Crossing Borders: The reality of teaching ESL


[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Evans is explaining The Pearl by John Steinbeck to Sophomore Minguk Moon. Although it was difficult for some students to understand, Evans played an active role in clarifying the context of the novel.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][divider line_type=”Full Width Line” custom_height=”20″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Korean wedding dolls, Chinese kimonos, tea pots, an elephant sculpture and chopsticks, along with a beautiful silk scarf with Chinese letters imprinted on it.

Each item, polished and carefully placed with care, cover the top shelf of a cabinet.

To teacher Ginny Evans, they are mementos collected over time from past students around the world.

On other corners of the walls are posters, portraying eclectic sources of world geography.

Evans’ long history with teaching children from around the world began in 2001 when she started the school’s ESL program in order to help assimilate students from other countries.

“ESL [is] about family and I am their voice because largely, the parents aren’t going to speak English,” Evans said. “They are communicating to me what their needs are.”

However, according to Evans, the program does more than integrate learning in a friendly environment; it affects their overall experience in the United States.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][image_with_animation image_url=”5959″ animation=”Fade In” img_link_target=”_self”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][image_with_animation image_url=”5954″ alignment=”center” animation=”Fade In” img_link_target=”_self”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]The map models the diversity in the ESL class. According to Evans, the students have always been fascinated with the map because they can find their point of origin.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]The small Korean wedding dolls are sitting on top of the self. They remain there to help Evans remember the student that gave the figures to her.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][divider line_type=”Full Width Line” custom_height=”20″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]“I’m a person who builds relationships,” Evans said. “When you build that relationship with a student, you can reach out to those students and you can build up their confidence.”

According to Evans, her main goal when teaching students is to help them graduate and be successful “through the acquisition of language.”

“Over the years my students have been very successful,” Evans said. “I’ve had kids go to Stanford, SMU, UT and students who are going to med school.”

Evans’ eyes gleamed as she spoke of her close relationships with students, which often surpasses that of a regular teacher and student.

“I’m very proud [of them] and I hear from my students all the time,” Evans said. “I have a very large Asian group of students; we get together in the summer. Last time we had over 20 students and we went for sushi, and we were celebrating their successes.”

While some achieve their goal of graduating, others often face difficulties. Evans compared the lengthy process of adapting to a new culture and attaining success to cooking a turkey on Thanksgiving.

“When you are building language, and you want them to acquire that language so that they are successful, there is no way that you can microwave it,” Evans said.”When you are trying to fix a turkey on Thanksgiving and some people say they can just pop it into the oven, [they can’t], [they] have to baste it, and it takes time.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_animation image_url=”5957″ alignment=”center” animation=”Fade In” img_link_target=”_self”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Evans is showing Sophomore Javier Baez the best approach to analyzing passages.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][divider line_type=”Full Width Line” custom_height=”20″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]However, learning languages is only half of the equation. The other part is integrating the education with their cultural experiences.

“Any time you are coming into a new school, not [knowing a language], there are some emotional issues,” Evans said.

Another challenge Evans said her students face is dealing with the STAAR test.

“The STAAR tests are very difficult, and our students have to take them,” Evans said. “Ultimately, languages [are] built over time. If you have students who have been here less than 60 days, do you think they can read those stories or write that expository essay?”

For many students the answer is often “no” because of their backgrounds, which play an important role in determining the future.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_animation image_url=”5955″ animation=”Fade In” img_link_target=”_self”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Assistant teacher Naiseem Hirji is answering Sophomore Batool Hassan’s question. Students and teachers often interact in the classroom so that new students can learn English and assimilate into American culture.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][divider line_type=”Full Width Line” custom_height=”20″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]“Many times we get students that come in and there are gaps in their education,” Evans said. “If you read immigration studies, [some countries’] education systems are horrible, and sometimes kids aren’t going to school for a couple of years.”

Evans described Ailana Vasquez, a former student who beat the odds against her.

“She is from Costa Rica,” Evans said. “But because of the impact I had on her life she has decided she is going to be an ESL teacher.”

Although the students enrolled in ESL face many hardships, according to Evans, it pays off.

“They love it here, they love the opportunities that they have been afforded,” Evans said. “In America every student has an opportunity.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]