TESOL faculty and alumni teamed up with the Orange Public School District this spring semester to provide ESL (English as a Second Language) classes to district parents. The ESL class was part of a new district initiative, The Orange Public Schools Parent University. The Parent University initiative was launched by the district Office of Innovation and is administered by Mr. Barry Devone, Community Outreach Officer. From the website, the initiative delivers "a series of free and reduced-price workshops…that offers parents, families, and Orange community members a wide range of experiences across various topics."
TESOL faculty member, Dr. Bryan Meadows, and TESOL program alumni answered an invitation to contribute a course offering to the Orange Public Schools Parent University. Their contribution was a 6-week class titled, English as a New Language (ENL) for Parents. The class met Wednesday evenings at Rosa Parks Community School between May and June.
There were two primary learning objectives for the course: (a) build knowledge of vocabulary and expressions essential for communicating with school district teachers and administrators; and (b) build comparative knowledge of public schooling systems between the United States and additional countries. The ultimate vision of the class was to promote parent/guardian agency in their engagement with public schooling in New Jersey.
The ENL for Parents class was supported by a team of dedicated educators. Four TESOL alumni participated in the class as volunteer co-instructors and expert consultants: Ms. Shalini Gupta (Orange Public Schools); Ms. Sandra Washington-Gayles (KIPP Newark); Mr. Albert Moussab (Newark Public Schools); and Ms. Amber Ingram (Orange Public Schools). As co-instructors, the TESOL volunteers led whole-class and small-group instruction. As expert consultants, they helped to design the weekly themes of the course and accompanying classroom materials. In addition to the TESOL alumni, Mr. Andreas Jackson (Orange Public Schools) provided expert logistical and technological support during and in-between class sessions. He also set up a website portal to hold all classroom materials for wider access by members of the community. At a greater level, the weekly class meetings were made possible by the Rosa Parks Community School administrators and their support team.
Each week, the class focused on a single theme. In total, there were six themes addressed: (a) overview of US public schooling as a system; (b) overview of ESL/Bilingual programs; (c) communicating with classroom teachers; (d) conveying the needs of students to district personnel; (e) overview of school services available to all students; and (f) digital technologies to support child learning at home. For each theme, the team of instructors developed handouts detailing target vocabulary and expressions. Students practiced the new language items working sometimes as a whole-class and other times in small groups. In particular, the TESOL alumni volunteers facilitated the small group discussions, guiding the students through pronunciation exercises, role-play practice, and general discussion of that week’s theme. The small group activity was especially beneficial for parents to establish friendships with their classmates who are also their neighbors in the community.
According to student evaluations, there is a demand for community-based ESL instruction for district parents. For example, survey responses requested an extended timeframe for future ESL classes (i.e., meeting over months instead of weeks) and multiple meetings each week as opposed to just one. Given the response from parents, there is clearly promising potential for continued collaboration between Orange Public School District and the TESOL graduate program at Seton Hall University.
For Seton Hall University, this collaborative project underscores the vision of the TESOL graduate program to cultivate partnerships with area public school districts. Additionally, the volunteer service of TESOL alumni highlights their commitment to the university mission of servant leadership.
The TESOL graduate certificate program prepares current and future K-12 classroom teachers with the coursework they need to qualify for an additional teaching endorsement in K-12 English as a Second Language (ESL). To learn more about the TESOL Program, visit the program website here. The program director, Dr. Bryan Meadows, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at (973) 275-2539.