Professional Organizations for ESL Teachers

In celebration of the TESOL Convention in Baltimore, MD this year, I thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the professional organizations that serve ESL teachers. TThere are quite a few of them, each with a special niche in education.

What do these organizations do? They work to provide information and services related to:

  • professional development
  • advocacy
  • networking opportunities
  • employment
  • professional standards
  • research
  • policy

Organizations:     Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages

Its mission is “enhancing the quality of English language teaching through professional development, research, standards, and advocacy. Every year they sponsor an international conference with key speakers, workshops, and trade shows.”  The Center for Adult English Language Acquisition was created to help states support their adult English language learners.     The Center for Applied Linguistics’ mission is to” promote language learning and cultural understanding by servicing as a trusted source for research, resources and policy analysis.”     National Council of Teachers of English is “devoted to improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education.”     The National Association of Bilingual Education is “a non-profit membership organization that works to advocate for educational equity and excellence for bilingual/multilingual students in a global society.”     Carolina TESOL “is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to improve the quality of education for English language learners and to promote effective intercultural communication and understanding.”

What professional organizations are you a member of, and why?

Grief in the Classroom

Most of the time, for both teachers and students, we are fortunate to enjoy both positive and happy ESL classrooms. But occasionally we might have a student who is experiencing the loss of a loved one. As caring adults, it’s probably not often that we make the situation worse.  But, sometimes we are at a loss ourselves about how best to handle these feelings in the classroom. I discovered a wonderful resource on the NPR Education blog that offers insight and guidance for educators about how to handle a grieving student. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use this information for a student, however, most of the information on this site is relevant for people of all ages and stations in life. Take a look. Let me know what you think.

Organization:  Coalition to Support Grieving Students


Materials:  Video and Downloadable Grief Support Modules for School Personnel.  You can watch a video and discussion, or skip to the downloadable materials, which include very specific tips and ideas about what to say and what to do.

Some key points to keep in mind when dealing with a grieving student:

  • Avoid minimizing the student’s grief. Don’t say “At least _______.”
  • Avoid comparisons, ie, “My father died last year, and he was really sick too.”
  • Listen more, talk less. Accept displays of emotion. Don’t ask the student to “buck up”, “get it together”, or deny their feelings.
  • Be empathetic.
  • Adapt assignments to student’s ability to focus.
  • Think about adjusting the student’s work requirements.
  • Have cultural sensitivity. Different cultures recognize death in different ways. Ask the student about how to best help him or her. Be sensitive, authentic, and patient. Watch out for making assumptions.

And remember to take care of yourself too. Supporting a grieving student can trigger a range of reactions in adults. Examples of situations where adults may experience triggers include:

  • A past personal experience with grief.
  • Coping with serious illness.
  • Having a friend or family member who is ill.
  • New concerns about loved ones.

And to add to our understanding of death and dying in other cultures, take a look at this video.

The blog that inspired this post?-

NPR Blog:

Professional Organizations for ESL Teachers

For those of us living here in North Carolina, it seems that there are two main ESL professional organizations to join. The first one, TESOL International, is the biggest and best known. They put on the annual international conference. The other one is a local group, Carolina TESOL, focusing on ESL teachers in North and South Carolina. And lastly, for the teacher who is interested in scholarly ESL issues, there is the American Association of Applied Linguistics.There are hundreds of professional organizations around the world, and some are very niche oriented. There is something for everyone.

TESOL International Organization. This is the group that puts on the annual international conference around the world. It provides advocacy, education, networking opportunities, and professional development.

Carolina TESOL. This group puts on an annual conference that is more locally focused and another opportunity for networking too.

American Association of Applied Linguistics. This organization’s focus is on research and policy.

Government Resources

When diving deep into the internet I found some interesting sites that are “government funded”. I use that term a little loosely; some are actual government agencies, and others work with the government, or are funded by the government.   They are sites that can send you deep into the black hole of the internet, going deeper and deeper, until you can’t remember where you started your search.

These are some of the sites you might be interested in seeing. The resources are unlimited!

ESL Globe. This site is filled with news about the ESL program at NCSU, and more importantly for us, it has resources, research, and general ESL news. Click on the links on the left side of the page to access the information.

American English. A website for English learners and teachers.

Outreach and Technical Assistance Network.  Pondering the best way to use technology in the classroom? Visit this site!

U.S. Department of Education. Focused on public education with much information about leadership, policies, and careers. It is more focused on policy issues and guidelines rather than specific lesson plans and tools for the classroom.

Office of Career and Adult Technical Education. As part of the D.O.E., it provides resources and information about adult learners and career pathways.

National Education Association. This site is geared towards K-12, but there are quite a few things that could be adapted to the ESL classroom. Click on the “Tools and Ideas” drop down box, and you can investigate topics such as classroom management, teaching strategies, lesson plans, school life, and advice and support.

Center for Applied Linguistics.  This organization is well known to many, and for good reason. Visit the site, click on “Resources” and you can be busy for days. It’s got lists and lists of professional organizations, research, advocacy, and policy information. Seriously. If you are prone to spending hours reading, set aside some time, and go for it!

Community Partnerships for Adult Learning.  This organization is supported by government funds, although it is not “of” the government. It has links to lesson plans, “how-tos”, research articles, and technology in the classroom. Many well known ESL organizations are linked on this page, and it is worth your while to take a look at it.  Click on the toolbox link to see resources.

United States Customs and Immigration. Some of our students will go the citizenship path, and others won’t. Knowing the process, and what they must do to become citizens is worth knowing, and you can get a fairly quick overview of the process on this site.

CIA Factbook. This is one of my favorite websites for getting a quick overview of any country in the world. Demographics, literacy rates, average life expectancy, government, etc.