    Multilevel and diverse classrooms confront educators with human uniquenesses. This is a challenge, because people are taught in groups and there need to be commonalities in the curricula and teaching approaches employed. Such difficulties are by no means new, though periodically we coin new terms for it, such as "differentiation." The central question is how to choose approaches, materials, etc., which open the door for every learner to learn as much as they can and want to learn, for teachers to help learners discover all they can do, and for teachers to invite, call, or inspire learners to want more.

    The first step teachers in multilevel and diverse classrooms should take—and we believe all classrooms are multilevel and diverse—is to work at building relationships and trust. (And this is a step by no means unique to TESOL or to heterogeneous classrooms.) Knowing who your students are and how they learn, and showing them how very much it matters to you that they DO learn, is a prerequisite for the application of any particular piece of technical knowledge about multileveledness.

    4. What are “unity-in-diversity” and “diversity-in-unity,” and how are they important to managing a multilevel and diverse classroom?

    If a multilevel classroom is to become a learning community, it needs to exhibit the characteristics of a community. Unity and diversity are two such characteristics, and our use of the phrases "unity in diversity" and "diversity in unity" is one way of emphasizing that.

    Furthermore, such language helps us think beyond "managing" classrooms to establishing learning processes that are more relational and journey-oriented. In our idealism, we do not wish at all to dismiss technical knowledge relating to multilevel and diverse classrooms—there's plenty of it in the book!—but we do wish to conceptualize this area of classroom practice from within a more holistic framework.

    To purchase this book, go to the TESOL Bookstore.


    Opening Doors Through Leadership: download to PDF

    Francois Vilmenay

    by Francois Vilmenay

    MATE-TESOL/IATEFL Liaison Officer


    Throughout my professional career I have always wished to become a highly qualified responsible TESOL leader, but I have had vague ideas of leadership. Then I attended my first TESOL convention in Tampa, Florida. I saw the acronym LMP and I asked questions about its meaning and one of the delegates suggested that I browse the TESOL Web site in order to get more information. Upon returning home I did just that.

    After reading the TESOL Leadership Mentoring Program criteria carefully, I submitted my application but unfortunately, I did not win. It was in 2007. I tried again the following year; this time TESOL President Shelley Wong (2008-2009) nominated me for the Leadership Mentoring Program (LMP) award, and I won! I was really excited and could see that my dream had come true. This program gave me the opportunity to take part in the Leadership Development Certificate Program and work closely with a TESOL leader and professional mentor, Gertrude Tinker-Sachs, Convention Chair, Denver Colorado 2009, for a period of one year. Indeed I was honored to receive the award and believed that participation in the LMP could be the steppingstone leading to more engagement with TESOL and in turn this could help me grow not only as a qualified leader for my community but also an international TESOL professional. I did foster the hope that the LMP could open more doors for my professional career, give me opportunities to interact with a variety of professionals, broaden my knowledge base of TESOL as an international, global, and educational organization.

    Of course, the Leadership Development Certificate Program (LDCP) workshops opened the door to many new and experienced people in TESOL. I was able to select workshop strands relevant to my needs and work context. The program was my first formal training in leadership and provided essential background on a variety of topics in leadership: dynamic grassroots advocacy, time management strategies for ELT professionals, presentation skills for emergent ELT leaders, and leadership development through leadership mentoring, to name just a few.

    I was privileged to have Gertrude Tinker-Sachs as my mentor—a dynamic and perspicacious mentor indeed, from whom I learnt a lot. In a few hours on site at the convention in Denver, she gave me some practical advice on how to get more teaching credentials and strengthen my professional career path as a TESOL leader and professional. I am so grateful to her for her insight and professional guidance.

    Since completing the LMP, I have taken on various leadership roles in my community. I chaired the MATE-TESOL National Affiliate Conference and facilitated two workshops on teacher development in July 2009. I was honored to be part of a task force to study member benefits for underserved countries. Being part of a task force offers a wonderful opportunity to share individual experiences and to learn from others. There are various standing committees to which a TESOL member can apply and the learning experiences can be long lasting. I am now serving a 3-year term on the TESOL Diversity Committee from April 2009 through March 2012; once you become a TESOL member you should not hesitate to serve on one of the Standing Committees, because this is one of the opportunities that TESOL provides through which you can let your voice be heard on important advocacy matters that may concern one's affiliate and profession.

    The different leadership styles that were discussed at the LMP shaped my view on the word leadership as a multifaceted concept, and helped me understand that I need to be the leader who empowers others to take more initiative in their work and who inspires people to be more committed.

    I strongly encourage other members in TESOL to be persistent and to cultivate an optimistic attitude as they prepare to take on leadership roles within TESOL. See challenges as opportunities to move forward. Be willing to learn not only from experienced English ELL instructional coaches, but also from your peers. Taking initiative within one's community of learning and setting achievable career goals can increase your leadership skills.