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Adult Literacy, Remedial Education and ESL Employment

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Teaching adult speakers of other languages can be either a great part-time job to supplement your income or full-time job from which you can earn a good living helping people. There is also a possibility of getting tenure in one of these positions, thus guaranteeing you a certain number of hours of instruction, and therefore income, per week. If you're seeking full-time employment, tenure is probably you're best bet in acquiring it.

Adult education teachers instruct adults in reading, writing, speaking English, and simple mathematical equations. These are basic skills that equip these students to solve problems well enough to become active participants in society, to hold a job and to further their education. There are different categories of instruction provided by adult education teachers. Adult Basic Education (ABE) or Remedial Education is geared toward adults whose skills are either at or below an eighth-grade level. Adult Secondary Education (ASE) is designed for students who wish to obtain their General Education Development (GED) certificate or other high school equivalency credential. English Literacy instruction is for adults with very limited proficiency in English. Most of the students in these classes are immigrants whose native language is not English and whose schooling, even in their own countries, is very limited. They’re either seeking knowledge needed to meet their education goals or to acquire life skills necessary to participate fully in today’s high-skill society. Teachers who work with adult English-language learners are classified as teachers of English as a second language (ESL) or teachers of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL).

Adult basic education teachers teach basic academic courses in mathematics, languages, history, reading, writing and other areas utilizing instructional materials and methods geared toward adult learning. They usually teach these subjects to students 16 years of age and older who demonstrate the need to increase their skills in one or more of the aforementioned subject areas. Classes include a variety of learning styles from large-group, small-group to one-on-one instruction. Remedial or adult basic education teachers may have to assist, or introduce effective study skills and help provide students self-confidence to return to an academic environment. Students may also have learning or physical disabilities that require further expertise, and teachers must possess an understanding of how to help these students achieve their goals.

Students wishing to obtain a GED credential in order to re-enter the workforce or qualify for postsecondary education are aided by Adult Secondary Teachers who provide help in acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills to pass the test. Earning a GED requires passing a series of five tests in reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. Most teachers provide instruction in all subject areas. ASE Teachers provide subject matter instruction and also guide students in improving their communication, information-processing, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills necessary to further their education and have successful careers.

ESL instructors help adults to speak, listen, read, and write in English and include an overview of life skills to promote learning and enable students to function successfully in society. Advanced students usually concentrate on writing and conversational skills or focus on learning more academic or job-related communication skills. These adult students come from a wide range of backgrounds and ESL teachers must be prepared to work with students of all ages from many different countries and speaking many different languages. Some students may have had a lot of education in their own countries and some may have had little to none. As a result, some students may progress faster than others, so teachers must tailor their instruction to the needs and abilities of all their students. Creativity is an important part of lesson planning, and helps foster communication in the classroom and achieve learning goals. Instruction is also geared toward group work and one-on-one instruction. Instruction may include games, songs, puzzles, role-playing and anything else that helps students grasp the new language that they’re learning and, although the teacher is not there to entertain them, the class may not be successful unless it’s entertaining on some level. Most of these students work hard during the day at very demanding jobs, and go to class four nights a week, so a class must have a dynamic quality in order for students to keep coming. Believe me, I know. I taught ESL in the L.A. Unified School District for 15 years.

Adult education classes are usually held in local high or junior high schools or at learning centers at night during the week or on weekends to accommodate students’ work schedules. Some learning centers have day classes, but they’re harder to find and usually geared to young mothers who don’t have day jobs. There are usually none of the behavioral or social problems sometimes found with younger students; adults attend by choice and are usually highly motivated. Teaching these students is usually rewarding and satisfying. A large number of adult education teachers work part-time but have full-time teaching jobs during the day. Again, full-time work is available but usually requires tenure. Nearly all programs require teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree, but some require a master’s degree in adult education or ESL instruction. There are some states that require teachers to have a public school teacher license or a license specifically for adult education teachers. Knowledge of a second language is not necessary to teach ESL, but it can be helpful in understanding the students’ perspectives, especially at the beginning levels.

Professional development among adult education and literacy teachers varies. Both part-time and full-time instructors are expected to participate in ongoing professional development activities in order to stay current on new developments in the field and to enhance teaching skills. Each state’s professional development system is outlined by the unique needs and organizational structure of the state. Attendance by teachers at professional development workshops and other activities is often guided by state or local policy.

Employment for ESL teachers is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations, and a large number of job openings is expected due to the need to replace people who leave the occupation or retire. Also, the enormous influx of immigrants to this country is expected to make job opportunities favorable. Employment of adult literacy and remedial education teachers is expected to grow by 14 percent through 2016, faster than average for all occupations. As employers increasingly require a more literate workforce, workers’ demand for adult literacy, basic education and secondary education classes is expected to grow.

Median annual earnings for full-time adult education teachers were $43,910 for 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $32,660 and $57,310. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,610 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $75,680. Part-time adult education teachers are usually paid by the hour or for each class they teach, and sometimes receive benefits. Full-time instructors are generally paid a salary and receive health insurance and other benefits if they work for the school system or the government.
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