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BRIDGES to RETENTION
Glendale understood the
complicated lives of immigrants including work, family, and
childcare needs. Childcare was offered twice a week for evening
classes, and twice a week for day classes. Students with childcare
needs were assigned to those class times. Some teachers allowed
children in the classroom when baby-sitting failed.
Students at Glendale were
clearly respected and valued.
Students received CASAS testing
and were placed in levels in keeping with test results.
Staff received cultural
awareness training and active listening training. Excellent and
highly dedicated teachers were hired. There were many in-service
training sessions that were also offered to volunteers.
Textbooks were explicitly
designed to address adult students need for practical (useful)
learning. The Crossroads series by Shirley A Brod and Irene
Frankel, a four level, four skills series addressed life skills
issues in schools, using the telephone, shopping, health, housing,
finding a job, working on the job, recreation, and
transportation). One level (book) would cover two semesters.
There were four levels, each one taking these practical skills to
the next level - covering the same topics. Of course ESL, grammar,
conversation were woven through the practicalities.
Teachers used games, working in
groups, visual aids, and positive reinforcement of every move in the
right direction. Certificates were created as awards, taking note
of all at the end of each semester. Movement to the next level
was celebrated with a certificate from the school at the end of the
semester. Fun and laughter prevailed much of the time. A party
was held in each class on the last day of class.
Class sign up was through the
library on the fourth floor. Fee was $20.00 for textbook that would
cover two semesters. There was no pre-enrollment counseling.
Test times were given and tests were graded immediately, with
students assigned to classes. They were given the starting time
and dates. This was all pretty confusing to many of the students.
Classes were very large.
Classrooms were uncomfortable
(too hot, too cold, no air, stuffy, etc). Lightening was the worst
possible fluorescent. Windows did not open.
Classrooms were ugly.
(There’s no other way to say it.)
Overflow classrooms on the
second floor were subject to a lot of noise, with classes being
bumped for library functions. These classrooms were used for
non-program classes such as conversation and citizenship, taught by
Getting to know students,
because of the large classes, took a lot of the semester.
CASAS tested verbal skills.
Students were placed at levels commensurate with their verbal
skills. Those who did not know how to read would test high, and
then find themselves unable to keep up with their level because of
their poor or nonexistent reading abilities. Some switched
classes. Some left.
Retention was important in two
ways. It was good to have high retention because funding follows
retention. It was good to have poor retention because teachers
could actually have teachable size classes and get to know their
RETENTION PLAN FOR A
CLASS THAT I MIGHT TEACH
This would be a middle level
class with sufficient English for understanding some of what the
teacher is saying.
A very large class would
contain volunteers that would sit among the students. Some of
these volunteers could be ex-students who also speak Spanish, or
Russian, for example. (Not necessarily for use in class, but on
breaks, etc.) Breaking up large classes into smaller groups within
a class - with a volunteer teacher among them, has been proven to
We could play an introduction
game - tossing a toy for example. The goal is for each person who
catches the soft toy to say their name and where they are from. By
the end of class people will know their classmates names - and
already some camaraderie will have been established.
After a break I would
administer a learning styles test. (For example, VARK). After
checking the results, they would be shared and discussions held
aimed at helping the students recognize their preferred learning
styles. I would then assign seating in circles by learning
preference. Four circles, with a volunteer embedded in each
circle. I will tell the students that as much as possible they
will each learn according to their strengths.
I will ask each circle to work
as a group, with a spokesperson presenting the findings, to come up
with a list of the most important things they want to learn. Also,
each student will be given a folder, which will hold their finished
assignments, their attendance record, a page in which they can
communicate their needs, ask questions, make suggestions, etc., to
the teacher or volunteer. The idea is to make each person feel
important and “heard.” The folders will be given out at the
beginning of each class, and collected at the end. They will be
given to the students at the end of the semester, as a kind of
journal, including any awards they have earned, showing their growth
Success will be celebrated.
Mistakes will be acknowledged as indications of what has not yet
been learned...nothing more.
The students will, I hope, feel
part of a group, and also feel respected as individuals.
Curriculum will be practical
and linked to their needs.
Student suggestions will be
discussed with the class and feedback will determine action.
This teacher will allow each
student to know her, and she will endeavor to know each student.